Who doesn’t love a good story? I mean, seriously, good stories make you feel the feels with your little feelers, they motivate you to do things, and they make a lasting impression — good stories make you care. And that’s just part of why storytelling is where it’s at.

Storytelling comes hot on the heels of SEO, reintroducing marketers to the concept of using a good story to build value and engage the target audience. It’s the new/old way of marketing that is taking advertising and marketing industries by storm— and everyone has a hand in building the story. Learn more about storytelling, where it came from, and how everyone’s got a piece of the pie in this analysis on the hottest trend in marketing today.

Tell Me A Story

Marketing is all about communicating a value, a benefit, and making people realize that they want (maybe even need) your product or service. Marketers have been using emotion and motivation to communicate the benefit and value of their products since the heyday of David Ogilvy. Customers expect more than a great tagline — they want to understand the benefits of a product and the positive social impact their favorite brands are making. Storytelling does all of that and more.

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Just take the success of Coca-Cola’s storytelling campaign, for example. The soft-drink giant created a content marketing plan based on storytelling, and it’s inspiring other brands to make storytelling a huge component of their marketing plan. It’s not like Coca-Cola is a stranger to storytelling — after all, they’ve been inspiring Christmas stories for generations with Santa Claus. Today’s storytelling for Coca-Cola is a bit more personal — share your personal family photos (including a Coke, of course), and find your name on a Coca-Cola bottle and share it. I know I’ve seen pictures of Coke bottles in my newsfeed on Facebook. Coca-Cola has absolutely brought content marketing to center stage with their storytelling campaigns.

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Coca-Cola isn’t the only big company that has embraced storytelling. Chevrolet’s commercials “Maddie” and “Romance” each provide meaningful, memorable stories. It’s not about shoving the brand down consumers’ throats, but instead, it is about making a connection and a memory. When people think of the story, they think of your brand. And when you’re on the minds of consumers, chances are, they’re buying more of your product.

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Budweiser also reached into the minds of their audience by creating a storytelling campaign with the “Friends Are Waiting” video, which recently went viral with the help of #FriendsAreWaiting. Its message is simple: drink (Budweiser) responsibly. People are still tweeting about this video and sharing it on Facebook even though it was first introduced over a month ago. Storytelling works.

Storytelling is about taking a narrative and infusing it with digital content to teach values and beliefs to the intended audience. It’s making marketing personal, and when it’s personal, people care. This is a vast improvement from other marketing techniques of the past because it’s truly focused on the audience. Not to get all Field of Dreams on you, but if you build it, they will come — and if you create content specifically for your audience, seemingly altruistic content, your brand will reap the rewards.

Storytelling is about saying to your audience “Hey, it’s really all about you. You make us who we are, and we want you to be involved. Here’s a little something for you, about you, hell, even BY you.” Millennials are oft touted as the most selfish group out there with an extreme sense of entitlement, so it’s about time we started catering to them. And when we do, it works. Forbes announced in an article on storytelling that you can increase customer acquisition by 400%. Not 100%. Not 200%. FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT. Seems like serious business to me.

SE-Oh… Not So Much

Previously, we saw SEO take over marketing. I mean it was everywhere. Like a beacon of hope, it stimulated web pages and gave a bunch of sad marketing goons renewed hope that they could actually make people want their shit. It was scientific. It was easy. It worked.

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Personally, I’ve always had beef with SEO — especially old-school keyword stuffing SEO. Why? Because as a copywriter, I have always believed that word choice should always be (and should have always been) precise, purposeful, and calculated — which means that whatever you’re writing about should probably include keywords that matter to your audience. And when you add in extra keywords just for the benefit of search engines, it cheapens your story. You’ve got to make the content work; good writers are capable of that. And if it’s on the web, your development team should have a site that’s going to benefit its users. The combined effort should be appealing to audiences. In short, well-written copy and conversion rate optimization will help you to succeed.

Despite my personal thoughts on SEO, it is undeniable that it has been an influential and driving force for successful marketers. It did its job and it did it well. Marketers saw incredible results as they played to the search engines, but as search engines morph into creepy people-robots and less like machines, it’s time to blow the dust of the ol’ “content is king” strategy and take it for a spin again. It’s classic, and it’s something everyone can do. Let’s take a look at how storytelling can be incorporated through specific jobs.

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Content Strategists

Content strategy is at the core of a good marketing plan, and behind every great marketing team is a content strategist. This role was not always defined so clearly, but essentially, content strategists are devoted to planning, developing, and doing all things with content. Content has become the meat and potatoes of marketing, and businesses are seeing real results by employing this marketing strategy. As a result, content marketing is on the rise, and it seems that everyone is hiring content strategists.

Content strategists are the folks who make sure that their company’s marketing content is focused, optimized, and working well. They make sure that there is enough content to go around by utilizing every possible outlet: blogs, white papers, social media, staff contributions, emails, website, etc. Most importantly, content strategists know what their audience wants. They make a plan, execute it, and make sure that they’re getting the results they sought out to attain.

Designers

Although it might not be overtly apparent how designers contribute to storytelling, they carry out a critical role in creating the story: they make the content come alive.

At the heart of visual design is communication. Through color, typography, layout, and iconography, designers craft visual messages. Like verbal or written communication, it’s the fine details that make or break the execution. It’s often said that designing for the market today is much more than making things look “pretty”. It’s about making things look good, but more importantly, solving the right problems. Design without meaning is design without a story; like having a beautiful book cover, but nothing written on the pages. Tragedy.

The rise of User Experience design addresses this tragedy head on. User Experience practices such as user flows, wireframing, and usability testing equip designers and clients with the knowledge necessary to tell the story that matters.

Writers

Writers are the bomb.com. (Not that I’m partial to writers or anything since I am a writer). But really, they are the glue that holds storytelling together. They help take the story from ideation to creation, all through articulation. Copywriters craft the story in a way that meets the content strategist’s needs while working with designers to make sure they capture the overall creative vision for the marketing piece. They’re the imperative link, I tell you. Anywhere you see words on a site, know that a copywriter has written them, and without their words, there would be no story to tell.

The Bottom Line

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Bill gates declared, “Content is King!” 18 years ago, and he wasn’t messing around. Content has, and always will be, king— storytelling is just a manifestation of that idea. Focusing on your audience is the most practical and beneficial thing you can do, and storytelling does just that. We predict that you’ll definitely be seeing more marketing campaigns focused on storytelling and that content strategists will take on a more integral role in the marketing department.

After all, Digital-Telepathy’s mission is to craft meaningful experiences for the people around us. It’s no wonder we’re big fans of storytelling.

Comments
  • Annie

    Storytelling is so powerful, great article!

  • At immediaC we have put a lot of focus on producing good content as we move forward with building our websites. For us it doesn’t stop with the words on the web page, but with social media as well. Great Article and thank you for sharing.

    • You bring up an excellent point! Storytelling absolutely goes beyond just the web content, and in many of these examples, the story a brand tells goes beyond just the initial web content or commercial. Taking advantage of social media to continue the story is not only smart, it’s recommended. Thanks for the compliment and for your input!

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