After spending six weeks traveling through Southeast Asia with my family in 2017, I came home to more than 2,000 emails!
We are inundated with information: blog posts, videos, social media, advertisements, podcasts, infographics, photos, bill- boards, videos, direct mail and more. The growing embrace of storytelling is an attempt to make sense of the world. Stories provide structure for ideas, concepts, and data. Stories make them accessible, digestible, and shareable. Stories are powerful. They engage, inspire, motivate, educate and entertain. A good story is memorable. At a time when information comes in never-ending waves, stories have substance and permanence. They have staying power when so much content is ‘snackable’ and short-lived. Brands are drawn to storytelling because it provides a solid foundation amid an information tsunami. With so much competition for the spotlight, brands can leverage storytelling to establish their personalities, narratives, messaging, and values.
Stories are also an integral part of how humans communicate, learn, develop relationships, and understand each other. According to a 1997 study by anthropologist and evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar at the University of Liverpool, 65% of conversations in public places consisted of personal stories or gossip (which are stories about other people!).
“From the beginning of time, people have responded to stories because they make us feel, and drive us to action,” says Marta Olszewska, head of marketing with Piktochart, an online service for creating infographics. “Storytelling is about adding that special emotional factor and a little bit of magic into otherwise dry statements and facts. We fall in love with brands that tell stories that make an impact and connect with us on an emotional level. These are brands that we start naturally advocating for.”
Good stories stand out from the crowd. A great example is Dollar Shave Club, which parlayed a funny video, which it made for $4,500, into a $1-million investment. The company created a popular razor subscription service, which was later acquired by Unilever for $1-billion.
According to the University of California at San Diego, the average person consumes 100,000 words a day of information – everything from video, television and text messages to social media, video games and online content. Creating a connection with consumers these days is like trying to talk to someone while driving past them in heavy traffic at 60 miles an hour. Unless your car stands out and you possess impressive driving skills, it is an impossible task.
Brands are embracing storytelling because they recognize the uphill battle to capture the spotlight. Brands also see the importance of creating connections with consumers by telling stories that tap into the power of emotions. “To me, storytelling is one of the most powerful ways that a company can differentiate itself and build a loyal customer base,” says Sujan Patel, a marketer and serial entrepreneur. “Stories can be a founder story, a start-up story, and stories about your customers. Really, storytelling gets potential customers and customers to fall in love with your brand, cause and mission.”
Before getting into how to tell stories, it is important to re- member storytelling is not new. People have been telling stories for thousands of years to communicate ideas, news, myths, fables, history, and information. In prehistoric times, cavemen told stories using drawings. The Chauvet cave in Southern France, for example, has prehistoric paintings of deer and bison, as well as themes of survival. Modern storytelling arguably began in 1439 when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. His first large-scale print run was a set of 200 illustrated Latin bibles in 1455.
Storytelling has evolved over the past 150 years. In the late 19th century, radio, recordings, and motion pictures appeared on the scene, led by inventors such as Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Guglielmo Marconi and George Eastman. The 20th century saw the introduction of television in the 1940s, the VHS in 1976, the DVD in 1995 and the World Wide Web in the 1990s. Given the tools at our disposal and the power of the Internet, anybody can become a storyteller with a global audience.
What does good storytelling do?
Stories create emotional connections. As much as we like to believe people make logical decisions, many purchases are based on emotional triggers. We buy based on how we feel about a product or brand, what we care about, what other people think, and how a brand meets our interests and needs. A big part of Volvo’s success, for example, is the belief that its cars are safe. Coca-Cola makes us feel good about the value of family and community. Nike inspires people to strive for athletic goals. TOMS, which makes shoes and donates them to schoolchildren around the world, encourages us to be community-oriented and help needy people.
Stories are inspiring:
When I was growing up, I loved the movie Rocky. If you have watched it, you understand how stories can be inspiring. Rocky Balboa, the classic underdog, gets an opportunity to fight for the heavyweight championship, and he almost defeats Apollo Creed, the undisputed world champion. Stories lift your spirits, motivate you to take action, spark new experiences and make you consider brands and products in new ways. Perhaps the best example of inspirational storytelling is Steve Jobs, whose keynote speeches were powerful ways to encourage people to purchase iPhones or whatever other products he was showcasing.
Stories are memorable:
In a rapid-fire world, it can be difficult to make an impression. Good stories are remembered and shared. A story can be amplified to a broad audience that may not have had direct contact with a brand.
Stories make the complex simple:
People have short attention spans and they don’t want to have to work to grasp a concept or idea. For companies selling complex products or technology, storytelling makes things easier to understand; particularly when they focus on the experiences delivered by a product.
From Marketing Spark: How Entrepreneurs Can Ignite Their Marketing And Embrace The Power of Brand Storytelling, with permission from the author.