Seems like every marketing book, blog and study is talking about how we should be using storytelling as a marketing technique. I couldn’t agree more. Unfortunately, I think most attempts fall short.
Marketers clearly believe that storytelling is a critical component of their marketing efforts. It’s one of the most talked about topics in marketing circles today.
So — no argument that marketing’s version of storytelling is critical to a business’ communications success. The question is — why are so many companies doing it badly and not experiencing the results they want?
The stories don’t evoke an emotion: There’s not a memorable story around that isn’t seeded in emotions. For some businesses, especially those in the B2B sector, it’s hard to imagine what emotions their products or services might trigger. That’s because the marketers are staying at the features level of sales, not delving into the benefits that lie beneath.
It might be as simple as your prospect is afraid if they make a bad decision, it will cost them their job. Or it could be that what you sell is helping your clients fulfill their reason for existing — which to them is very emotionally motivated. If you dig deep enough, you’ll find the emotions behind your stories. Be sure you expose those in your storytelling so that your audience can relate to and empathize with the people in the tale.
The stories don’t use data to lend credibility: What makes true stories so dramatic and grabbing are the facts that are dotted throughout the telling.
Data can be used in a variety of ways to tell your story. Think visual data like an infographic or let the data suggest a new angle or insight for both you and your audience.
The story doesn’t take us on a journey: In marketing’s version of storytelling, we often take shortcuts to get to the big reveal. But in taking the shortcut, we rob the audience of story’s arc. Every story is, in essence, a journey that chronicles the problem, the fight to solve the problem and how things are better once the challenge is resolved.
But a great story lets the journey also help the audience see the motivations, frustrations and worries of the characters while they try to face the problem. The outcomes are also wrapped in more than just the tangible results. When the story is rich with details – we also learn more about the intangible results and ultimate value of delivering the right solution.
The story doesn’t include a next step/call to action: Here’s where most marketers really miss the boat. A well-crafted story draws the audience in, helps them connect with the main character and feel their common pain. As the story evolves, the prospect is pulling for the character — because in reality, the character bears a striking resemblance to them. They experience the ups and downs within the story and as the story delivers the happy ending — the prospective customer is thinking and feeling relief and a desire to share in that sort of outcome.
So marketing’s version of storytelling is all too often, a big tease. You led them right to the edge — get them hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step. Ask yourself — what do I want them to do next and be sure you make it easy and quick to take that next action.
What do you think? Can you tweak the way you’re telling your company’s story so that it actually drives leads and generates sales?
Exactly, Drew. Many “stories” are actually marketing messages. Many executives will have to change their mindsets to allow true authentic, meaningful and relevant storytelling. Might be years, yet.
Christoph — they say that they get it…but their actions say otherwise. I think you’re right — we have a long way to go!
Spot on. It’s like when businesses try to be funny to get messages across, such as in those forced company vlogs – it’s usually just cringe worthy.
Storytelling, when delivered effectively, is a great way to engage the reader and create positive experiences.
Thanks for sharing Drew.
Excellent points! I couldn’t agree more. There’s a lot of business storytelling out there that’s not actually storytelling. There seems to be an attitude that there’s no room for emotion in business stories, especially if you’re selling tech products to businesses. But the principles of storytelling – and all the science that goes behind them – work in any setting. Emotion and a story arc are critical! Customer stories have rich opportunities for emotion, from the pain the customer experienced before a solution to the relief of having something better.
Great points Drew. I think that we need to focus on telling our own stories and tying that into our message. I find it is always more successful when we can put a little of ourselves into our posts.
Kostas — a little bit of ourselves in all of our marketing — amen! After all, it’s tough to get someone to know, like and trust an entity that seems untouchable and too manufactured. In today’s world, it’s not only okay to let them see us, it’s vital.
Great points Drew. It seems to me that too many marketers apply the use of story in a shallow “commercialized” manner. Simply packaging a message in a story doesn’t guarantee results, as you eloquently noted. It reminds me of when marketers first got wind of social media… they simply created accounts and then wondered why no one followed them 😉
Thanks for great post,
Seth — no great surprise — the difference between being a great storyteller versus a marketer just spinning is who they do it for. The true storyteller’s motive is pure — to entertain, to teach or connect. Sadly, the spin is all about the spinner.
I was really enjoyed reading your great post Drew. While I was reading the first thing come to my mind was IKEA! I think IKEA is one of the well-known furniture brands that use this technique wisely. Umm I remember last year I was watched 2 videos Ikea posts it on their YouTube channel. Both videos were talking about real people with strong passions that add clutter and mess to their lives and lives of people around them. Then, they show how characters overcome their clutter with the help of IKEA .Both videos represent IKEA message of “Make Room for Your Life”. I think that IKEA are clever enough to know the right way in touching every viewer’s emotion and link them with their brand name, because they choose s 2 stories of 2 people extremely passion about 2 most popular hobbies music, fashion and sport. So finally that not surprised when I tell that both stories received nearly 250,000 views in just 10 days.
This article excites me! I think I will add a “My Story” section to my website that is my authentic journey that led me to start this business so people can better relate to me, what I’m offering, and why I’m offering it. I would love to first study some real life examples of companies or individuals doing this well. Does anyone have any suggestions for me?
I really liked your insight on this. The storytelling cannot be forced and needs to written from the heart to evoke the desired emotion. The ultimate goal would be to attract people to you by helping them realize the similarities you share and then build on that common bond throughout the relationship process.
I was really enjoyed reading your great post Drew. While I was reading the first thing come to my mind was IKEA! I think IKEA is one of the well-known furniture brands that use this technique wisely. Umm I remember last year I was watched 2 videos Ikea posts it on their YouTube channel. Both videos were talking about real people with strong passions that add clutter and mess to their lives and lives of people around them. Then, they show how characters overcome their clutter with the help of IKEA .Both videos represent IKEA message of “Make Room for Your Life”. I think that IKEA are clever enough to know the right way in touching every viewer’s emotion and link them with their brand name, because they choose s 2 stories of 2 people extremely passion about 2 most popular hobbies music, fashion and sport. So finally that not surprised when I tell that both stories received nearly 250,000 views in just 10 days. Here is the link if anyone interested to see it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dMIYX_bNnF0
I think the main reason many marketers miss the point is because they aren’t writers (first and foremost). Writing may be a component of what they do but they aren’t writers. My experience of being a copywriter in various marketing departments bears this out. They’re good at evaluating business needs and getting others to write but most of them can’t spin a yarn.
Storytelling is a kind of pull strategy. You get the customers hungry for what you’re selling but don’t give them a clear and defined next step. Use the story full of details to evoke people’s emotion.