What is your favorite movie? Favorite book? Favorite song? These questions seem to crop up over and over. While the answer may change, the odds are good that we haven’t tired of talking about our favorite stories, no matter the medium. We adopt them as our own, and they seem to become a part of our identity. They speak both to us and about us, and they have no small part in shaping how we see ourselves and the world.
Storytelling has always been the most interesting and effective vehicle for getting your message across. It makes perfect sense, then, that even before the rise of content marketing, storytelling was being used as a tool to capture an audience’s attention and build a recognizable brand. Just as the stories we love and tell create something of a personal brand for each of us, the stories associated with your business can cultivate your business brand, with the power to change people’s perspectives, appeal to their emotions and create a lasting connection. Whether the narrative is about your brand, your customers or your product, you have a chance to capture the audience’s imagination and interest.
Telling Your Own Story
Companies like Disney and Apple have created hugely successful brands by associating their product with a certain journey or hero. The story of Walt Disney, who started with a dream of a place where families could go to have fun together, eventually led to an empire synonymous with granting wishes and dreaming big. A rags-to-riches story that began in a garage with co-founders Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne led to Apple becoming the largest IT company in the world by revenue and speaks to values of innovation and hard work.
As these companies share their own journey, they are able to build off of already existing archetypes, while adding a necessary component of personality and authenticity. They capture an audience’s interest, while creating a brand that attracts people. Your own story and how you tell it are unique to you. Whatever your story is, be vulnerable and honest, and people in the audience you are reaching out to will feel they better understand you. Remember, audiences don’t connect with brands, they connect with the people behind them.
There are all kinds of ways to reach out to your audience with a personal touch:
• Share your experiences in person through speaking engagements.
• Craft a social media bio, or an “About Us” write-up, that reads more like a story than just a list of facts.
• Use video and imagery. Show where you started out and where you are now, and give audiences a glimpse into your growth. You might also create an infographic or timeline to visually represent your journey.
Help Them Tell Their Story
Many companies have also taken to telling the stories of their clients or customers. While the most traditional version of this involves testimonials, shared either in print or through video, there are a few other options that can be tailored to your particular product. Airbnb, for example, showcases its audience’s stories of adventure and exploration, often without the product itself at the forefront. These stories are told by the audience, for the audience, designed to promote the Airbnb service as a lifestyle, not just a transaction. Farmers Insurance Group set itself apart with its “Farmers Hall of Claims” campaign, where the firm asked members to share their most unbelievable circumstances the insurance has helped to cover. These were then shared on the Farmers website and through re-enactments on TV commercials.
Your approach will depend on your brand. A car manufacturer, for instance, might ask its audience members to tell their best road trip story. If your service is based on customer interaction, you share stories about times when employees went above and beyond to assist.
Here are some ways to share stories from your customers:
• Have your audience members tell their own story. This is especially easy on social media, where comments and posts can easily be tagged and tracked. Instagram offers a fun and creative outlet for users to submit photos of them with your product or at your location.
• If you choose to go a more traditional route, you can create video or commercial campaigns with testimonials.
• Share the stories across multiple platforms to increase engagement and audience interaction.
If you don’t feel that telling the stories of your brand or your audience members is the path for you, then you can still construct a story that puts your product or service front and center, all while showcasing your brand’s personality. Businesses have been using this tool to cultivate a brand as far back as anyone can remember. Using traditional narrative techniques, this usually involves designating a protagonist (your customer), having that person or company face a problem or conflict, and showing how your services can offer a happy ending.
In recent years, creativity has come to the forefront, with campaigns created around characters or even an ongoing series that captures the long-term interest of the audience. This is your opportunity to let your brand personality shine. Whether you want to capture your audience with humor, sentimentality or action, writing your story and positioning your brand as the hero allows you to showcase what sets you apart.