We’ve all grown up listening to stories and enjoying them and till date, nothing has changed. Compelling stories are easier to remember compared to cold, hard facts.
This is why storytelling can be an effective tool to communicate with and motivate the masses, and digital PR agencies are focusing on storytelling in their PR campaigns. While storytelling may seem fairly simple, using brand stories to influence human emotions can be tricky.
What makes these stories click in the first place? Why are humans more inclined towards stories? How does building a brand story have an impact on the human psyche?
Read ahead to get a better perspective.
How Does Storytelling Impact the Brain?
Storytelling affects the human brain in more ways than one, which is evident from scientific research and a number of studies such as:
- In 2006, researchers in France found that words associated with motion activated the motor cortex, which is related to voluntary physical movements. So, when participants read a phrase like “grasped the object”, it activated that part of the brain.
- Raymond Mar, a psychologist at York University, Canada, performed an analysis of 86 fMRI studies. He concluded that “there’s a substantial overlap in the brain networks to understand stories and the networks used to navigate interactions with other individuals to figure out their thoughts and feelings”. This capacity of the brain is engaged by narratives.
- Professor Jennifer Aaker of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business had a marketing researcher ask her students to present a minute-long pitch in the class. Each of these pitches had an average of 2.5 statistics and only one of them included a story. After ten minutes, when the students were asked to jot down the ideas they remembered on a sheet of paper, she found that only 5% of the students remembered a statistic while 63% of them remembered the story.
But, is brand storytelling also a sales pitch? The answer is No.
However, you can perfect your pitch in your PR campaign by telling a good story that resonates with your target audience. With a well-constructed, clear narrative and other essential elements that engage the audience, your story can be a runaway hit with the target audience even if it isn’t endorsed by a celebrity. It all begins with crafting the outline of the brand story.
Outline of a Good Brand Story
A good brand story addresses the problem, the solution and the success of a brand. It can be outlined using the following pointers:
What’s the story of your establishment? Every organization has a story and your target audience (and future employees) would want to know yours.
What issue are you trying to resolve? Use storytelling to demonstrate your brand’s ability to solve an issue, especially to show how it solves the issue better than others.
What or who was your inspiration? If you have an inspiration that led to the formation of your brand, tell the story.
What’s unique about your business that might interest others? You can use a story to represent the uniqueness of your brand and pique people’s interest levels.
How do you want to achieve the brand’s goals? Explain your brand’s objectives and the ways you are going to successfully achieve them.
What is a Brand Story and how to build it?
A brand story is customer-centric, offers value, builds a trusting relationship with the target audience, and has a human side. It gives the target audience a fresh perspective on the brand and fills the gaps. Persuasive brand stories take the time to develop and are used to subtly motivate and influence customers.
Here are some actionable steps to build your brand story from the ground up:
- Select an appealing format
- Frame it well
- Take a data-driven approach
- Add dollops of emotion
- Use real customers
- Explain why the brand exists
- Maintain consistency
- Learn lessons from failures
1. Select an appealing format
Here are some quick facts:
- Daniel H. Pink, author of NYT’s best-selling Drive says that the 21st century represents the triumph of the creative right brain skills over the procedural thinking of the left brain.
- MIT neuroscientists have found that the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds.
- 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story.
- 93% of all human communication is visual.
These facts underline the importance of telling your brand’s story in an appealing format, which is easy for your target audience to process and then take a call-to-action. You can use images, texts, videos or a mix of everything to create a winning brand story and boost lead generation.
2. Frame It Well
Before understanding how to build a brand story, make it a point to target your potential customers. After all, they will likely be the ones to share it further.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and analyze their mindsets. Try to know what they may be thinking or what they need to think before buying your products or using your services. Understanding their buying journey will help you frame your brand’s story well.
In 2015, ‘Lily & the Snowman’ by Zulu Alpha Kilo for Cineplex got it right with a holiday-themed animated spot that tugged at viewers’ heartstrings with a great story and the perfect blend of visuals and sound. The Christmas-feel to the video triggered a nostalgic feeling in many of them.
3. Take a data-driven approach
This may contradict the first point, but data-visualization in storytelling gives it a much-needed push and increases its credibility. At the same time, it ensures that your brand gains the attention it deserves from potential customers.
Weave data and visuals in a narrative that builds trust in your target audience without overwhelming them. Figure out how to fit data into your story, although the rules are almost the same as that of general storytelling.
United Marine Underwriters is an independent marine insurance agency which offers boat insurance. The firm came up with an interactive infographic called Fish Tales, which is visually appealing and data-driven. It clicks because it doesn’t cause information overload, and allows viewers to explore the data and the facts at their own pace.
The data-driven documentary ‘The Fallen of World War II’ by Neil Halloran is another example of storytelling done right by combining data and visuals in an intriguing manner.
4. Add Dollops of Emotion
A gripping story arc brings out the emotions of the target audience. Let them experience a range of emotions and feel connected with your brand.
Nike gets it right with its ‘Find Your Greatness Campaign’ by challenging the common perception of “greatness”. It focuses on the underdog, the common man, and demonstrates that greatness has nothing to do with “genes” or the notion that only a few are privileged enough to get it.
5. Use Real Customers
One of the key factors that propels a brand story to success is using real people.
Think in terms of building a website with stock photographs and another with photographs of people who actually work with the brand.
Which one do you think will the customer trust?
You know the answer!
One of the best examples of an effective storytelling using real people is that of Airbnb. The brand believes in the power of storytelling, which is evident from their website. They have a page entirely for stories, which includes videos and bios sent by people from different parts of the world. Real people with real experiences evoke real sentiments.
The best part about storytelling is that you can tweak the narratives in innovative ways and engage your target audience.
Not very long ago, Chipotle Mexican Grill released an animated short ‘Back to the Start’, created by the marketing division of Creative Artists Agency and director Johnny Kelly. The delightful visuals backed by Willie Nelson’s rendition of Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ succeeded in making an emotional impact and aptly delivering the brand’s message “Cultivate a Better World” to the audience. Another ad that was created for the campaign along the same line was ‘The Scarecrow’.
In an interview with the Co.Create, Jesse Coulter said, “If people knew Chipotle’s story, they, too, would be believers. Like Mark and Steve, we believed in the brand’s potential and wanted to help make their marketing as innovative and inspirational as their business. We knew we needed to create emotional work that would connect with people. We wanted people to feel like we did the first time we met Chipotle”.
This says it all!
7. Explain Why the Brand Exists
We all know that ultimately a brand has to make money. But what forms the core of your brand? Why does the brand exist in the first place? What is its guiding force? The answers to this forms another story, which is best exemplified by TOMS.
The story behind the brand is commonplace but worth mentioning. The brainchild of Blake Mycoskie, TOMS shoes was born out of an altruistic idea. Based on the “one for one” principle, the company donates a pair of new shoes to the needy every time someone makes a purchase from them.
Till date, the brand’s value thrives on this philanthropy, which reflects in its campaigns. Needless to say, this is one of the easiest routes a brand can take to establish an emotional connection with the target audience.
8. Maintain Consistency
Your brand’s story needs to be consistent with your brand’s persona and the message it’s trying to convey to the target audience.
Stick to your brand’s personality and steer clear of anything and everything that is far removed from your product or service, or else it might confuse the target audience.
The camera is the hero in the different GoPro videos, which show a fireman saving a kitten or Pelicans learning to fly. These videos are in-sync with the brand’s value. The cameras with the tagline, “Be a Hero” inspire the audience to upload their own videos on the internet and have an entire webpage dedicated to them.
9. Learn Lessons from Failures
Even when you’re prepared for the worst, there’s every chance that things will go wrong. Instead of losing hope, treat every failure as a lesson and use the takeaways to better your brand story. Remember, there’s always a next time!
Calling It a Day
Storytelling can prove to be one of the most powerful techniques to make a long-lasting impression on your customers. When done right, it can leverage your brand or your business and take it to great heights. And with leading brands neck-and-neck in storytelling, you can’t afford to lose time. It is, therefore, suggested to immediately start working on your brand story and influence your target audience. Cheers!
Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of PRmention.com.