Marketing strategy

Make customers more engaged by using brand storytelling

We consume a lot of content on a daily basis. Whether it’s a radio advert heard in the car on our way to work or a news article we scanned on the BBC News website, content is everywhere and half the time we don’t even realise it’s influencing us in sneaky, subtle ways.

Content succeeds in varying degrees. However, just because it’s out there, doesn’t mean it is understood, liked or even read. Nor does it mean that your company will be thought of as an authority or would spring to mind as the first port of call for that service. Content is a far more complex tool than many first realise.

That said, if you’re trying to increase customer engagement through use of content, brand storytelling is the way to go.

Brand storytelling

things to consider.

What is brand storytelling?

You might have heard of this concept – it’s de rigeur at the moment and all the biggest brands are using it. To steal Econsultancy’s explanation, it’s about ‘telling the story of the brand across multiple channels and using various tools and methods’.

In plain speak, instead of advertising a product or service in the traditional sense, companies tell a ‘story’ about something that the brand has done, has been involved in and/or an issue it has resolved. The story positions the brand itself as the hero of the tale – though not in an obvious way – guiding the customer (or audience) on a journey.

Brand storytelling essentially offers a unique way for businesses to speak to their market while simultaneously building relationships with them.

How can it engage customers?

As with any content, the subject matter needs to be relevant and interesting if it is going to engage. The best examples of brand storytelling prick your emotions, provoke a reaction and get attention. They stick in the mind and inspire.

A great example is this campaign by Thai mobile phone operator, TrueMove H. Its ‘Giving is the best communication’ video (which has been viewed nearly 19 million times on YouTube and made global press) not only had people in tears, but kept them enthralled to the end. Plus, it was based on a true story. The heartfelt advert was praised around the world and positioned True Move H – which played only a minor part – as a philanthropic and responsible brand. Exactly the sort you’d want to engage with.

Such stories also stick in the mind; those of a certain age will recall the 1980s Yellow Pages Fly Fishing/J R Hartley ad, which was brand storytelling, years ahead of its time. Using emotion resonates with customers and is a nifty trick to utilise.

How to devise your brand story

While there are several schools of thought on devising your brand story, all agree that the content must be memorable, authentic and compelling – not contrived or cheesy – if it is to engage your target market.

Most follow the classic structure of beginning-middle-end in this format: equilibrium (everything’s fine and calm), disequilibrium (problem arises, everything’s bad), plenitude (problem is solved, things are better than before = a happy ending). That’s fairly straightforward.

The big question, though, is what do you want to talk about? What will interest your customers?

You can use all sorts of marketing wizardry to better understand your audience: review the success of previous campaigns, analyse engagement levels on certain social media posts, and use collated data in your customer relationship management platforms. However, when it comes to brand storytelling, you probably don’t need to dig too deep. Simply think about what they might like to know and how you can tell them in an engaging way.

Many tell the story of their company’s humble beginnings, like Patak’s ‘Why Britain loves curry’ campaign which details the eponymous family’s story through the eyes of chairman, Kirit Patak. Or if not how about Virgin’s tongue-in-cheek offering which shares Richard Branson’s ‘life long quest to create a mobile phone company’.

Others, like the True Move H ad, reveal a brand’s core values or tell customers about a way in which it has changed someone’s life for the better. They show the character/brand as being in pursuit of something better; making a dream a reality, struggling to improve their situation or working hard to launch their fledgling business. These usually have great success.

Another favourite technique is using a customer as the hero of the piece, with the brand in a supporting role. Google’s ‘Dear Sophie’ advert, for example, tells the story of a father who’s creating a virtual memory box for his young daughter, using the search giant’s various functions. It captured the imagination and inspired many people to create memory boxes of their own.

Frank Carson was right: It’s the way you tell ‘em. You might have the best subject for your story, but if you communicate the message poorly then forget it. You are taking the customer on a journey and you want them to be inspired or influenced at the conclusion.

What channels can you use for brand storytelling?

There are naturally many different channels through which you can tell your brand story. They include:

  • Video/animation: whether for mainstream TV or YouTube broadcast.
  • An ‘About Us’ section on your website. Marks & Spencer does this particularly well.
  • A print ad where a well-chosen image says 1,000 words. Rubik’s Cube did this spectacularly for its 25th anniversary.
  • Curating content that represents your brand view and sharing to social media.
  • Infographics: designed up and beautiful, this is a great tool for success stories, as demonstrated by Clarks Shoes or a timeline of your history, like this from Skype:

the history of Skype

Top tips for successful brand storytelling:
  • Align your entire brand behind the story you’ve conceived: make sure the story is consistent with your brand values and image, you don’t want to confuse your customers.
  • Create your piece with the channel in mind: watch your grammar with the written word, write more conversationally for spoken word and make sure the pace of the story is appropriate for the format.
  • Make it personal. Just because it’s about your brand, doesn’t mean you need to be all corporate.
  • Keep it subtle, not a long and boring potted history.
  • Don’t overthink it – we can all tell stories, see what comes naturally.
  • Get advice from the experts! We’d love to help you, so why not call us on 01252 341 730?