The 4 key ingredients in effective storytelling

We no longer live in a broadcast era. As people are becoming increasingly connected, brands are unable to capture the audience’s attention through mass media campaigns alone. Instead, they must focus on creating engaging, useful and shareable content that people want to invest their time and emotions in.

Storytelling is integral to the success of delivering such content. It combines an idea with an emotion and is the backbone of enabling the way we make sense of the world.

While the process of developing a story hasn’t changed, social networks are constantly evolving to expand the ways these stories are told further and further. As a result, brands are increasingly harnessing the power of such platforms to tell and narrate their unique stories, which inspires people to engage, share and eventually convert (buy).

What makes a good story?

Emotion:

Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. Good storytelling strikes an emotional chord, invokes nostalgia, or creates a feeling of commonality. This is important because, by providing an emotional context and removing skepticism, it can make content much more engaging and gives the audience a greater reason to care.

The aim of Everton FC’s #WeAreChosen campaign was to help launch its 2015/16 season ticket by capturing the essence of what it means to be an Evertonian.

The video documents the journey of an Evertonian from childhood till old age, while also delivering the famous Everton quote “Evertonians are born not manufactured. We do not choose, we are chosen”. The story continued onto social media with “Chosen Tuesday”, where the club randomly picked 10 fans (using #wearechosen) each Tuesday to follow and Retweet.

As such the campaign resonated and stayed with viewers by highlighting the unbreakable bond between the fan and the club thus evoking a strong emotional reaction.

Authenticity:

There are two paradigms within marketing. In direct response marketing, the brand will track direct ROI from a campaign through CRM data, web traffic or transactions. ‘Branding’ is the glacial process of settling a brand into the customer’s psyche so that when they eventually make a purchasing decision, that brand stands out.

Millennials, and social audiences in general, don’t just buy products, but rather they buy into the stories behind the brands. Storytelling enables brands to connect and engage with their audiences on a more personal level by revealing a more human side. Most importantly it is authenticity that mobilises consumers on a greater level more so than calls-to-action.

 

adidas leveraged multiple platforms to activate one of the most important and visible sponsorships in sport by giving the tournament ball a voice. Not only did Brazuca become the first FIFA World Cup match ball to have a Twitter profile but also adidas’ first product to have an account on social media.

 

The launch of the @brazuca Twitter account served as a vehicle to take users behind-the-scenes, which allowed them to experience the FIFA World Cup in real time from the unique perspective of the match ball. By providing fans with behind the scenes content and rare insights into the WorldCup it captured the personality and exclusivity of the brand.

 

@Brazuca became the most followed football handle on Twitter at the 2014 World Cup, with millions followed in the first week of the tournament alone, while it was covered extensively, and globally, by a wide range of media.

 

Consistency:

The challenge in storytelling isn’t so much establishing a message as delivering it consistently across all platforms.

Nike is an excellent example of consistent emotional storytelling. Their stories are framed around challenging people to be empowered and to be winners on their personal levels with the brand’s mantra – “Just Do It” (a tagline that has been with the brand since 1986) at the core of it.

 

Their recent “Ripple” campaign created an inspirational journey which explored what it was like for a young boy (McIlory) to watch their hero (Woods) on TV and then one day be competing on the very same green.  This story tapped into both McIlory’s aspirations and determination which in turn inspired people to “Just Do It” and to fulfil their dreams. The consistency of Nike’s stories means that it continues to create a brand image that motivates Nike fans and customers around the globe.

 

Value your audience:

Brands are increasingly empowering and involving consumers as their storytellers. By curating user-generated content, this again offers a level of authenticity, developing loyalty from consumers by rewarding users for publishing content.

 

For our client MoneyGram Cricket, we knew that good storytelling couldn’t happen without valuing and understanding the audience. We connected fans by inviting them to share their funniest memory playing cricket – a topic that we knew would resonate on an emotional level.

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From there, we curated the stories submitted by the audience, and rewarded one fan with the most entertaining story with a custom-designed comic strip.

 

Furthermore, by leveraging user-generated content we added a new dimension to storytelling by breaking from the traditional narrator and listener mode, thus creating a tighter connection between the passionate consumers and MoneyGram.

 

With the emergence and ubiquity of digital mediums, brands have more channels than ever before to tell their story to a mass audience through their stories.

These new channels may provide brands and marketers a new exciting way to push out richer and more engaging content to tell their stories, but as the old saying goes; it’s better to have quality over quantity. Brands must use these channels to provide value to customers through their content.

In order to achieve this, data should be at the heart of content marketing. By harnessing the power of data , brands are able to create insight-led storytelling with the consumer at the heart of it. Ultimately, telling a story is not as important as telling the right story.