I’m going to tell you a magical story about storytelling.
Are you sitting comfortably?
Once upon a time, there was an extremely confused and frustrated brand.
They were creating valuable blog posts, but no readers ever showed up.
They were sending out carefully crafted emails, but no customers ever clicked through.
They were even putting a ton of effort into creating videos to promote their products.
Still, no one watched for longer than 10 seconds.
We must be under a curse. The brand thought to itself sadly.
But on the eve that the 56th blog post was published, something strange happened.
The brand was busy contemplating its failure, when a bright light appeared. The light grew brighter and more dazzling with every second that passed.
It got closer and closer until the brand realized it was a teeny tiny fairy.
I’m giving you the gift of storytelling, the fairy declared.
And with a swish of her wand…
THE BRAND CAME ALIVE
The brand’s bland words and tone of voice were transformed with enticing stories. The kinds of stories that reel you in and create an instant connection.
But what had changed?
How did the fairy make the brand come alive with storytelling?
I’m going to reveal how in just a moment. But first, let’s look at why stories are so transformative for brands.
We’ve been telling stories for thousands and thousands of years. Stories ignite our brains to engage us and make us want to know more.
According to Celinne Da Costa, writing for Forbes:
“Storytelling can do wonders for a business: such as turn a brand into a legacy, create a robust marketing strategy, generate profit and win the loyalty and affection of audiences, to name just a few.
While every business has a story to tell, too many fail at doing so with marketing communication that is clear, captivating and effective. I frequently work with clients who have grandiose ideas, visions and dreams for what their brand should convey and stand for, but when it comes to communicating this story via their online channels, the content is confusing, ambiguous and inconsistent.”
I wouldn’t disagree.
But there are some simple methods for putting together a story.
Let’s take a look at what storytelling magic the fairy weaved…
SHE BUILT IN STORY ARCS
Every story has a natural visual shape. The shape has the power to reflect success. To demonstrate the visual arc of failure. To mirror ups and downs.
There are 6 main emotional story arcs that storytellers use.
1. MAN IN HOLE
The main character gets into trouble, then gets out of it again and is grateful for the life-changing experience.
2. BOY MEETS GIRL
The character comes across something wonderful, loses it, then gets it back again forever and ever.
3. FROM BAD TO WORSE
This is a bit of a sad one I’m afraid. But this is when the character starts off in a bad, challenging situation and just gets increasingly worse.
4. RAGS TO RICHES
This is a nice one and reflects a complete rise. Everyone’s a winner.
Much like the well-known story of Icarus, this arc is a rise followed by a fall.
The character is on the rise, then falls, then rises again. This is the most typical story arc that we come across time and time again. Think Cinderella or every romcom you’ve ever seen.
HOW TO USE STORYTELLING IN MARKETING
It can be tricky to know exactly how to apply these to your marketing.
The truth is, it’s not rocket science.
THE ‘ANALOGY-DRIVEN’ STORY
This approach is powerful when done properly.
Think of your subject matter and try to imagine a situation it reminds you of. There you’ll have an analogy that can form the basis of your story.
Analogies are useful because they help the reader to relate to what you’re saying, even if they haven’t been in that particular situation yet.
Or they can simply use dramatic elements to make the reader want to read on.
If an analogy is used correctly the reader should have a lightbulb moment where they instantly understand the point you’re making.
Let’s look at it in action on a blog post I wrote for the Content Marketing Institute:
I go directly into talking about a blog as if it were a golden egg in an egg box. I tell the story vividly, using descriptive language to reel the reader in.
Your job is to build the analogy, then to bring it back to the subject matter at hand.
You’ll notice I did that by using this: ‘Anyway, I won’t bore you with the details. The point is, this got me thinking…Why do most blog posts look like boring, identical everyday eggs?’
The reader is given the connection on a plate and is happy to move onto the rest of the article.
THE ‘DRAMATIZED TRUTH’ STORY
This approach lays the story out as it happened, getting straight to the point. No analogies needed.
Imagine you’re writing an email to try and drive sales for your brand’s face cream.
You’re going to reel people in with a story, but you’re going to tell it like it is.
Your skin is still drier than the desert.
Last night, you trowelled thick night cream on until you looked like a ghost staring back at you in the mirror.
You exfoliated with what felt like the roughest sandpaper, desperate to give your skin a jumpstart.
You even bought a ‘miracle oil’ that wasn’t a miracle. It was just ineffective oil.
“I don’t want to go out with flaky skin,” you think to yourself, sadly.
You don’t have to. There’s a solution right here. Now, I won’t say miracle, but it’s not far off.
See? I’m weaving the story, but it’s a real-life scenario. One that (if you’re smart), directly relates to their pain points.
The result? Ah, this brand understands me perfectly. They must know what they’re talking about.
So, what other magic did that fairy do?
SHE SPRINKLED IN SENSORY INFORMATION
We touched on this briefly before with the golden egg blog post.
Sensory descriptions help bring the reader into the story. The power of words can evoke tangible sensations.
A spider danced down my arm like a spatter of raindrops. (Sorry for that, spider phobes).
Eating the pizza was akin to the tastiest firework display you can imagine.
You get the drift.
SHE BUILT ANTICIPATION
As human beings, we need resolution.
We’re nosy. We need to know what happens. It’s why the cliff hanger exists. We dangle the readers over the edge of the cliff and then snap them back in a flurry of resolution.
But how do you do that?
Imagine a horror film where the character goes into a house where we know a killer is waiting for them. If they opened the first wardrobe and the killer was in there, it would be shocking. But the build-up is what really gets us hooked.
They go upstairs and open each room door. And the audience is just waiting to see what happens. Tension is building. People are rocking in their seats, hands clasped over eyes.
In marketing storytelling, you can build anticipation and tension in the same way.
Let’s say the character in your story is nervous about an event they have to speak at.
The ideal scenario is the reader grows increasingly nervous with the character, feeling for them.
The trick is to be specific.
Don’t just simply say they’re nervous.
“I’m overcome with raw nerves because the fear of my speech flying right out of my head is making my knees knock together.”
A great way to increase the tension is to heighten the stakes as you build it.
Author, Ian Irvian describes it as:
“You can either raise the prize for succeeding, or raise the price of failure – or, preferably, both at the same time.”—Ian Irvian
So our events-speaker protagonist could suddenly find that if they fail, it’s going to be at a far higher price than they originally thought.
As I prepared to go on stage, butterflies turning to albatrosses in my stomach, I noticed my ex-boyfriend in the front row. The ex who took the promotion I was a shoo-in for.
Yikes. Now you’re rooting for the character even more.
And here’s the last ingredient from our storytelling fairy.
SHE BUILT CHARACTERS TO ROOT FOR
Building your character is the easy part, really. The golden rule is that they have to emulate your target audience.
You want your audience to see themselves in your character.
To relate to them. To recognize their struggles. And to root for them.
Having a clear understanding of your target audience is going to be the make or break.
For those who need a helping hand, here’s an article from CoSchedule that takes you through defining your target audience. Here’s another interesting post from this blog on defining your target audience by generation.
And now it’s time to go back to the brand in our story. The brand who had their own storytelling fairy godmother.
As the brand watched their audience grow and their loyalty strengthen, they said to the fairy:
How can I thank you enough?
And the fairy said:
Just keep it up. One good story isn’t enough. You stop telling them and your brand will turn into a pumpkin as quick as you can say ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’. (Yes, I’m going rogue with the fairytale mixing here).
My advice? Heed her words. Fairies don’t lie. And neither will your engagement analytics.
Till next time,
Konrad and The Creative Copywriter team xx