In a world where traditional marketing chatter is often ignored or not believed, many businesses have turned to brand storytelling as an increasingly effective way to express their brand’s voice, gain the trust of potential customers and rise above the noise.
Essentially brand storytelling is a way of showing what makes your business unique by portraying some personality. Neil Patel of Quick Sprout says, “Storytelling is a powerful and actionable marketing technique…, it’s the reason why your company came to be.”
There are of course scientific reasons why storytelling is such a successful method of communication. Experts call it neural coupling, where the storyteller and listener become synchronised.
While companies like Apple, Amazon, BMW, and the BBC – all with large marketing budgets – consistently lead the polls of the top storytelling brands, they have their own difficulties in getting the message out. Creative agency Aesop argues that, “Big companies can appear faceless and lacking in emotion. That’s why stories are vital when it comes to connecting with people.”
The Drum, which reports on marketing and digital news, examined some of the statistics generated by the 2017 Annual Brand Storytelling Survey. It’s a poll organised by Aesop of 2,000 consumers, who are asked to rate brands against 10 best-practice storytelling attributes. Facebook was the only remaining social media brand in the top 10. Dyson had moved to number 10, Help the Heroes had settled in second place with Apple again at the top.
To cherry pick some of the tastiest stats; Lidl had relinquished the top supermarket storytelling brand spot to M&S, while Iceland with only 2.3% market share had outperformed Waitrose, Asda and Sainsbury’s. Commenting on the outcome, an Aesop spokesperson said, “In an era of fake news, and at a time when the consumer’s marketing radar is even more sensitive, authenticity is an increasingly valuable commodity. Heritage brands have longstanding storylines that suggest authenticity to such an extent that they are often quoted and referenced years later.”
However, it is not just for the big boys. Every business has a tale to tell, even if they don’t always realise it.
Loch Fyne Oysters – based on the west coast of Scotland – is a business which offers seafood to their many customers around the world. As a company philosophy, their guiding principle is one of respect for the living creature and its habitat. Also important are the company’s brand values of integrity, simplicity, sustainability, provenance and authenticity.
As a starting point, before constructing their brand story, they needed to understand what was important to their customers. This was information garnered through a programme of events and social media interaction. People wanted to know about other real people who worked for the company, about products that were fresh, healthy, and with a proven provenance.
The Loch Fyne Oysters approach was more than just a content strategy; it was multi-channelled, with some stunning visuals and intelligent packaging as additional elements, all carefully woven into a cohesive narrative.
The hospitality sector is another where effective storytelling is gaining traction. Leonardo is a Canadian technology company that provides online technology and travel copywriting services for travel suppliers. They specialise in the provision of brand storytelling, calling it “sensory magic.”
Leonardo’s approach to hotel copywriting is one of telling experiential stories rather than just offering a bland description, often overloaded with adjectives, of a hotel’s features. Recognising that customers are looking for benefits and not features, their stories are built around the sights, touches, scents, tastes and sounds of a location. They create a powerful emotional connection with potential customers.
At the Sunset at the Palms Hotel in Jamaica, for example, they don’t describe the beautiful flowers and plants in the garden, they tell the story of a walk in the garden with the resident gardener and the sensual pleasure gained from it. It’s little wonder that with this approach they describe ‘brand’ as a, “reason to do business with you.”
As companies jostle to explain their approach to brand storytelling, it’s apparent that there is no one size fits all. In addition, there are obvious dangers for the would-be corporate raconteur, some are neatly captured by Tom Albrighton. He said, “Defining the term brand storytelling too ambitiously or applying it too widely makes something basic and elemental sound like a shiny digital novelty or an ineffable mystery. And that may not help those who actually have stories to tell.”
However, among the vast amount of information and advice out there for those dipping their toes in storytelling waters, this pearl from the Huffington Post is worth remembering. “The more you humanize your brand, the better. Don’t hide behind your products. Let your audience see you.”