Why Storytelling is So Important to a Brand’s Success

I’m a reader. I always have been and I always will be. I’ll read just about anything and despite my tendency to read take-me-away romance novels, I enjoy non-fiction, historical memoirs, the occasional science fiction thriller, and even children’s books (thanks to my niece and nephew). The point I’m trying to make is yes I like to read, but more than the words on a page, I enjoy the journey of a story.

When I read, I want to feel something. I want to feel what the characters are feeling, whether it’s love, heartbreak, hate, fear, excitement, etc. And although I’m extremely skilled at blocking out the world while reading (just ask my mom), the books that resonate the most with me are the ones that weave a story together so well that I consider myself part of the story. These books keep me up ‘til the early hours of the morning – despite having to go to work – begging for me to finish them. They are the books I can’t put down; I HAVE to find out what happens at the end. And if I’m lucky, it’s part of a series and I can continue with the story for at least another day or two.

Some of the greatest storytellers in literature created masterpieces that transcended the times and have resonated with people for centuries. The ageless classics of Shakespeare, Dickens, Twain and Hemingway, just to name a few, are the foundation of what we read today. These authors set the example of how powerful a story can and should be. A story, fiction or non-fiction, can change the way we think, the way we act, and even what we believe in.

And isn’t this the same for a brand? Can’t a brand change the way we think and how we feel? I certainly think so, and the brands that do this the most effectively do this through – yep you guessed it – STORYTELLING.

Storytelling and branding is a match made in heaven, like peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, and chicken wings and beer. They just go together, simply and magically. It’s the overall story of the brand. It’s the reason to choose one brand over another. It’s what produces a brand advocate. Often, this storytelling is exactly that: a story the brand paints for their audience through words and visuals.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and while I agree, a picture is worth so much more when there’s a story behind it. And not just any story, but a story that people can connect to; a story that draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat until it’s over, and even then, it leaves you desperate for more.

For a brand, figuring out what your audience craves and creating a story that satisfies their need is one approach for establishing a cult of loyal followers and brand advocates. Delve into what makes your audience tick. What do they connect with? What resonates with them?

Let’s look at two recent examples of brand storytelling:

Guinness’ basketball commercial

A story of friends, all seemingly unable to walk until the end of the basketball game; you’re not expecting Guinness to be behind it all. Listening to the narration, you’ll hear, “Dedication. Loyalty. Friendship. The choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”

Guinness is doing more than promoting their beer, they’re sending a message that speaks to our emotions; positioning themselves as a brand that cares, while at the same time increasing brand awareness and promoting brand loyalty.

If I wasn’t a Guinness drinker, I might try it the next time I was out at a bar. And this is the point: through storytelling, brands are able to insert themselves into otherwise obscure scenarios. Cheers to Guinness for telling this story; the story of friendship, as opposed to the cliché, sex-driven advertisements beer and alcohol brands bombard us with.

Dodge Ram Farmer Commercial

Another memorable story this year, Dodge Ram captured one of the most demanding and rewarding careers in their commercial. This spot tells the story of the farmer, illustrating the extent to which farmers truly give their life, and the lives of their families, to their livelihood.

Although it’s clear Dodge is promoting their trucks, they’re doing so while educating and telling us a powerful story. They show us the story of the farmer and the dedication and hard work that goes into their daily routine. After viewing this commercial, I must say given the need for a powerful truck, I would most definitely consider the Dodge Ram Trucks as an option.

Dodge’s use of compelling storytelling doesn’t end with the commercial; it leaves us thinking about farmers and trucks in a new light. Down the road, when you’re thinking about buying a new vehicle, specifically a sturdy truck, you will remember this commercial. Somehow, it will pop into your head. Dodge created a vivid and powerful illustration of their trucks and of farmers, and this involuntary association is what sets extraordinary brands apart from the ordinary ones.

As you can see, for brand storytelling to be effective, the focus needs to be on how a product or service will make you feel, or the impact it can have on your life. What you’re trying to sell doesn’t have to be the focus of the story, in fact, the most effective stories that brands tell are about people and emotions.

The brands that bring you into their story and evoke an emotion, any emotion, within their audience are the brands who know what they’re doing. They have taken an aspect of their brand and created a journey to take their audience on. The brands who figure out how to guide us through a thought and feeling provoking adventure, whether it’s through words or visuals, are going to leave a lasting impression.

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