We’ve heard of why storytelling works and we’ve even been privy to some great storytelling marketing examples. However, when it comes to the average business, there’s still some confusion about how to execute your own storytelling marketing. In my experience with small to mid-sized business owners, they’re often confused about the story itself; they don’t recognize there is one. Business owners embrace their product and are passionate about it; they may even tell you why they started the business. Yet, they can never communicate any of that into a story. Here’s why: most business owners don’t recognize how their product affects the lives of their clients and customers. Their understanding of their business is limited to their own perspectives, whereas storytelling marketing requires we understand how other people think.
Say, for example, you have a car business offers custom fixes on any car – think MTV’s “Pimp Your Ride” for the luxury market. Your story then isn’t how great you are, but it’s about what that car symbolizes. Does it represent freedom? Can you even so far as to say that your car is your ‘spirit animal’ in the modern world? (I copyright that, just in case anyone is getting any ideas). The moment you can make that connection is the moment you have your very powerful story. Now the question is: who do you convert that story into a marketing strategy. How do you show people this idea.
The Value of Knowing What You’re Selling
In the case of the car, they’re clearly selling status and sentiment rather than just a service or product. UK’S Marketing Magazine understands this. In an article titled “Deconstructing the art and science of storytelling,” writer Suzy Bashford encourages marketers to identify the following key questions before delving into a storytelling battle plan:
1. Who are you?
2. Where have you come from?
3. What do you stand for?
4. Why do you want to tell your story? How, and will anyone care?
Bashford quotes David Brennan, founder of Media Native who tells us that “the power of storytelling can be clearly inferred from brain mapping. Many experts believe the brain architecture is such that we experience life via the medium of storytelling and subconsciously see our own lives and experiences as one big, unfolding story.” Once you’ve understand how your brand story should mirror customer psyche, you can proceed to how you’re going to capture that narrative.
In a Forbes article titled “How to Maximize your Marketing Campaign Through Storytelling”, Jayson DeMers shares how “There are no limits to how you can tell a story and where you can tell this story. It can appeal to any audience of any age, which makes it one of the few universally effective marketing tools.” He adds, “consider how people learn. Millions of research dollars have been spent on understanding educational habits. Some people learn best by reading, others by listening, and others by viewing. It’s the same with marketing; people respond to different forms of marketing, and different types of media. This is why your story should come in multiple formats; audio content, images, and written content.”
Pychology Today’s Dr. Pamela Rutledge believes in using multiple formats to convey a story. She’s an advocate of transmedia storytelling, which fuses multiple mediums into an overarching method of storytelling. She writes, “Transmedia storytelling is a ‘story experience’ both for—and with—an audience that unfolds over several media channels. This is a big deal for two reasons. First, it represents the continuing shift from a technological to human focus…second, storytelling and narrative tap into a fundamental form of human communication and connection, engaging our imagination and through that, empathy and creativity.
A dynamic approach to storytelling marketing, transmedia storytelling “constructs a story across different platforms and invites audience participation and collaboration, is simultaneously linear and multi-dimensional, and both individual and collaborative. Transmedia storytelling is not the same as taking content and ‘repurposing’ it for different media; it builds a story universe (what psychologists call a narrative) and invites the audience in.”
Rutledge reminds us of The Matrix, one of the early adopters of transmedia storytelling. Not only did the film itself have a richly self-contained story, but the outside games, role playing, and even the vertical rows of code that become immensely popular culture hacks into the world of the Matrix, are all examples of storytelling that skates through different mediums.
No matter how you go about executing your storytelling campaign, remember DeMer’s insight, “the story is the mechanism, rather than the goal.” Your goal still rests in the fundamentals of marketing, which is a melting pot of brand authority, traffic, conversion, and sales.
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