The art of storytelling has been around for thousands of years — and it continues to be a powerful way to market your company and instill your brand.
Look, for example, at the following excerpt from the “Coming Full Circle” blog post in July 2017, sharing insights on the one-year anniversary of the Ellicott City flood.
“Who knew when we launched the new insight180 website in January 2016 that the image of the life preserver and hashtag #brandresuscitation would be so apropos?
“On that Saturday night, I had been in downtown Ellicott City to show a guest from Slovenia, Karin, our quaint little town. My long-time friend Carol would be leading a Sierra Club trip in the fall to Slovenia, so I invited her along for an opportunity to talk to a native. It had been a beautiful summer day, with a slight chance of rain in the forecast. As we drove around Ellicott City, it started pouring; and as we looked for parking, it became torrential. Though we decided not to stay, I did swing by the insight180 office to put out the sandbags in front of our branding company’s door and that of our business neighbor — as I had done so many times before for so many storms in the past 16 years. By the time I dragged out the sandbags and got back to the car, my feet were covered with water. As we tried to get to higher ground, many side roads were already closed.
“That evening was surreal. Flash flood alerts. Frantic social media updates as the storm thrashed through. Videos of what looked like a river rushing down historic Main Street. The inevitable call from the security company, notifying me that the office alarm was going off — which of course meant that either our front door was opened by a rush of water coming in, or water had entered by another means and the motion detector sensed the water, floating furniture, or other movements. This was the third flood that would temporarily displace us, but somehow I knew this was different — way worse than before. Heartbreaking news stories in the storm’s wake confirmed our worst fears.”
Are you curious how that ends? A lot of people were. And why not? It hits all the right components of storytelling to enhance a brand. Yes, it was real (authentic), personal (authentic), dramatic (emotional connection), and an effort to share with clients, customers and friends (connection), and it was a sharing of important thoughts (bringing order by drawing connections).
Content marketing today encompasses hundreds of ideas, strategies, methods and channels of delivery. With so much content being thrust at us from all angles, the core foundation of content marketing gets more and more blurred. And, for a service business or nonprofit that doesn’t sell a tangible product, getting a message out there becomes even more difficult.
Meet the Customers’ Needs
Those communicating about their business need to be authentic, and in addition to the operations and service sides of their business, they need to think about connection, purpose and meaning — the big picture part of their business vision. They truly need to explore what differentiates them. Just telling your audience what you do and even why you are different or better doesn’t cut it. People don’t really buy what you do. They buy how you make them feel.
That’s where storytelling comes in. Brand storytelling is not simply about standing out from the crowd. It involves thinking beyond the tasks related to the product or service you provide in order to understand the views, challenges and unmet needs of your customers. It’s about shaping your purpose and vision, communicating your value and creating something that people care about and want to buy into.
Putting styles, channels and platforms aside, storytelling shares information. People crave it. It is the basis for creating common ground. Trust begins with communication.
People will always struggle to build affinity with a company or a product, but building empathy and creating an emotional connection will align and connect common values and qualities a brand represents. When you put a human face on your stories, you’ll have more success. A captivating story will compel or inspire, drawing people into the narrative. Positive emotion elevates customer satisfaction and experience.
Be real. Your audience will sense whether or not you are being real within seconds. And the second your audience feels “sold” to, it is gone. Have fun with your brand story, but make sure it represents who you are.
Order and Thinking
We all want to make order out of information we see, read and observe. Stories — with a beginning, middle and end — help us remember and make associations. Branding is all about pattern association. The brain wants to be efficient when it comes up against new information. A good story will help reinforce a brand connection.
Breathe new life into your brand by storytelling, a powerful tool to connect and market. Make your story topical and relevant, share something human and inspiring, and you will be gaining followers and creating new connections with your audience.
Wendy Baird is president of Insight180 Brand Consulting & Design in historic Ellicott City. She can be reached at 410-203-0777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.