From cave walls to Facebook walls, storytelling is the most powerful form of communication. In many ways, storytelling is the creative demonstration of a truth, living proof of an idea and the demonstration of ideas turned into action.
In marketing, the purpose of storytelling is to influence consumer behavior. Great advertising uses universal characters to simplify information gathering and the decision-making process, to differentiate one brand from the rest and to ultimately increase sales. Brands like Nike represent the Hero character in a compelling story about personal achievement. Wholesome brands like Little Debbie epitomize the Innocent character in an enduring story that always ends in a smile. Google has risen to brand dominance as the Sage. Obvious character types become the messengers of bigger stories that all begin “once upon a time.”
What Is Storytelling in Marketing?
Storytelling at its heart captures and holds the attention of an audience to reveal meaning in a way that entertains, enlightens, frightens or provokes. Storytelling is a technique as old as mankind, a tool that has been used successfully across time and cultures around the world. Stories are as free and ubiquitous as the air we breathe, and stories have contributed to the success of multi-billion-dollar industries. Storytelling is as natural to a mother and child as it is to the most reviled dictator. A story can be at once funny and sad, mean and kind, boring and captivating, and any permutation imaginable. What is this force, this mystery, this magic?The magic lies in the fact that everyone loves a good story. It’s part of our being. As they unfold, stories evoke our imaginations. They stir up our feelings, make us cry or laugh, believe or reject, align or oppose in a way that is not rational but rather instinctual, visceral and subconscious. Because of this evoked emotional response, stories play a critical role in successful marketing. Good stories move people to action. Bad stories push people away. Stories incite behavior, response and influence, all critical in building great brands. But most importantly, compelling stories can sell. Charles Revson, founder of Revlon Cosmetics, said, “In the factory, we make cosmetics; in the drugstore, we sell hope.” Bill Bernbach, a famous adman, said, “Our job is to bring the dead facts to life.” Jef I. Richards, an advertising professor, said, “Advertising is the ‘wonder’ in Wonder Bread.”
The success of storytelling is what made an obscure shoemaker an enduring cultural icon with the “Just Do It” campaign and turned complex banking relationships into a simple green bike for Regions Bank. Storytelling is not about the rational facts or comparative attributes. It is not an overt claim or a bigger brag. It’s simply a story.
Stories that build brands
There are many different ways to approach storytelling in advertising but all have the same end in mind – connecting with customers. For Luckie, we use the science of data and the power of insights to get to the magic, to find the unique brand truths that define the character and then tell that story to audiences and stakeholders in surprising and innovative ways that make it inviting – no, irresistible. And we do it with a diligent eye on marketing and financial performance because the real value of storytelling is the impact it has on marketing ROI. I’d be happy to share with you real-world examples of the impact our storytelling has had on our clients’ success. From 1 million new checking accounts to 1 million new Facebook fans, every brand has a story. Tell it well and fortune will follow because stories build brands.