How Brands Can Tap Into The Power of Storytelling

By Megan DeGruttola - September 26, 2017
4 mins read time
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Stackla recently took part in Tech Soup’s #Storymakers2017 Twitter Chat on storytelling tools and methods. The chat was meant for nonprofit organizations, but in it we highlighted storytelling principles, tips and examples that are valuable for non and for-profit organizations alike.  

Why Do We Tell Stories?

No matter what industry you’re in or who you’re selling to, at the end of the day, we’re all people. As marketers, this can be easy to forget. We get so caught up in getting our ‘brand messages’ and ‘value props’ across that we lose sight of the most powerful, natural tool at our disposal: storytelling.

Stories have always been an intrinsic part of humanity – creating human connections and building cultures and societies. Through storytelling, we have the opportunity to get beyond slogans and product features and tap into the values, dreams, concerns and aspirations that really drive people.

What Key Elements Are Needed to Develop a Good Story?

No one is going to connect with a story they don’t believe. In today’s world of ‘fake news’, paid influencers and ad overload, authenticity is more valued than ever – particularly with younger generations who are the most distrusting of brands and media. You must put your most genuine foot forward if you want to gain and build trust with your audiences.

So who do people trust most when it comes to brand stories? Customers. That’s why positive word-of-mouth has always been the most trusted and influential form of advertising.

It used to be that positive word-of-mouth only reached people’s direct sphere of influence, but the advent of social platforms have changed all that. Now, the millions of posts, images and videos people share online everyday – often referred to as user-generated content (UGC) – have become the most authentic, trusted and relatable content for marketers to build their brands stories around.

As See3 mentioned in the #Storymakers2017 Twitter chat, “If your goal is to activate people, your audience must see themselves in your story.” 

The more you understand your audience – what challenges they’re facing or what motivates them – the better you’ll be able to tap into their everyday experiences, fears, frustrations and goals in a way that really resonates. 

What Are Some Examples of Powerful Storytelling?

The brands who’ve created narratives that elevate customer stories are the ones doing the best in today’s customer-driven economy.

Take Tito’s Handmade Vodka, for example. They’re one of the fastest growing spirits brands in America and it’s not because they have a massive branding agency or spend millions on TV commercials. In fact, Tito’s didn’t spend a single dime on TV advertising last year. The secret to their success has been their human approach to storytelling and the way they connect with customers.

The personality of their founder, Tito Beveridge, is baked into their brand’s identity and they embrace their customers as part of their brand family. They bond with them over their love of dogs through their Vodka For Dog People website, charity events and pet merchandise. And they give back to local and national communities with their Love Titos philanthropic site and events. Who can’t get behind a company whose stated mission is to “Spread Love to Change The World”?

Doing regular road tours across the country, they are constantly interacting with their customers in person. In order to translate their human and social media interactions with customers into engaging online experiences, Tito’s has started strategically integrating all their best customers stories throughout their website and eCommerce store.

“Whether it’s a really great recipe or a picture of a dog with our merchandise, we want to make sure we’re sharing that with our audiences,” said Katy Gelhausen, Tito’s Web & Social Media Coordinator. “I think once people realized we were not only retweeting their content, but actually publishing it across our website, it motivated them to start sharing more.”

Year to date, the number of #LoveTitos posts online grew 254 percent.

Another brand that’s mastered authentic storytelling is LEGO. For decades, this iconic brand has held its own against newer, flashier toys by bringing their small plastic building blocks to life through the power of inspirational storytelling.

LEGO’s Vice President of Marketing, Michael Moynihan, has said, “Our collective goal is to serve our consumers more than we sell to them. If we can meet their needs in a compelling and authentic way, we’re doing our jobs.” LEGO understands that they don’t need to sell their products, they need to sell ‘inspiration’. And the best people to sell that vision are the builders themselves.

LEGO encourages customers to share their creations, hosting regular building challenges and developing an online community (and app!) where people young and old can see creations others have made and even build their own LEGO characters. All the social content their customers share about them online helps inform their broader brand story, as well as their digital media strategy.

Their customer-first storytelling style was perfectly illustrated in the Kronkiwongi project they ran with Facebook, asking kids to build a ‘Kronkiwongi’ out of LEGOs. Of course, there is no such thing as a Kronkiwongi; but that was the point. They were challenging kids to explore their imaginations and build something completely new. The possibilities were endless and engagement skyrocketed with kids and parents around the world.

Tito’s and LEGO have been able to craft authentic brand stories that lift the voices of their customers. As a result, they’ve created real, sustained value and engagement that goes beyond their products to build true brand loyalty.

How are you putting customers at the heart of your brand story?

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