So. You’ve nailed the first part of selling your product or service. Using SEO, advertising, and other marketing tools, you’re drawing lots of potential customers to your website.
Now for the hard part: making it stick. To convert visits into action, you need to do several things at once: hold your visitors’ attention, back up your buzzwords with substance, and make your brand stand out from the countless similar offerings that are only a click away.
This is where the unique power of brand storytelling comes in.
Brand storytelling means creating narratives about your company, its people, and its products or services. It can be as small as an About Page on your website, or as grand as mini-films with fictional characters and engaging plots, like those in many of Budweiser’s recent commercials. It works because humans have evolved in a special relationship with stories that has given our brains powerful areas dedicated to processing them.
Much has been made of the way stories help people remember information. When it comes to making your brand stand out from its competitors, though, it’s a different “superpower” that comes into play: our truly remarkable ability to keep huge numbers of stories straight.
You probably know this from your own experience. If you’ve read Little Women, Anne of Green Gables, and A Little Princess, you will never mix up Jo March, Anne Shirley, and Sara Crewe, even though they all answer to the description of spirited girls with an unconventional streak. Or take the Marvel Cinematic Universe — that phenomenally successful set of 23 movies (and counting) drawn from Marvel comics. The MCU features hundreds of named characters, within dozens of intersecting storylines, but the movies’ $22.5 billion box-office tally tells us that the MCU audience not only manages to keep them all straight but is fiercely attached to many of them. Still not convinced? The body of comic books that the MCU is based on contains 60,000 named characters. And Marvel readers haven’t run out of RAM yet.
Here are some of the specific ways that stories work to make your brand stand out.
Stories turn information into meaning
Here’s the thing about information. Two things, actually. One, there’s a lot of it out there. Tons of it. Overwhelming amounts of it. Two, information in itself carries no meaning. (It really doesn’t.) We need to either assign meaning to it or have meaning assigned to it for us. And until it has meaning, we are unlikely to remember it or care about it.
A good story, by definition, makes information meaningful. It does this by moving specific characters through an ordered sequence of events, from an initiating occurrence to a conclusion. The conclusion gives the information a point –– or, to put it in other words, it gives all that “what” a “what about it.” It tells your audience why the information matters.
This means that if you have a choice between simply giving your audience a set of information and putting it in the form of a story, you might want to consider doing the latter. Your company’s history section, for instance, can go from being a list of names, dates, and events to reading something like this: “Turner Financial Services came into being on a rainy spring day in 1956, when Molly Turner’s mother told her during their weekly ‘cocoa chat’ just how hard it had been to survive the Great Depression. Molly realized that lower-income people had little access to advice about their money –– and that realization turned into her life’s passion.”
When the story is finished, your company’s information has been transformed into a powerful marketing product.
Stories turn work into pleasure
Trying to make a decision as a consumer is often a tedious chore. Even when you’ve narrowed things down to 10 or 15 possibilities, there’s still a lot of reading and research to do. As we trawl through websites encountering bewildering amounts of data, our brains reflexively try to assign meaning and find patterns. We can’t help it: it’s just what humans do in this situation. But it’s hard and tiring mental work, so we learn to quickly turn away from websites that are full of non-story data.
By contrast, who doesn’t like sitting down to a compelling story with engaging characters and a meaningful storyline? Good stories are at once relaxing and energizing. By giving your potential customers a break from having to put things together themselves, brand stories make your site a welcome place for them to hang out and start developing a relationship.
Stories create emotional connections to your products or services
Feelings are the currency of storytelling. When your audience reads or watches the story of a likeable character encountering and overcoming challenges, they will almost inevitably feel emotions of sympathy, tension, relief, and affection. Even a single well-told story can create feelings powerful enough to make your brand stand out immediately and permanently in your audience’s mind.
The story of Steve Jobs — how he co-created Apple, was kicked out of his own company, found a way back in, and turned the company into the most successful one in modern history — has helped create a legion of diehard Apple fans who would never think of buying from Microsoft. On a less dramatic level, the Cora restaurant chain tells not only the story of how its founder, single mom Cora Tsouflidou, started up the first restaurant, but also how her children’s odd eating habits led to some of the more unusual and successful items on the menu. The Cora stories give the chain an aura of motherly warmth that makes it distinct and inviting to its customers.
Your brand and company has a story to tell. Everyone does. And if you can make these stories engaging and authentic, you will not only stand out from your competition but gain passionate customers for life.
Do you need to find an edge in a competitive market? Our storytelling experts are here to show you how the right story can leave a lasting impression on customers, and deliver real ROI for your brand. We’d love to hear from you. Call us at 1.877.777.ECHO (3246) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.