understanding The power of storytelling to promote your start-up

What does this image say to you? Well for starters we might interpret it in many different ways. We’ll likely invent our own backstory, which could be based upon our mood, memories, culture, where we are or what we’ve just eaten. It could be one of many other factors. Either way it shows how imaginative humans can be and how a single image can tell such a powerful story. After-all, humans are natural story tellers. Before we could write, how else would our ancient ancestors pass on their knowledge to the next generation? Whether smeared on a wall or carved in wood we’ve developed our way of communicating by being creative.

The challenge for marketing professionals and artists alike is to help you to see their vision, or the vision their client wants you to see.

We’ve spent the past 10 years working with brands and helping them develop and refine their communication. In our years of experience, it seems to be that telling a good story is the key to being remembered and getting remarks.

Whilst the word ‘storytelling’ is an overused cliche now-a-days, the true art of storytelling remains a powerful tool. In this post we’ll share our insights and help you discover ways in which you can implement storytelling into your marketing strategies.

Firstly, we’ll give you our definition of storytelling…

Not Storytelling

A dog singing the words to Flash Gordon (check the link). It’s a really fun ad. And yes you could say that it’s telling the story of a dog that’s sprayed mud around the house and therefore the brand (Flash) saves the day. BUT, Flash isn’t using the power of a story to sell the product and make it memorable, but rather the humour of a dog parodying Flash Gordon with a product benefit; Flash cleans mud.

Storytelling

The other end of the spectrum is Jonnie Walker They’ve produced many famous campaigns over the years with BBH London and these tended to be purely based around telling the story of the brand to get you to buy into that story and be a part of it. Johnny Walker ads tend to be quite long, so I can’t imagine what our new generation demanding instant gratification would think.

The aim of storytelling in advertising is to reflect who your start-up is, what it does and what it stands for through a narrative or a journey. Just like when you’re sat down comfortably on the sofa and your imagination drifts off into a good novel, transporting you to another reality. You become enthralled in the story and the characters, even more so when you can relate to the characters. You either see yourself in them or wanting to be like them. Brands create the same stories to sell their products and services.

Why storytelling?

People have been exposed to stories all of their lives, since children, and therefore consumers take to storytelling more than other marketing strategies due to its familiarity and usually, its relatability.

Using storytelling also enables a start-up to differentiate themselves from competitors in a way that allows them to express both expectation and reality.

One of the most common ways to portray storytelling is through film. Think about the impact the John Lewis Christmas adverts have on the British public and the enormouse anticipation for them. 

They have become a staple for the Christmas build-up every year by effectively tapping into consumers’ emotions. It’s usually a formulae, telling you a heartwarming, relatable story to promote engagement and make you feel as though you can relive those feelings by shopping at John Lewis. 

Although John Lewis’s use of storytelling might seem like a rather transparent and obvious ploy to marketing professionals, it reflects the fact that established brands don’t necessarily need to communicate specifically why they’re the best to engage consumers, at least not in the literal sense. They can be completely abstract and win on association. 

People like storytelling since they have been exposed to it all of their lives. Therefore, a nice, heart-warming story is enough to make consumers feel nostalgic and immersed. 

Creating a film which conveys storytelling strategies might sound simple, but in fact there are multiple facets to storytelling, which we’ll dive into.

Narrative Transportation

Narrative transportation occurs when you become truly immersed in the story. I’m sure you’ve all experienced it whilst binge-watching Harry Potter for the 50th time during lockdown (I know I have). 

However, in advertising, the success of narrative transportation is not only about fully immersing the audience, but also creating internal sentiment. This ensures that your advertisement is remembered as it taps into, usually, untouched emotions. 

The primary aim for this method is for consumers to lose themselves in the story and also heavily relate. Which makes me wonder why Harry Potter is so impactful in the relatability department…  

However, this links back to the reflection that some brands, like John Lewis, don’t even need to reflect their USP as consumers just want to feel happy and nostalgic. Harry Potter, for example, is an escape from reality. Successful storytelling marketing depends on this escapism too. 

Narrative transportation is particularly impactful to consumers’ affective neurological responses. This relates to feelings, moods and reactions; highlighting the need for not only emotional impact but also simple entertainment. 

However, we believe that consumers’ cognitive neurological responses should go hand-in-hand in storytelling as this refers to thoughts, beliefs and languages which have a more significant impact, long-term. Meaning, tapping into cognitive neurological responses makes it more likely to build a lasting relationship between the company and the consumer.

Again, the easiest and most efficient way to portray this is through film. This could be a long TV ad, short films for social media or even a short animation. There are an array of opportunities for storytelling but make sure your choice fits your customer or client wants and needs accordingly.

Nostalgia Marketing

Another way to really immerse your audience is using the power of nostalgia marketing to your advantage, which we have briefly outlined. 

Personally, 2020 has personally made me fall into the nostalgia trap more than ever. Looking back at simpler times, as me and my friends refer to as BC (Before COVID), just makes me feel better and hopeful for the future.

But nostalgia marketing is more about really tapping into those deep, embedded memories, such as those from your childhood; when simple pleasures made everything feel okay.

Therefore, to use nostalgia marketing effectively, you need to make your customers feel as though they can have that feeling again and obtain it with your start-up.

If you can integrate nostalgia into your storytelling, alongside narrative transportation, you’ve got yourself a killer strategy! 

Although film is the easiest and most effective form of portrayal, you can also do this with outdoor ads, social media campaigns and more.

Storygiving

A final form of storytelling marketing which we want to share with you is storygiving. 

Storygiving enables the audience to become the storyteller. This has proved very effective amongst major companies as consumers often find ‘real people’ more trustworthy than a company itself. 

However, it’s hard to implement in a start-up due to its loyal-consumer-based nature. But, with an effective initial storytelling strategy, such as one projected through film, they can then fit conjointly as it encourages consumers to engage with your start-up even further. 

Tiffany & Co are a major brand example who use storygiving in their storytelling strategies. Attached here reflects how Tiffany & Co have used real people to share their ‘love stories’ as part of their ‘Believe In Love’ storytelling campaign. This engages the audience, allowing them to have their own voice and become a prosumer. This is particularly popular amongst Millennials and especially Gen Z who prioritise technology and experiences.

Thus, you should always consider ways to intensify your storytelling marketing initiative by adding storygiving features too. It can be as simple as a #hashtag or it can be an entire event experience. The world really is your oyster when it comes to storytelling and storygiving. That’s why we love it so much!

Summary

 

We hope we’ve provided some valuable insight into ways in which you can integrate storytelling into your marketing practices.

If you want any help or advice with your storytelling, do not hesitate to reach out. 

Remarkable ideas don’t always require remarkable budgets.

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