3 Ways Storytelling Takes Your Content to the Next Level
Storytelling is a universal human experience that we’ve utilized for thousands of years. Some of the earliest evidence of storytelling dates back to 30,000 BC, and while it can’t be proven, scientists speculate oral storytelling most likely began shortly after the development of spoken language. For…well, forever, humans have used stories to entertain, sell, educate and motivate each other, but the *really* good stories are those that connect us together and remind us we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Now more than ever, it’s imperative that content marketers harness the power of storytelling. Forbes says that digital storytelling is on the rise in 2022 — and ultimately, it's what separates the amateurs from the pros. “There has been a large focus over the past year on digital storytelling,” says author and founder of 3 Dog Write, Lisa Apolinski. “Companies who can leverage persuasive storytelling will have their digital content create value and relatability and not just be content for content’s sake.”
As a Content Strategist, I’ve seen the power of storytelling firsthand. Not only do the KPI’s rain from the heavens, but objectives are achieved, if not surpassed, and overall brand health increases. Want proof? Here are the top 3 ways storytelling elevates your content efforts:
Narratives cut through the clutter
Stories with engaging narratives entice and stick with your audience — it’s science! Paul J. Zak, Ph.D., conducted an experiment where he asked his subjects to watch two videos. One featured a compelling narrative, and the other lacked a basic storyline. His study revealed that “compelling narratives cause oxytocin release and have the power to affect our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors.”
TLDR: When we hear a good story, our brains release happy hormones — and if the story is exceptional, we’re inclined to take action.
Storytelling has become especially important in the ever-changing media landscape. Positioning for Advantage: Techniques and Strategies to Grow Brand Value author, Kimberly A. Whitler explains that “because there is such media fragmentation, consumers are not just looking for different experiences but different delivery… Storytelling isn’t just a creative approach to marketing. It gives your consumers a totally different entry to your brand.”
One way to craft your marketing efforts around powerful narratives is to utilize social media influencers. Not only does this give your audience a very authentic perception of your brand, but it also invites fresh, diverse narratives to emerge.
Storytelling enables a deeper connection with the audience
Storytelling allows your target audience to connect with your brand in an authentic, meaningful way – it’s also science! Princeton University neuroscientists report that “communication is a shared activity resulting in a transfer of information across brains. The findings indicate that during successful communication, speakers’ and listeners’ brains exhibit joint, temporally coupled, response patterns.” So, when you tell someone a story and they actively listen, your brains temporarily align on the same wavelength.
When content marketers effectively communicate their brand or client story, it connects them to the target audience on a real, human level, and immerses the audience in the story. This shared narrative not only fosters brand value and loyalty, but it also expands your brand's reach beyond the limits of your owned media channels.
Stories enhance brand positioning efforts
Marketing expert and author Philip Kotler has defined brand positioning as “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.”
Let's face it: Your brand will earn a reputation with your target whether you cultivate it or not. Whether you’re first establishing or completely re-positioning your brand, defining your goal position and creating a plan to achieve it is critical. And storytelling allows marketers to, quite literally, illustrate exactly where their brand fits in the lives of their consumers.
Automotive marketers are brand positioning pros. While consumers certainly base their purchasing decision on a vehicle's overall quality, safety standards, horsepower and other technical factors, they also make a decision based on their perception of how the car and brand will fit into their lifestyle and align with their belief system.
Chevrolet's recent campaign for their Silverado strategically amplifies their brand position while simultaneously offering a humorous narrative to a potentially untapped audience...cat people. 😺
The result? Not only did the internet go absolutely insane for Walter, but he also stole the show at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. And to this day, he continues to star in Chevy commercials.
Although your brand may not opt for a feline protagonist, one key takeaway from the campaign is that diversity pays - and even the quirkiest angles are worth exploring. Because, the words of Shel Silverstein, "If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hope-er, a prayer, a magic bean buyer or pretender, come sit by my fire, for we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!"
Next time you lay the groundwork for a campaign, give every story a seat at the table - or around your fire - and harness the moving magic that unfolds.