Your Company's Storytelling Tells More than Just the Story

Author: Larry McAlister
Posted: Feb 25, 2016

Storytelling remains the mantra for content marketers as we boldly trudge forth into 2016.

There’s no denying the impact of content that captures the attention of an audience and genuinely engages them. Yes, there’s nothing better than a good story, delivered via book, a movie, over a beer, or a 30-second commercial. But it’s not easy, or we’d all be penning the next great American novel.


And what if you’re not a sexy brand like GoPro – doesn’t matter. Storytelling that works is all about telling your story in a context that gets people thinking about their own lives. Every brand, no matter how “boring,” has some special hook in their product line or their value system that is a great story waiting to be told.

More than likely your products or services are intended for use by people. And people like to read about people. Cars are beautiful, fascinating machines, but the story of the husband and wife racing home (with the mother-in-law in tow) is instantly relatable. Create characters that the members of your audience understand, aspire to be, or would love to meet, and you can create a connection that will pull them into your story.

A couple of examples: Can’t think of anything more boring than insurance! Allstate’s “Mr. Mayhem” spots play out things that all of us could do, or have done to create accidents with disasterous results. And although the results are overplayed to make a point (and make them humorous), we can all relate. The Mr. Mayhem Super Bowl lead-in has real people sharing their do-it-yourself disasters online for consumers to vote on to be featured at Super Bowl 50.

Patagonia in its “Worn Wear” series invited brand advocates to share about their outdoor adventures, their lives and the stories their gear would tell if it could talk. Their website has mini documentaries with people explaining their experiences featuring products (board shots from a surfer, a jacket from a climber) that are not all that exciting on their own. It’s the stories around the shorts and the jacket that make them engaging.

Insurance and outdoor gear are not too sexy. The two campaigns are successful because they tell great stories. To tell great stories you must:

Hit a nerve – The stories in these campaigns are fascinating, heart-felt, genuine, inspirational and relatable. These type of stories make us think introspectively and hit a nerve that makes them memorable and share-worthy.

Create relatable characters that personify your brand – Each character is a walking-talking embodiment of the Allstate and Patagonia brand core values. These campaigns use the stories of real consumers to give the brands a human side. The audience identifies with the characters as a means to identifying to the brand.

Show, don’t tell – The trick to content marketing storytelling is to use your story to show the audience how excellent your product is by naturally working it into the stories you tell.

Find real brand advocates – They will sell the product for you. Think about what makes your brand special, what the personification of your brand looks like, then find user stories that embody that vision.

So tell good stories this year, stories that sell. You can ensure it by highlighting stories that make an emotional impact, featuring characters your audience can relate to, personifying your core values and showing (not telling) your product/service benefits.

And it might be time to start that novel.

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