The Year of the Story: That is the label that has been given to 2014 and, with content marketing becoming one of the top marketing strategies among businesses, this came as no surprise.
The Kickstarter campaign that started out asking for $10 to make potato salad yet ended up making over $55,000 showed us the true power of storytelling. People contributed, not out of necessity or desire for potato salad, but simply because they could relate to the story presented and wanted to be a part of it.
Another story we saw making waves last year was Coca-Cola's Share a Coke campaign, where people were compelled to get a Coke for a friend with their name printed on the bottle. This wasn't about telling the public a story. It was about giving the public the ability to tell their own delightful stories, to which others could relate.
To show how you can leverage the power of storytelling, we have to examine how it was used to make these campaigns so successful.
Storytelling works for anyone
It's the differences in these cases that show the versatility of this content-marketing trend.
Storytelling can be used as a marketing strategy by businesses and entities of all sizes because all it requires imagination and creativity, not money.
Writers can blog through Medium, visual brands can share via Instagram, those with characters can create mini-series on Vimeo or use BrandStories to interest potential customers. If you love the stage, thrive on interactivity and excel in front of the camera then you can use conferencing software such as ClickWebinar to set up online digital two-way interactions and publish them instantly across social-media channels.
There are many different ways to tell your story -- you only have to choose your preferred method and start creating.
These scenarios also show us that a story can be told in many different ways by different people. You can tell your own story or you can just as easily give others the tools to tell their story on your behalf. Those who get behind-the-scenes looks, exclusive access or incredible "wow" moments are only too happy to tell others about their experiences. Their stories can be worth far more than your ad.
A brand's story is no longer limited to or controlled by the media outlets and advertising that it uses. One would even say that this has been completely reversed: the media now runs stories based on how much traction they've gained elsewhere. Your customers and advocates are now the tastemakers, giving power to the stories that resonate with them.
Why storytelling is so compelling
Most people won't remember the name of the person who started the Kickstarter campaign, but they will refer to "that potato salad guy." That's the power of storytelling.
Stories are what people remember. Even when they forget names and faces, they rarely forget the story and how it made them feel.
Emotional connections such as these are almost impossible when talking on strict business terms. Often, we focus on logic and numbers, believing these are irrefutable points that can't be ignored, yet we forget that emotional gut feeling we have that guides so many of our decisions.
People relate to stories. They see bits of themselves in your protagonist. They associate the antagonist and conflict with the problems in their own lives. They share in the joy and reward when the main characters finally achieve their goals.
What makes a story worth telling?
A story that spreads is one that is relatable, easy to recall and easy to share. Take for example, this gem:
"My very educated mother just served us nine pies."
You may remember this from school -- the mnemonic we were taught as children to identify the (formerly) nine planets in order of distance from the sun.
It simplifies a complex concept and entertains while educating. It's the spoonful of sugar that helps us swallow the medicine that inevitably makes us better.
The mnemonic was easily recalled for tests and we happily shared it with our friends to demonstrate our clever knowledge. These are some of the main elements your story must include.
How stories help your business grow
The mission of businesses using storytelling as a marketing tool should be to help customers connect the stories they tell to the benefits of their product. Telling stories that are not connected to your brand or unique offer will entertain, but won't offer value or sell your product.
When developing your story, you need to identify how your product helps your customers. What problem does it solve? What benefits, not features, does it offer? What makes your solution different from the competitors’?
The answers to these questions will guide you through the process of creating compelling content that has business value.
Have you looked into storytelling as a part of your business marketing? What is the most difficult part? Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section below.