Storytelling

Win More Business by Copying Nike's Storytelling Playbook

Nike has long marketed its shoes as just one part of a larger story of aspiration and achievement.
Win More Business by Copying Nike's Storytelling Playbook
Image credit: Nike
Guest Writer
Vice President of Marketing, Prezi
7 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

There’s a movement in business today to incorporate storytelling into just about everything -- from marketing campaigns and sales presentations to company meetings and talent recruiting efforts. Make no mistake, however: This is more than a trend. Storytelling is here to stay. And it can be very good for your business, provided you embrace a modern approach to creating and sharing a narrative that will be highly engaging and memorable for your audiences -- and thus, effective.

Related: How Brand Storytelling Is the Missing Link to Building a Loyal Community of Followers

Companies that excel at storytelling understand it is a powerful tool for communicating the possibilities that they can create for their customers, employees, partners, investors or any other person or group they want to reach. They also know how to make target audiences feel like they are part of the story. Think about Nike, as an example. A campaign for Nike running shoes won’t focus on the product -- it will instead seed the idea that you can become a better athlete by wearing Nike footwear. You can run that marathon. You can score that goal. You are the story in the making that will one day become legend.

Storytelling has been part of Nike’s strategy to convey its brand’s values and authentic character for decades. Look back to 1988, when Nike launched its aspirational “Just Do It” campaign. Its first TV spot to use that tagline featured 80-year-old Walt Scott jogging shirtless across the Golden Gate Bridge. The focus of the spot was Scott and his gritty commitment to run 17 miles every morning, no matter the weather. The fact that he wore Nike shoes was clear, but it was subtly worked into the story, visually and was by no means a focal point.

Thirty years later, Nike is still employing the “Just Do It” tag and to great effect; it is part of the fabric of the company and its brand and became so because of the tremendous success of that original campaign. But the question is, would that 1988 campaign have the same sit-up-and-take-notice impact on and staying power with audiences if it were launched today?

Interactive content helps communicate the why behind the what.

We face an unprecedented amount of advertising, marketing and messaging clamoring for our attention, 24/7, through multiple channels online and offline. We’re forced to carefully select those things to which we’ll give our time and focus. That’s not easy when it seems that every message we receive is urgent and everything around us is constantly changing.

In this environment, the way we process information has evolved -- out of necessity -- to favor more interactive content, captivating visuals and good storytelling over static, text-heavy messages. So, going back to my question about the potential impact of Nike’s 1988 campaign in a 2018 world, I would say the short answer is yes. It would have the power to break through with audiences because of its simplicity, its highly visual nature, and, of course, its storytelling.

Related: This Vital Storytelling Principle Is the Key to Producing Great VR and AR Content

However, aspirational TV spots and motivational print campaigns would not be enough to give Nike’s message both impact and longevity in today’s world. Nike’s approach to storytelling in 1988 for “Just Do It" was a static, one-way conversation. It had to be due to the limitations of the platforms used to deliver the messaging. But today, that storytelling would need to include interactive content that sets the stage for a two-way dialogue with audiences, or it would not be effective at engaging them.

Today’s audiences want to be inspired -- but they also want to understand the why behind the what and how it relates to them. When they can get that from your campaign or presentation and really connect to your story, then they are much more likely to respond and act in the way you want them to. And if you fail to engage your target audiences effectively, be assured it will impact your bottom line. In a recent Heinz Marketing Survey, 67 percent of respondents reported missing their sales goals due to a non-engaging presentation -- and 58 percent experienced no year-over-year growth.

Get conversational and visual. Then, prepare to get immersive.

So, how should you evolve your storytelling approach? The real trick is not just to create a compelling narrative -- which is critical -- but also to identify the most effective way to communicate it.

You can have the most interesting story in the world, but if you don’t think through every aspect of how best to share it, then your story won’t have the impact or influence you desire. The elements you must think through before presenting include your intended audience, their journey and how you plan to keep them engaged with your story -- from start to finish and even beyond. That, of course, includes thinking about the conversation you want to have with your audience.

Making a shift to conversational presenting is a vital step in your storytelling evolution. It involves taking a two-way approach to presenting -- and using the right technology to support that experience and make it seamless for the audience. It allows you to jump straight into the content that matters most to your targets. So, instead of telling audiences what you want them to know, you ask them, “What do you want to know?” And by letting them decide where they want to go, you empower them to quickly access the information they need to make a connection -- and ultimately, a decision.

Related: Why the Best Storytellers Achieve the Most Brand Awareness

Your storytelling evolution must also include an embrace of visual storytelling. Quite simply, we recall things better when we can picture them. That’s obviously one reason infographics have become such an important tool for presenting and sharing data. In fact, according to HubSpot, infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content. So, it’s essential for you to communicate the story behind the numbers effectively. Accurate and compelling visualization of data can make or break your presentation (and there is a fine art to getting it right, as this ebook explains).

Conversational presenting and visual storytelling lay the foundation for conversational storytelling, which is the new frontier of communication. It is a nonlinear, highly visual and narrative-based approach to presenting information. The result is a natural, immersive, interactive and effective method of presenting that is scientifically proven to be highly compelling. A recent study on presentations conducted by Harvard researchers found that presentations with an interactive format are more effective, more engaging and more persuasive than traditional presentation formats.

The evolution to conversational storytelling is the key to preparing for the next stage of presenting in business, which will be immersive. Presentation technology that incorporates augmented reality (AR) is already taking shape. AR will enable presenters to be inside the presentation -- and thus, in the story -- so they can deliver a personalized experience for audiences like nothing else.

It’s so important to evolve your storytelling now, so you can successfully master the new and next frontiers of presenting that will help you win business in the future. If you need some motivation to get started on this journey, I suggest you take it from Nike. Just do it.

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How Do You Get People to Believe in Your Business? Tell a Good Story.