Did you know that Santa’s coat wasn’t always red?
Nope. In original Christmas folklore, Santa’s coat was green (*gasp!*). The reason we think Santa’s coat is red is because in the 1930s, Coca Cola branded him in the colour for a marketing campaign – and the story stuck. Now, our image of Santa Claus is so synonymous with his red gladrags, that you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking he’s always dressed that way. But he hasn’t. History, and our perception of our favourite, jelly-bellied samaritan, has been forever changed, because one big American soft drinks company told a different story.
We think the moral of this story is pretty obvious.
A strong story can be a very powerful marketing tool for your company. Stories can shape history, change perspectives and create ties to your brand that are difficult to sever. They can make you inextricable from something else (ie., the cultural icon Santa to a fizzy pop brand). There’s simply no reason why you shouldn’t be making a concentrated effort to tell more of them. Read on to find out more about storytelling’s myriad benefits.
1. Stories inspire connections.
Throughout human history, people have listened to, loved and learned from stories. As a species, we’re simply drawn to enticing narratives that we can relate to on an emotional or intellectual level, and are constantly seeking connections (both consciously and subconsciously).
It stands to reason, then, that if you can tell stories through your brand, you should. Forging a connection to your target audience – whether that’s by educating them about something or emotionally engaging with them – will instantly “up” your value and, if your words ring true, encourage them to invest in you on a deeper level. Woo-hoo.
Top tip: A great way to expand your audience is to get the bigwigs in your field to contribute to your brand’s story (for instance, asking them to provide a quote for a piece you’re writing). Contributors will be much more likely to share your brand’s content to their own social media feeds. This will then expose your story to potentially thousands of new like-minded followers who are likely to engage with you. (Give us a bell if you need a hand with that.)
2. Stories are authentic.
In a world that’s crammed with overly “salesy” brands, authentic content is a breath of fresh air. It delivers results, too. In a recent survey, 86% of people said that a genuine voice is an important factor in deciding whether or not to support a company.
It’s not hard to see why being genuine is so effective. Being open with your audience creates an atmosphere of trust, breaking down perceived barriers between you (the seller) and them (the consumer). Keep it real, y’all.
Top tip: Being actually authentic and being what we call “fake-authentic” are two very different things. Authentic companies will attract attention from new followers who share their beliefs and values. Fake-authentic companies, on the other hand, will pigeonhole themselves into whatever’s popular to try and stay relevant 24/7, even when their company doesn’t match the message. Beware of the latter. Online consumers are shrewd, and if they sense that you’re not being real with them, you’re likely to lose their interest.
3. Stories are much more likely to be shared by your audience.
Did you know that social storytelling is responsible for more than 65% of conversations had in public? (Wow, right?) Indeed, “word of mouth” can be a great, free marketing tool if people are saying positive things about you – which you can totally encourage through unique and on-brand storytelling. Stories point out the commonalities between us, and are much more likely to be shared than a bland brand message because they represent the reader and/or inspire an emotional response from them.
Top tip: Research by Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman show that viral content – the stories that are shared and talked about most across the internet – is driven by emotions, and that people most often share content for self-presentation purposes or to communicate identity. So, veer towards positive and inclusive stories wherever possible to increase your story’s shareability.
4. Stories will ensure you’re never forgotten.
Okay, perhaps not never ever, but they’ll certainly remind your audience to think of you fondly from time to time. Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that people remember information when it’s part of a story “up to 22 more times than facts alone”. Why? Because a strong narrative engages several parts of the brain at once (including your emotions). Simple, ‘ey?
Top tip: Stories will help you be remembered, but consistency is also key if you want to snag your audience’s attention. Utilise your company blog to encourage discussions with your following and keep your brand in the spotlight, updating it often with interesting articles and – you’ve got it – stories. (It’ll be totally worth it… promise.)
5. Stories are fun!
From Plutarch to Pullman, everybody loves a good story. They’re great to listen to, and are super fun for the teller to tell, too – if you’re using your imagination, that is. Use the opportunities posed by storytelling to flex your creative muscles and show your following that you’re more than just your brand’s offering. You have a personality of your own, and deserve to be noticed.
Top tip: You don’t always have to “sell” when you storytell. Sometimes, it’s more about showing off your company’s character. Take this article from the Innocent blog, which has literally nothing to do with juice, but provides entertainment value to the reader and reflects the brand’s whimsical spirit. Have some fun with it.