In a world of endless choice, brand allegiances can shift in the blink of an eye. Consumers are overwhelmed with persuasive messaging from all sides. The biggest brands compete with each other through enormous marketing budgets to sway and convince their targets.
From the minute they wake up, your consumers are met with a constant stream of messages and calls-to-action. In the end, most of it becomes noise.
Only the most memorable stories hit home. Noted psychologist Roger Schank said it quite aptly,
“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.”
In a crowded marketplace especially in our very small Caribbean markets, brands can fall for the temptation to say something, anything, to add to the noise. But to find a permanent home in the hearts of audiences, you have to resist the urge to speak before thinking deeply.
This is where brand storytelling comes in.
What is Brand Storytelling
Brand storytelling is the art of creating a company’s essence through the use of honest and consistent storytelling. This hits a note in the hearts of consumers and establishes a long-lasting connection.
Every Christmas season, the UK retailer John Lewis creates an engaging Christmas advertisements. In 2013, their moving “Bear and the Hare” told the story of a hare giving his best friend a beautiful present.
Now imagine this… the advertisement costed £7 million to make and execute, but realised an incredible £100 million in ROI. Amazing right?
Based on that success, the retailer continues to create new brand stories every Christmas season.
We strongly believe that the best brand storytelling can entertain, move, inspire, and motivate. However, it’s important to note that these responses only come from a deep connection created between the brand and the consumer.
According to one study, 80% of consumers want brands to tell stories as part of their marketing. This throws out the challenge to marketers to produce compelling narratives that hit home. In the same study, some 85% of consumers couldn’t recall a memorable story told by a brand.
With all this noise in our fast-paced and digitally-driven world, we want to encourage brands of the Caribbean to look deep into themselves to find an enduring story they want to share.
The power of brand storytelling is backed by biology…
As deeply social creatures, storytelling has been part of human life at the beginning of time. Research shows that stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and figures. One study shows that the cortex in the brains of humans lights up like a firework when stories are told.
Another study shows that storytelling is so powerful that neural coupling can take place where the storyteller can achieve delight and ecstasy while telling the story, and the listener goes through those same emotions. What’s more, those feelings will return each time the listener hears the story again.
It couldn’t be simpler – in a world crowded by noise, lights, and empty promises, consumers need stories that hit the right notes. They need stories that stay with them in memory, stories whose call to action they can get up and follow.
“Can I measure the ROI of Corporate Storytelling?” Of course!
In a survey we conducted involving marketing leaders in Trinidad and Tobago, 51% of respondents felt it was most important to acquire more leads and prospects. A further 61% wanted to improve the rate of converting prospects to customers.
We get it, in an analytics-driven world, the bottom line is important. But what is a bottom line if it’s not linked to the result of what you did well early on in the process?
In the same survey, Brand Storytelling and Content Marketing fell to the bottom of the list for marketers – 0%.
So, the message is that revenue is the most important priority, but stories and content are the least important? We don’t believe it is as binary as this. The two are strongly connected. Stories are important as many of us understand instinctively that without telling good stories, we don’t stand a chance in a crowded marketplace.
As far as marketing ROI goes, we in the Caribbean are still on an upward journey in working out systems that help our marketing become more measurable. It’s easier to quantify positive financial results from in-person events or digital campaigns. However, with storytelling, you could rightly ask how much revenue can we attribute to good storytelling.
It’s tough to put a price on a visceral human reaction. How can you put a price on having your breath taken away by a first-time experience like seeing the Niagara Falls in all its grandeur, or the heart-stopping moment you see the raging ocean as you jog over a hill?
So, if you are looking for a straight line from a good story to an immediate financial gain, we challenge you to think of it a bit differently.
If we are to measure storytelling, a good place to start is to measure human response metrics first. Metrics like how often your story is shared, commented on, engaged with, and spoken about.
Storytelling expert Kathy Klotz-Guest says it best,
“Think about the leading indicators long before revenue happens – or doesn’t. And these tell you if your stories are working or not”.
There are many articles that can help explain the ROI of brand storytelling. This excellent resource on meaningful brands is a good place to start.
How to do Brand Storytelling well
Underneath it all, brand stories are your unique and sincere connection with your consumers. Take time to understand where you are as a brand before trying to come up with a narrative. Before you begin, outline some home truths about your business. Be honest and thorough:
Who are you: How did your company come about and what do you want to achieve?
What do you sell?: What needs do you fulfill, what problems do you solve?
Who do you serve?: This is very important, as telling a story that resonates requires that you understand your customer intimately. This is often the hardest question for marketers to answer.
Why you do what you do: Do you have a larger purpose? Hint, if you don’t, you need to come up with one. Consumers want to see themselves in brands that aspire to greatness
Where are you going?: In a world with so much change, yesterday’s purpose can become redundant very quickly. Where do you want to go next?
Once you have brainstormed and found the answers to these questions, remember these tips. We think they’re the DNA behind a great brand story:
Make it memorable
This is where marketers and storytellers can truly make their mark! It’s very simple advice but it is the advice you will live and die by. Strive for meaningful and memorable stories. If your stories are forgettable, they will fall into the void of yesterday’s content.
Keep it simple
It’s always a good idea to keep things as simple as possible. Focus on the problem, solution, and resolution. Create a narrative that captures all these elements without being too long-winded or meandering.
Use your own stories
Use your own stories to build your brand. Sometimes it pays to be painfully honest with consumers by saying how you are striving to be better at something. Also, tell them why.
Let personalities tell the stories
Create personalities, fictional or real, that drive your narrative. Humans can create the most powerful connections with people they aspire to become.
Tell the story everywhere
Don’t limit your stories to certain channels. Stories are the lifeblood and the legend of your brand. Use them in as many channels as you can, internal and external.
Case Study: Republic Bank’s BeTheOne Campaign
Don’t forget the data
Narratives are easy to remember, and they provide great motivation for action. But sometimes even that is not enough. This is where a smart data visualization that is cleverly infused into your story can bring the customer to a buying decision.
Ask your customers to tell your stories
Some of the best advocacy is achieved by getting consumers to tell your stories. Aim to make your stories inseparable from your brand identity, and encourage your customers to share them.
Brand storytelling is not simply a nice to have. It is essential to making your content captivating. If done well, it will win consumer affiliation and loyalty. Later on, it will increase your brand’s exposure, impact, and ultimately, profit.
Treat brand storytelling as a guiding star for your marketing strategy. The result will be a brand that is as profitable as it is memorable.