Ian Rowden, Chief Marketing Officer of Virgin Group, said it best when he said “the best brands are built on great stories.”
Today this has never rang more true. With roughly 5,000 marketing messages seen everyday, digital marketers must be creative to make their messages (and brands) stand out.
To do this, companies need more than just incredible products and services, they need to convey meaning in their brand. This is where brand storytelling comes in. A powerful brand narrative can help marketers drive real results, influence the purchasing decision, communicate meaning, and stay competitive.
Storytelling 101: Back to the basics
Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication, existing even before the earliest record of history. Despite the emergence of new mediums — internet, radio, TV, etc. — everyone still loves a good story. So, although the way we consume stories has evolved, our appetite has remained steadfast.
The same can be said about brand storytelling. According to The Meaningful Brands Study, ‘meaningful brands’ outperform the stock market by 206 percent and earn 137 percent greater returns on KPIs. The Meaningful Brands rankings show digital brands leading the way, with Google, PayPal, and WhatsApp earning first, second, and third place, respectively.
The foundation of a great brand is an amazing product that impacts the wellbeing of its users. But a meaningful brand tells its story in a powerful way and connects with users. At the end of the day, customers remember the story. The facts and the figures mean nothing if there isn’t a narrative behind it.
“Powerful stories give us a framework to share our brand narrative in a memorable way,” said CMO of Microsoft Jeff Marcoux during a panel at SXSW.
Through storytelling customers can immerse themselves in the brand narrative. It transports them through audio, visual, and other media forms. If done correctly, story marketing can drive profitable engagement and build brand loyalty. It can turn customers into fans, and fans into ambassadors.
While the ROI of storytelling is not easily quantified, its effectiveness is indisputable.
“Finding and defining your story brand is hugely important… we need to understand the underlying motivation of the individual and craft that into a story to build a relationship,” Marcoux said.
Marcoux suggests that by focusing on the story, we can help consumers build connections with our brands.
All roads lead to Rome
The role of storytelling in the customer journey doesn’t stop at the website. It spans across different devices and channels, throughout the entire digital experience. We live in an omni-channel world, and customers expect brands to reach them across digital touchpoints.
McKinsey identified a strong correlation between the number of digital touchpoints and purchasing decision. On average, companies with greater digital capabilities — meaning that they were better digitized across channels — converted sales at a rate 2.5 times greater than companies at the lower level did.
With omni-channel marketing as a non-negotiable, marketers must deliver a coherent story and ‘brand experience across different touchpoints.
This doesn’t mean that brands should tell the same story across all channels. But rather each story should be carefully crafted for the specific channel and tie directly back to the larger brand narrative.
Marcoux urges marketers not to just re-purpose the same story across all of the different channels, but instead to identify specific parts of the story that can be told most effectively on each platform.
“Omni-media storytelling lets you create different entry points into your brand’s story, allowing the audience to go deeper into the narrative at different points,” he said.
As marketers we also need to step back and understand our audience — who they are and what platforms they’re in, Marcoux recommended. From there, brands should invest more in the channels that reach their audiences.
When it comes to storytelling, marketers should also leave the door open for consumers to walk even deeper in the brand narrative. Usually this type of experience lives on the website — where all digital touchpoints lead back to the website, where consumers can dig deeper into the brand story.
Storytelling is foundational to the digital experience
“Our digital impression to the world is our face forward around representing who we are, what we stand for, our values, and why our products matter,” said WP Engine CEO Heather Brunner during a session at SXSW. The brand story is at the heart of this digital experience.
Storytelling elevates the brand. It helps them stand out and be more memorable to consumers. Even more than than it allows brands to cultivate deep emotional interactions with customer. In today’s digital world, the brands that form meaningful, deeper connections will thrive and those who don’t will inevitably fail.