When you set out on a marketing campaign, you want to get the best return on your investment and maximize your bottom line. For your message to stand out and attract attention, you have to be creative and innovative. Although storytelling isn’t a cure-all for every marketing woe, used appropriately and strategically it can propel the results of your advertising efforts forward.
In this article, we’ll discuss how digital storytelling can impact your advertising strategy, and take a look at some successful (and not-so-successful) examples. Let’s jump in!
An Introduction to Digital Storytelling
Humans are instinctively drawn to stories, and can remember them more easily than facts and statistics. They can also evoke emotion, pique interest, and move an audience to action. When a brand successfully forms a cohesive narrative around itself, it’s easier for it to stick in the minds of its audience.
Digital storytelling can take many different forms. Some brands, such as Coca-Cola and IKEA, are synonymous with their products because of the narratives associated with them.
A bottle of Coke, for example, isn’t just refreshment. It fosters a sense of community. The classic 1971 video ad, “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke,” features an international cast of Coke drinkers who sing about sharing love and happiness with the world—a narrative that is still integral to the brand almost 50 years later.
However, storytelling isn’t just a technique used when creating content. It’s also about the stories your customers are already telling. IKEA is known to take an intimate approach to understanding its customers. Employees visit people’s homes to observe and gather insights that can be shared with future shoppers:
Technology hasn’t changed the need for stories. Instead, it has provided new mediums and forms for this proven marketing strategy. Images, videos, social media, interactive websites, mobile applications, and even games are some of the channels brands can take advantage of.
Apps such as Guru, for example, use technological advancements like augmented reality to enhance experiences for visitors in museums and other attractions. This is a powerful engagement method as visitors are immersed in the exhibits, creating connections with and enhancing understanding of the featured objects.
Why Your Online Campaigns Should Incorporate Storytelling
There are practical reasons to include storytelling elements in your marketing campaigns. First and foremost, as we’ve already touched on, stories generate empathy with your brand. By building an emotional connection with your audience, you can start to create a loyal community of customers.
Storytelling is also effective for increasing brand awareness. If you look at ‘viral’ commercials, you’ll notice that many of them incorporate some kind of narrative. Telling interesting stories can help you appeal to audiences with increasingly shorter attention spans.
Lastly, as we stated earlier, stories are typically more memorable than basic facts and figures. The combination of this trend with the ability of narratives to tap into your audience’s emotions is the perfect recipe for increasing your brand’s reach and recognition.
How to Use Digital Storytelling In Your Campaigns: 4 Key Tips
Once you understand how digital storytelling can impact your campaigns, the next step is to learn how to use it effectively. Although there are many different mediums, formats, and platforms you can use for this technique, these tips are useful no matter which route you choose to take.
1. Keep Your Brand Identity Consistent to Build Awareness and Recognition
One of the most important steps to incorporating storytelling as part of your marketing efforts is keeping your brand identity consistent across all the channels you use to reach your audience. Your narratives should have your mission, vision, and values at their center, and should be easily recognizable in all your campaigns.
Our previous example of Coca-Cola demonstrates this concept perfectly. If you compare its 2020 “For the Human Race” commercial with the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” ad, you’ll see several similarities, including an emphasis on diversity and community.
When launching a new campaign, review your brand’s mission statement. Look for ways to create timely narratives that keep your core values at the forefront, while also striving to match the tone and visual style of past content.
2. Evoke Emotion to Draw Your Audience In
The most important element of a story is emotion. This is what will create a connection between your audience and your brand. It’s important for them to feel like they’re part of the process so that they have a stake in the outcome of your story.
One way to do this is to create a relevant persona, someone your audience can see themselves in, and tell your story in their voice. Narratives built around a character customers can identify with will foster emotional reactions from them. Featuring actual customers is an alternative way to achieve this.
Another option is to give your audience a context in which to perceive your brand. Sharing behind-the-scenes content of your employees or team is an effective way to accomplish this. It’s pertinent that people are carried along on a journey, otherwise all you have is a faceless product.
To take this concept further, share the story of how your brand was founded. Explaining the ‘why’ behind your products or services can help showcase your company’s cause, which is important since many customers these days care more about buying from businesses that share their values.
3. Test and Refine Your Storytelling Campaigns to Make Them More Effective
As with anything else, storytelling takes practice. The best way to make sure your campaigns are on the right track is to implement a testing strategy.
Two types of testing you can use for your campaigns are:
- A/B testing. This method involves creating two different versions of your campaign with slight variations. You then release both and monitor them to see which performs better.
- Focus groups. This involves recruiting people from your target audience to view your campaigns and share feedback. You can bring in volunteers or offer to pay participants for their time.
If you’re using multiple mediums to distribute your campaign, make sure to also test and optimize your content for different platforms.
4. Avoid Setting the Wrong Tone and Alienating Your Audience
While it can be a highly effective marketing strategy, storytelling can also easily go wrong. For instance, Nivea’s “White Is Purity” campaign was swiftly canned after intense social media backlash on what was perceived as racist advertising.
Similarly, Oldsmobile’s Ringo Starr ad was an attempt to pivot to targeting a younger audience due to stiff competition. Instead, the campaign ended up alienating the brand’s established customer base by making them feel outdated. It also failed to resonate with younger consumers.
It’s vital to avoid using a wrong tone or being ‘tone-deaf.’ You can address controversial or sensitive issues, but keep in mind that most people will have strong opinions and emotions regarding such topics. If you come across as insensitive or apathetic, you risk alienating your audience.
Contradicting yourself or outright lying are also huge mistakes. With access to the internet, anyone can fact check your campaigns. You can trust that any instances of deception will be caught and drastically reduce your credibility.
Finally, if you’ve ever seen a movie where the actors’ emotions seemed contrived, you already know another mistake to avoid. Make your stories feel authentic and real or you’ll risk turning your audience off.
Digital storytelling provides a way for brands to build stronger connections with their audiences, but it takes practice to use this strategy effectively. By first understanding your customer base, you can create narratives that resonate with them, appeal to their emotions to build loyalty, and use various digital platforms to share your campaigns in a voice consistent with your mission and values.
Have you used digital storytelling in your marketing and advertising campaigns? Share your experiences with us in the comments section below!