When businesses don’t tell authentic stories, they risk being perceived as intrusive or fake. Here's how to create and share an authentic story that builds a customer-brand bond.
In a world rife with technological innovation, businesses need to stand out from their competitors in any way possible. Attaching meaning to your brand is one way to do that. In fact, according to the Meaningful Brands Study, companies that are perceived as such achieve 137 percent better returns on key performance indicators than those that aren’t.
Being a meaningful brand means telling a story that fundamentally connects with users. People tend to think in stories, and establishing a storyteller-audience dynamic creates a bond of trust. Research even shows that this connection manifests itself in a type of brain activity known as “neural coupling.”
Brands have a lot to compete with for customers’ attention, which means that forming that connection isn’t easy. To create a bond, companies must tell the right stories in a way that resonates with audiences.
Storytelling in Today’s Marketplace
Successful companies understand the importance of narrative. Take Chipotle’s RAD Lands campaign, an animated series that teaches kids about healthful food choices. The show connects with children and their parents, offering them entertainment and education while promoting the company and its prerogative.
Other companies are following this tactic. Sprint and Unilever commissioned an online sitcom, “In the Motherhood,” which got 16 million views and was developed into an ABC series; Italian food brand Bertolli launched “Into the Heart of Italy,” a show hosted by Marisa Tomei that garnered 40 million views and boosted Bertolli’s share prices.
These approaches differ from traditional marketing because they focus on conveying an authentic message. That creates a connection, offering something real and valuable instead of the standard sales pitch.
Telling a Story That Stays With Consumers
When businesses don’t tell authentic stories, they risk being perceived as intrusive or fake. Consumers reject gimmicky narratives as insulting and alienating. Use these basic approaches to take your brand’s authentic narrative public:
1. Get a read of the room.
It’s not enough for a story to be authentic; it must align with the values and interests of your potential customers. Before attaching a narrative to a new campaign, do your homework; get to know your intended audience and what makes it tick.
The way to do this is through market analysis. Don’t just learn the size and future projections of your customer base. Note your audience’s buying patterns, its passions, and how competitors might try to appeal to it. Services like Quantcast, Alexa, and Google Trends provide data on what people are searching for and using online, which both serve as accessible indicators of current consumer interests.
You can also do your own internal research. Use SurveyMonkey, conduct a focus group, or gather feedback from trade shows, store visits, and other mediums. Get to the heart of what drives your customers in order to create a story that clicks with them.
2. Create teachable moments.
Once you get a read on your target customers, it’s time to tell the kinds of stories that stick with them. Those stories can come in many forms, including instructional narratives.
According to a Google study, companies with instructional videos on their mobile sites were 48 percent more attractive to smartphone users. If your potential customers have any interest in your services, showing them how to use it effectively is a natural way to establish authenticity.
Look at your company’s area of expertise and come up with a series of instructional video concepts like The Home Depot did. The home improvement retailer’s YouTube channel, which has more than 75 million views, features how-to videos that customers can use to complete their own DIY projects.
Authentic, educational storytelling can also come from whitepapers, blog posts, and trade show demos. Educating through storytelling is nothing new. Build rapport and trust with your customers by telling a story that leaves them with more knowledge than they began with.
3. Keep it fun and engaging.
Customers know traditional marketing approaches when they see them. Avoid these during the initial trust-building part of your relationship. Instead, look for nontraditional, narrative-driven ways to engage an audience without explicitly pushing them toward purchases.
Animation is an excellent option because people are highly visual. Biologist John Medina reports that visual data makes up 90 percent of the information our brains receive. Animation is not only colorful and visually stimulating, but it’s also engaging, fun, and a natural way to create positive connections with children and adults.
Comics are also visual but are more flexible than video both in terms of creation and deployment. They don’t need the same production overhead as video, plus they’re embeddable in offline content such as product packaging and brochures.
As the video game market shows, gamification is also a viable storytelling option. Create a gamelike atmosphere that awards customers points for engagement. You can directly approach your potential customers and associate your brand story with a sense of playfulness and competitiveness.
Whatever storytelling approach you take, enact it quickly. Each month represents an opportunity to connect with potential customers in a way that builds trust and creates a lasting bond. Do your homework, know your audience, and get creative about ways to promote your brand and mission. The benefits can be enduring and provide a boost to your long-term growth.