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Storytelling Can Make or Break Your Brand

Dustin White
Dustin White

If you're a direct-to-consumer business, your marketing campaigns need to tell a story.

The internet is a big, crowded place, which makes it easy to get lost in the mass of direct-to-consumer businesses jockeying for attention. As a result, some slick, black hat marketers offer these businesses quick tricks. They've figured out how to make money by gaming the system to get customers' attention, and they sell that attention at an extremely high cost to businesses desperate to stand out. These marketers might draw people to a site, but will they actually drive a sale? If so, what will that sale cost?

More than half of small businesses use outside SEO services, and 45 percent try pay-per-click advertising. But these marketing tools aren't always effective on their own, and the traffic-pushing marketers get paid whether their client makes a sale or not. Direct-to-consumer companies make sales when consumers buy into the brand, and that doesn't happen when they're just clicking on a link. That happens when they're hearing a story.

Storytelling in the digital age

With users sifting through a bottomless pit of ads every day, small DTC brands can't hope to stay in front of their customers all the time. Instead, these businesses should spend their time and money converting an ideal customer into their biggest fan.

Social media makes it easier than ever to find the perfect customer for a product. When consumers find content that is consistently meaningful, they'll start following what the company behind that content is doing. The best way to grab their attention is to offer them a story. Bring consumers behind the scenes; introduce them to the people making the product. They want to understand why a business is building a brand and how its products affect the people using them.

The key to effective storytelling is to show real-world examples of how a brand is making a difference, and few mediums do that better than video. Videos convert customers at a much higher rate than text. On Facebook, video gets three times more engagement than text or even photos, yet video makes up less than 1 percent of what most brands share.

This means that the companies that do use video for their storytelling stand out even more. Take Harley-Davidson, for example. Last year, Harley-Davidson set out to dispel the myth that Harleys are just for old, white guys. To do this, the company created a documentary series featuring diverse riders from all over the world. The series was wildly successful, collecting 8.7 million views and more than 47 million impressions. This campaign illustrates the power of real footage showing consumers using a product in a way the viewer can relate to. Brands should tell a story that makes potential customers say, "I want to be a part of that."

Stick to your guns to make storytelling work

The quality of storytelling is more important than the quantity, and it's possible a focus on storytelling will attract fewer people to your site than SEO marketing. But if the consumers who do visit spend more time learning about your brand, they're more likely to become customers.

Every brand has a unique story and focus. Some stories are funny or clever; others are serious and touching. Some brands are selling a lifestyle; others are solving a problem. Whatever your story is, it's unique. If you don't share it, your customers will never get a chance to develop a relationship with you or your brand. And that story is what you need to get people thinking and talking about. Here's how to do it.

1. Get an expert.

Make sure you have someone on your team who knows how to market on social networking platforms. Social media rarely offers ROI if it's not handled by an expert. The majority of brands don't use social media to its full potential when it comes to data gathering. Hiring a professional to manage social media for you will ensure your storytelling reaches the right audience.

2. Lay out a three-month storyline.

Identify the ways your product or service will improve customers' lives, and build a plan to capture the story. Studies show that most potential customers want ongoing content from a brand and 80 percent like having a chance to learn about a brand through custom content. A sequential storyline can be supported by a combination of still photography and video.

3. Pick a style that will define your brand.

Don't get carried away when it comes to storytelling. Research from Siegel and Gale's "Global Brand Simplicity Index" shows that consumers don't appreciate complexity. In fact, 63 percent of consumers are willing to pay more to have a simpler experience. Too much variety in a marketing approach will unnecessarily complicate your storytelling, and customers will find it off-putting. Choose a tone, and stick with it. If you're going with comedy, be comedic. If you're shooting in black-and-white, don't switch to color. Build some consistency so consumers know you're reliable.

The only way to avoid disappearing into the crowded internet is to find a way to stand out. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to do just that, and doing it with high-quality, professional video and images will bring you the customers who matter. So get out there, tell your story, and make your mark.

Image Credit: Alpha Spirit/Shutterstock
Dustin White
Dustin White Member
Dustin White is the CEO and founder of Made Brand Management and a partner in The Mulholland Group. After spending 20 years building and investing in marketing and advertising businesses, Dustin saw the need for an investment and management company to assist brands in transitioning their strategy to direct-to-consumer. His partners include Stellaire, Powerplant Motorcycle Co., Schaeffer's Garment Hotel, and Our Legends.