Discussing the importance of storytelling in branding and showcasing how innovative approaches can captivate and engage audiences.
Hello creators! It doesn't matter where you are reading this from; as we all know, storytelling is always where you situate your brand. Not only has it shaped entire communities and facilitated the transfer of knowledge and lessons for millennia, but it also resonates deeply with our emotions, making it the perfect tool to connect. The digital age has revolutionized the branding landscape, naturally bringing more importance to narratives. In a market that's oversaturated with information, consumers are careful; now they don't want to be told what a brand is about, they want to be shown, and this is exactly where innovation in storytelling can make the difference. There is a lot to unpack over here, so without further adieu, here is how to build innovative storytelling and impact your customers.
If storytelling were a linguistic medium, it is now transitioning towards a visual one. We have to thank the digital era for this shift. On the scale from the first humans to now, it is clearly recent. However, this change appeared a hundred years ago with the emergence of cinema. Video became a powerful tool for visual storytelling, and it has continued to evolve, as has photography. But then, with the recent upheaval of social media, the focus has completely shifted to these mediums for telling stories. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we carefully curate and select the information, images, and videos we share on these platforms, and all of it together, tell our story.
Brands have also been caught up in the realm of social media, and these platforms have the power to place everyone on the same stage. True, there is still a hierarchy based on the number of followers, yet suddenly no one is inaccessible. We can enter the world of celebrities and learn about their weekends, and the same holds true for brands. Brands have had to develop a true personality, showcasing who they are and what they stand for across all platforms. The art of storytelling is what has made a brand coherent, impactful, and successful on social media.
"The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. The storyteller sets the vision, values, and agenda of an entire generation that is to come." - Steve Jobs
The Hero’s Journey
Okay, let’s innovate. First, you need to understand the basis (sometimes you think you have it, but things change when a storyteller steps in). A significant mistake to avoid when creating your brand story is making your brand the hero. Are you familiar with the Hero’s Journey, cornered by Joseph Campbell? Joseph Campbell was a writer who had a profound fascination with mythology. He identified each step that the hero of every story would typically undergo. In essence, every story needs a hero, a challenge that the hero confronts, a guide to aid them on their journey, and a transformative experience. In the context of branding, the hero is the customer – it's about their story, not your brands.
The brand, on the other hand, plays the role of the guide, and the product or service serves as the solution to the problem. Your role as a creator is to discover ways to place the customer at the heart of the brand's narrative (sounds easy, right?).
Spotify serves as an excellent example of not only achieving this but completely innovating on the concept of storytelling with Spotify Wrap. At the end of the year, you can access a detailed report of the music YOU’VE listened to, YOUR favourites, and the amount of time YOU spent on each track, you, the customer. It creates a sense of nostalgia, transporting you back through the year and reminding you of the songs you had on repeat – songs that may be associated with milestones and emotions you were feeling and getting you to reminisce how much you changed or your taste did. To us, Spotify has found a way of making everyone’s hero journey center stage and recalling it through music.
Social media has impacted brands by shifting control over their stories. While brands used to have complete control over their narratives, customers have become co-creators. They write reviews and share their own experiences and opinions, and customers might associate the brand with things that go beyond the brand's initial intentions. Although this shift can be disconcerting for brands trying to still seek full control over their image, social media also presents a valuable source to draw from: the brand has access to the direct input of your target audience. Since these touch-points are authentic and genuine, they will resonate more closely with how other customers view your brand. There is a profound beauty in how brands can blend their narratives with those of their customers, creating a dynamic, fluid, and ever-evolving composite story. Your role as a creator and guide comes into play here as well. While you may not have complete control over what people share, you can gently steer them in the right direction. User-Generated Content (UGC) is the term used to describe this type of marketing approach, but engaging your customers by involving them in the storytelling process is a true art.
Coca-Cola exemplified this approach with its "Share a Coke" campaign. Do you remember it? They printed 150 of the most popular male and female names on their bottles, accompanied by hashtags. This strategy prompted people to take to social media to share their personalized Coca-Cola experiences.
Image source: Coca-cola Australia — Checkout their campaign HERE
"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms." - Muriel Rukeyser
Make the customer the hero by focusing on how they overcome challenges. Your brand should assist and show the solution, implicitly your products or services. Emphasize your mission, values, vision, and passions rather than the greatness of your product. Link your brand to something bigger to show customers what you're all about. Patagonia is a prime example of a brand that offers ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly clothing to address the problem of environmental conservation. As a guide, the brand presents the problem to the customer and accompanies them to discover the solution.
A story is multidimensional
Your online presence is crucial as most of your storytelling occurs there. Even if you engage in activities outside of that digital realm, you will inevitably promote them online. However, there is huge potential for innovation in the space between digital and non-digital mediums. Every element that you bring together will interact and influence each other, crafting a narrative full of facets - so play with these!
A story can be brought to life in the 3D realm by complementing it with different projects and mediums. Making a video, podcast, or book that aligns with your brand vision are great way to add to your storytelling, but there is no limit to the ideas you can come up with. Old Spice's "School of Swagger” and Chobani's YouTube channel are just a few examples of innovative projects that navigate storytelling beautifully.
"To hell with facts! We need stories!" - Ken Kesey
The power of storytelling lies in its ability to create a deep emotional connection with customers. As the oldest form of communication, we understand, learn, and remember information more easily when it is presented through a story. Storytelling allows your brand to become a part of your customer's story, creating strong emotional connections. It is the future of branding and an art that everyone can learn.
Share your story with us!
1. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/steve-jobs-lesson-storytelling-dave-byrne#:~:text=It is from 1994%2C when,generation that is to come…”
2. Rukeyser, Muriel, 1968 “The speed of darkness”