If you are a content marketer or an inbound marketer, you might have read somewhere or heard someone say that content marketing is all about storytelling. Although, it may sound vapid and clichéd, the truth is that the importance of storytelling in content marketing can’t be overstated. A good marketer knows how to convince a target and grab their attention by telling a story about his brand that is relatable and inspiring.

It goes without saying that the story has to be consistent with your brand voice and your brand image. In this age of digital media and inbound marketing, the story assumes, even more, relevance because you are not bombarding your prospect with messages that brazenly try to induce them to make a purchase. In outbound marketing, the objective is to convert immediately and to have the quickest possible sales cycle. Most often, you are not trying to build a long term relationship although that is a logical conclusion. However, the focus remains on the present and not future.

However, when it comes to inbound marketing, your customers are already looking for your brand or the kind or product or service that you sell. They may or may not be aware of your brand but won’t mind if they find out about it. Unlike outbound marketing, it is not disruptive.

Why is story important?

DigitalMarketingPhilippines states that on average, a typical consumer may consume 100000 words every day. 5.3 trillion advertisements are marketed every year. This is in addition to videos, infographics, social media content and everything else that they are exposed to every day. In such a scenario, the consumer can sift through this vast amount of data and completely ignore what you have to offer. Also, gone are the days when writing anything on the social media or on your blog would get you instant notice and go viral. The scene is so competitive that you have to fight a sanguinary war in order to have your share of the pie.

Now, there is enough empirical, anecdotal and scientific evidence to suggest that your brain processes a story much better than it comprehends cold, hard facts. It really appreciates a story which is engaging and has emotional overtones. The same holds true for a content marketer, whether he is writing a 10000-word blog post or making a 5 minutes video. If there is a good story element which is interesting, believable and digestible, it would quickly go viral. That is how you can differentiate your content and your brand. Even if your target was not looking for your brand, convinced by your brand story, they will want to engage. Thanks to digital media, now buyers and consumers can also correspond on a very personal level and a story element is important for such interactions to be fruitful.

As a content marketer, your job doesn’t end just by grabbing the attention of your prospects and telling them why they should buy or use your brand in a matter-of-fact manner. You have to lay bare a well-crafted narrative that they can understand, talk back to and one that will encourage them to start a new relationship, based on trust. It is all about being authentic and transparent. It is about empowering the audience and making the learning curve easier.

A story is also important because it can make you believe. There have been instances when a story has given rise to a product or the merchandise became successful due to the creation of the story. One seemed to be the logical extension of the other.

A soap brand in Pakistan had created a comic strip where the protagonist was a superhero who fought evil characters, each of which represented the germs the soap brand promised to sanitize. The campaign which was started on a pilot basis became so popular that the sale of the soap increased manifold and the comic book had many reprints and new editions were launched. Later animated shows were also created. In this case, the target was children and their parents and it was also seen that the brand had not only managed to sell its merchandise but had also managed to imbue the best practices of hygiene in its prospects. So, even parents and schools started to encourage the children to watch the animated show or read the comic books. That is how a deep connection is created between a brand and its target market.

There was a piece of news recently that Marvel has collaborated with the American icon Harley-Davidson to create custom motorbikes in Australia and New Zealand each of which would represent an Avenger hero or someone from the Marvel Universe. This is another example of how the story and the merchandise merged to become one.

Even if your marketing entails you to market less glamorous products where the scope of imagination is rather limited, you can still weave a nice tale and use different forms of content to pull the audience into the universe of the brand. They would themselves ask for merchandise if the idea clicks. Some iconic brands create stories around their legacy and how they became multi-billion dollar brands starting from humble backgrounds with limited resources. These stories try to inspire the target market and also create passion and veneration for the brand. The idea may not be to make a sales pitch but to use the achievements as a bait to lure targets to create a long lasting relationship.

Why should your content have a proper structure?

A story always has a proper structure. It should have a beginning, middle and a proper end, to put things simply. Now content marketing can only become successful when this structure is emulated. This is the only way in which a message can be absorbing. A piece of content should first set a context to the point of discussion. It should then build on the narrative further and using various examples, situations, plot points roll forward into the future and finally, it should end by saying why it was worth sharing.

This simple structure should be followed in all forms of content. Even if a brand wants to talk about a product or something else, it should say what the situation is or was before it was introduced, how its efforts bore fruit and finally how its efforts have changed lives for the better by providing a solution.

Benefits of storytelling in content marketing

A good story not only tells but also sells! It may not be a product always. It may just be a concept. But, it definitely helps to bring the brand and the audience closer. Sometimes, facts may be too difficult to digest when presented outside the framework of a story. A story is easily retained by human memory. It can also help people dream. It can teleport a viewer/reader/listener to the future and show him how the brand helped him reach this stage. That is how consumer trust and confidence in a brand is built. It can share small anecdotes, true incidents, and testimonials from brand advocates to show the efficacy of the brand and its service to its consumer group.

A story can also take the reverse approach. It can show its target group that problems it has faced and/or will face in absence of the brand. It can show how the brand has been a balm on the festering wounds of the prospect and how life without it, would be miserable.

Apart from this, you should treat your blog, website or social media account as a way to build relationships. If you can share interesting stories and give you interesting advice, you can create not just customers but life-time partners and brand advocates who become the driving force of your company. Of course, your content and stories will have to be backed up by superior products.

When Johnnie Walker boasts about its heritage, legacy, journey, business acumen and its products in the short film “The Man Who Walked around the World”, it knows that people would be interested to know about the story because it is the leader in the global blended Scotch whiskey market. The beautifully crafted story reinforces the values that this brand is associated with. The story seems to be authentic because they can back up their story with their quality assurance. A story should also have a human face. That helps people to relate better. Great brands always create or promote characters who become the pivot of the whole narrative. Even mascots could be a part of the narrative. Case in point is Ronald McDonald, a character who has become synonymous with charity and compassion, despite being promoted by a brand that sells junk food.

A few tips

  1. Your stories should be identifiable with the values that your brand embodies. The story should reinforce the belief that your core customers and prospects have on your brand. Your story should address the expectations that people have from your brand and also provide answers.
  2. Before you script your story, you need to be a good listener. You will have to understand what your audience wants from you or thinks about you. If you craft your stories from this prism, they would think that you care for them and will consider your brand reliable.
  3. The importance of solving problems through your stories in content marketing can’t be emphasized enough. Tell them how your initiatives and products have changed the world for the better. Your stories should also tell the audience why your brand is unique.
  4. Let brand advocates and influencers be a part of the narrative. That strengthens the bulwark of belief in your brand further.

Conclusion

A background story on your marketing efforts helps to bridge the gap between you and your audience. Your content can give you a distinct image and help you garner attention. Storytelling as an art has survived for centuries and generations. The form may have changed but the essence and purpose remains the same. Just make sure that the story is consistent with your image. Coca-Cola and Microsoft have used storytelling successfully in their branding with awe-inspiring success. Why can’t you?