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The Art of Storytelling in Marketing

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Nothing holds an audience’s attention better than a great story. The ups and the downs, the highs and lows — when people become curious about what happens next, they don’t get distracted or lose interest.

Marketing your business using stories also speaks to audiences more clearly and persuasively than more direct messages. Stories resonate with consumers, sneaking past their defenses. On a subconscious level, the consumer thinks, “This brand understands me,” allowing them to forge deep connections with your target audience on an emotional level and make your company appear more authentic and trustworthy.

Using storytelling in marketing can also separate your business from the competition. You won’t even have to mention your rivals while telling a story about your company, yet customers will make distinctions anyway, meaning you can differentiate your business in a respectful and diplomatic way, which is more effective than calling your competition out. Fast food companies, for instance, often use this strategy.

For these reasons, storytelling is one of the most effective ways to market products and services.

Stories About Your History and Mission

You can find valuable stories to tell about your enterprise in many places. First and foremost, consider mining your company’s history for possible stories to tell. Who founded your company and why? What critical turning point in their lives led them to start your business? What urgent problem did they confront that they wanted to help others solve as well?

Don’t shy away from stories about overcoming adversity. Everyone has experienced challenges in their lives, which makes stories about confronting them particularly rewarding for the audience. For an example, just think of Apple — the story of how two college dropouts faced numerous challenges but went on to achieve unparalleled success.

Next, consider your business’s mission or purpose. Why do you do what you do? Why are you so passionate about it? Don’t just sell a product or service. Telling the audience about your vision will help sell them on your offerings. Dove is a brand that does this exceptionally well. They’ve turned their mission to provide pure, natural body products into a crusade for healthy beauty that empowers women to embrace themselves as they are. In consequence, their marketing campaigns foster positive feelings of being seen and understood in their female target audience.

Stories About Your Values

Stories that explain how your business makes a positive difference in the world are particularly effective. To find these narratives, consider your business’s approach to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). How does your business contribute to the local community and society at large? In what ways do your values build a better future for all?

Brands that are using these angles well include Coca-Cola, which focuses on recycling and sustainability, and Ford, which is striving to become carbon neutral. These marketing strategies are effective because these corporations aren’t just checking the CSR box. Instead, they are making CSR values a fundamental part of their mission and investing a substantial amount of time and energy into them. This makes stories based on these efforts genuine and organic, which resonates with customers.

Likewise, the positive culture you’ve created at your company offers a fertile field for stories. How do you support your employees? What good has this had on their lives? How have they developed personally and professionally with your support? How have their entire families benefited as a result? My favorite example of a brand that does this well is Zappos, the shoe company that hires with cultural fit in mind and invests in keeping employees happy.

How to Market with Stories

If you are telling the story in a written format, then strive for language that reads like a fiction novel. Slow down, dwell on the details, and avoid generalities and abstract language. Your reader should ideally be able to picture the events in their own head.

If you are telling the story through video, then it should unfold like a movie in miniature. The better the production values, the more the audience will get swept up in the tale, and the more powerful emotions you can hope to elicit.

One of the wonderful things about storytelling as a marketing strategy is that this tactic can be deployed through a wide variety of channels. By adjusting the content to fit the specific medium, you can leverage the same basic story for social media platforms, advertising, newsletters, and public relations efforts.

Consume Stories to Learn Storytelling

Simply becoming aware of the power of stories and observing how they work can help you start developing more effective marketing campaigns for your business. The next time you view a story-based ad, read a book, or watch a show, pause to monitor the effect it had on you. Ask yourself why it had that particular effect, take notes, and keep a running log. Brainstorm how you might use the same strategy to benefit your business.

Mastering the art of storytelling for marketing purposes is worth the time and effort. The more elements of effective storytelling you incorporate into your marketing efforts, the more effective they’re likely to be.

About the author


Ray Sheehan

Ray Sheehan has a background in strategic planning, marketing, event management, and advertising and has helped the company expand from one city to over twenty states. In 2020, he launched the G.I.F.T Program as part of Old City Media. Ray is recognized as a leader and an innovative thinker in the special events industry.