Think story time is just for grade-schoolers and librarians? Think again. Everyone loves a good story, especially your customers. In fact, the strongest, most effective narrative being told is in marketing. Surprised? Gone are the days of bludgeoning to death prospective consumers (and loyal clients) with heavy, overbearing advertisements that do nothing but show a lack of understanding and commitment to your brand and your target audience. Online consumers are the most sophisticated breed of buyer out there. They’re smart, desire to find meaningful information on their own, connect on a personal level with the brands and causes they support and find authoritative voices they can count on. Your prospective customers can sniff out inauthentic and outdated marketing strategies faster than you can say “click here.”
Today’s online marketing playbook demands success — success that comes from utilizing deliberate and authoritative content that is consistent and relevant to its target audience. Who you are in this business is just as important as what you do, so knowing yourself and knowing your story is what builds the foundation of the plays in your playbook. By connecting to your customers through a consistent clear narrative, you’ll be the name they seek out time and again as a trusted authority over your competitors.
Finding Your Narrative, Finding Your Theme
How do you find that compelling story within your brand that attracts customers and weaves together shareable, relevant content from your business? Like most great novelists and authors would tell you: start at the end. An article posted by talentzoo.com called Your Brand Narrative: Beneath The Brand, suggests that: “When writing a story for your brand, consider what you hope to accomplish when the story is finished. It’s important that you create brand narratives that support what you want consumers to feel about your product.”
However, it’s impossible to create any sort of feeling or emotion in your customer unless you have fleshed out the theme of your brand. So ask yourself: What is your theme? And what narrative strategies will you use to convey it? If you don’t understand what a “narrative strategy” is, an article by Duke Greenhill at agencypost.com defines it for us as the “structures that have developed naturally over the course of mankind’s storytelling history. They’ve been carved into our cognitive landscape like a canyon by a relentless river over time. Because they have evolved with us, they carry with them innate power.”
While telling your story today usually doesn’t involve sitting around a campfire or finger-painting in caves, the essentials that we use in story-telling are the same. In order to successfully tell your story and convey your theme you must answer these questions:
- Who is your audience and what message are you trying to teach?
- Who are you?
- Why are you in this business?
- What hardships did you overcome along the way?
- How can you work that into the theme of your brand?
During this process of self-examination, the trick is melding together your theme and your narrative into one compact pitch.
While you are in the process of defining your theme, you may find that your brand has several stories to tell. However, take caution, because trying to weave all of those stories together could make your brand narrative overwhelming and muddled. And, if your brand narrative is muddled, chances are you’re not exactly clear on who and what you’re after (which will translate into a red flag to potential customers).
Make Your Narrative Digestible
Frankly stated, consumers want a moving, emotional punch that’s easily shared through multiple marketing channels using various mediums. Once you’ve defined your brand’s theme, and its core narrative, it’s critical that you make it relatable and digestible for your target audience. What do I mean by digestible? Digestible content is “bite-sized” and easily adaptable for distribution on multiple platforms, such as social media. Digestible content is short and compelling so as to be read not only on your company’s blog, but also as a powerful read on your website’s “About” section.
Make Your Narrative Relatable Through Weaving
At this point, you may be chomping at the bit to start talking about your products and services. The point of marketing is to sell product, right? Yes, it is. But remember at the beginning of this article I stated that today’s consumers are smart, and they are able to recognize a sales pitch from a mile away? That is why we must use stories as a part of our marketing. And because we use digestible stories as a part of marketing, we must weave our products, services, and sales pitches into our stories in an equally digestible manner.
The key word here is weave: Our products and services must be successfully woven into our stories just as a thread is woven into a sweater.. One of the most successful examples of weaving story and product is Tom’s Shoes. Tom’s business model and his story are extremely simple: One for one. For every pair of shoes purchased one pair is donated to a child in need. This is cause-marketing and branded storytelling at its simplest. What started off as a volunteer trip to Buenos Aries for founder Blake Mycoskie, turned into the idea behind Tom’s Shoes and the foundation for a strong brand narrative, where the products are not an obnoxious sell, but the main character in the storyline.
Sapient CMO Bill Kanarick summarizes the importance of narratives in an article on adweek.com commenting that narratives blend, “branding creativity with digital marketing, experience creation, analytics and technology. And it’s the fusion of those things that let us create storyscapes.”
Marketing today requires using mimicking plays that involve story-telling. These stories must contain a centralized theme, digestible content, and cleverly woven products and services that are relevant to your story and to your target audience. Discovering your brand’s narrative is a richly rewarding process, which ironically draws you closer to your own sense of purpose while on a mission to draw others to your business. Remember, with every deliberately placed “once upon a time,” every business (including yours) is sure to find its “happily ever after.”
Need help telling your story?
If you’re still unsure how to develop your narrative, the strategists at Digital Current can help! With over a decade of experience building successful campaigns, we can help you tell the right story to the right people and convert your audience into buying customers.