It’s no surprise marketers struggle with content strategy. Today people have multiple options of what to watch, read, and listen to online as well as offline. Pop-up ads may be blocked or minimized as soon as they appear. Commercials may be muted and ignored. Emails may never be opened or, even worse, labeled as spam.
Marketer are left with a unique challenge. We need to be producing content our buyers enjoy. But, we also need content to help us drive brand awareness, build loyalty, and inspire action.
How are marketers supposed to create and use content for achieving these primary content marketing goals? That magic content ingredient is storytelling.
Stories make up the type of content that people love whether watching a movie, reading an article, or listening to a podcast. Some brands are even using digital games (available on Android and/or Apple app stores) as a single or even multi-channel storytelling strategy. More on that in another post.
Here are three primary marketing goals that storytelling will help you reach when strategically incorporated into content marketing.
Stories Drive Brand Awareness
Stories help drive brand awareness in three main ways.
Stories Are Shareable: Whether you have a multi-million dollar budget or a thousand-dollar budget, brand awareness is best accomplished when your audience helps share your content. Every share is a third-party endorsement for your brand. Studies have found people are much more likely to not only consume brand content and also trust the brand that publishes it when that content is shared by a friend, relative, or coworker.
People share the stories that make an impact on them whether it makes them laugh, cry, contemplate, or learn something new. That’s because the story now makes up a part of who they are, and people want to share those stories with others who will also benefit or enjoy them.
Stories Are Memorable: Stories are also more memorable than other types of content that does not incorporate story-structure components. This is because of how stories are processed in the brain (more on that later in this post). How do marketers make sure the audience remembers the brand behind the story? A storyteller can inject just the right amount of branding into a story so that the audience doesn’t feel threatened by a potential sales agenda but will recognizes the brand that created, crowd-sourced, published, and shared a story. This is why we see big brands sponsoring their products in movies and movie trailers.
Stories Are Received with Less Resistance: Stories are often considered to be the least-threatening type of content because stories aren’t trying to sell some idea, philosophy, product, service, or belief (at least not blatantly, but more on that in a later post). The moral, lesson, or pitch of the story is often revealed only once that audience “breaks” the code. It’s something the people in the audience discover for him or herself. It’s that puzzle, the piecing together of information to decipher the meaning, that our brains love and become addicted to. People are much more likely to sign up to hear more stories they care about than they are to sign up to receive what they consider to be “sales pitches”.
Guess what? All that time and energy spent on content consumption, sharing, endorsement, and discussion by your audiences leads to investment in your brand. Investment leads to loyalty.
Related Reading: 8 Types of Content to Make Your Brand Follow-Worthy on Social Media
Stories Build Brand Loyalty
Stories have a phenomenal ability to make us (the audience) feel connected to the storyteller. Ultimately, it’s that connection and the investment from engaging with your brand that drives loyalty. There may be another brand that offers similar products and services, perhaps at a lower price, but if the audience perceives your brand to be one they can rely on, trust, and feel positive emotions about, then they’re most likely going to buy from you.
Experiences Create Connection: Stories present a situation experienced at a specific time by unique and identifiable characters. It’s through living those experiences with the characters that we develop a connection just as we would by having a long-tern friend with whom we experience different situations. People feel they know a person (character), or a brand, when they not only are told but are shown how that person or brand views and reacts to a variety of circumstances.
Show Instead of Tell: Stories allow us to show, not just tell, how we see the world. We are able to show our values, commitments, and mission. If our missions and actions are in line with what matters to our audience, then we’ve built the foundation for a strong relationship. Marketers who craft stories are able to control their narrative and ultimately how consumers view them.
Personal Investment: Stories can pull a lot of personal investment from people. Think of the millions of people who watch Game of Thrones, Orange is the New Black, and other popular TV series. People spend hours watching, analyzing, and discussing these stories. Once people are consuming, sharing, contemplating, and discussing your content they’re investing. People don’t easily walk away from the things in life they invest their energy, time, and reputation.
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Stories Inspire Audience Action
What good is marketing if there is no follow-up action from the audience? As marketers we want our content to inspire action whether its signing up for an email list, sharing a post, or adding something to an online cart and checking out.
Studies found that stories activate multiple parts of the brain, compared to non-storytelling content that only activates the language-processing parts of the brain. This is why you may read a love story and get teary-eyed, or watch a scary movie and have sweaty palms and an increased heart rate.
Stories inspire audience action when four things take place: 1) the audience identifies with the main character 2) the audience is emotionally and mentally engaged in the story 3) the audience witnesses the main character overcoming conflict and obstacles that lead to the outcome that the audience desires 4) the content includes a clear call-to-action that the audience believes once he or she makes that action will lead to his or her desired outcome.
Related Reading: Storytelling and 6 Ways It Benefits Content Marketing
What’s Your Story Doing for Your Brand?
Stories that are crafted in the right structure will keep people engaged with your content beginning to end. They won’t be able to get enough. They’ll find it amusing, entertaining, informative, and sometimes even philanthropic. (Yes, people love content for its entertainment value but we adore content that is both entertaining and purposeful.)
Interested to learn how well your brand uses storytelling in content marketing?
Contact me today. I love helping content marketing teams understand how to better use story structure to make content marketing the most effective possible.
Happy crafting, friends!