The hot asphalt cracked under the scorching August sun – New York was a living, breathing heap of concrete yearning for the salvation of sunset, when the concrete would reflect the cold street lights, disturbed only by a white 2018 Ford Bronco… Okay, that’s not how brand storytelling actually works – but we got your attention.
It’s been scientifically proven that storytelling is one of the most effective methods for capturing your audience’s attention and influencing their subconscious. This is why many brands have harnessed its power, from startups to Fortune 500 companies. Here are some tips to achieve success with brand storytelling – even if you think you don’t have a story to tell.
Tip #1: Show some humor
What better way to tell a story and show a brand as human than inserting some humor into the mix? Zendesk is one of the most popular customer support apps out there, used mostly by smaller companies and other SaaS providers. It’s a fairly crowded marketplace, with competitors such as Atlassian’s Jira, Intercom and Freshdesk.
One of the most common tactics that SaaS companies use is keyword + alternative to target in Google. Therefore, someone looking for a Zendesk alternative would get paid results for Zendesk’s competitors.
Zendesk took the chance to create a mock band called Zendesk Alternative, playing – you guessed it – alternative rock. The website for the so-called band covers its story: they are mad that a CRM company stole their band name but ironically, they need their app to continue their careers. To complete the picture, there’s even a single called Open Source the Future, a song about customer support that takes subtle jabs at Freshdesk.
This elaborate example of storytelling shows how a brand in a seemingly bland market was able to stand out using humor and show themselves as more human in front of their target audience. Speaking of which…
Tip #2: Get to know and understand your target audience
Brands who aim at targeting everyone often end up missing the mark because they go too broad. At Dove, they’re well aware of this, which is why they create their campaigns with laser precision. The result is that no matter if you’re their target audience or not, you know who Dove are and what they stand for.
In one of their most successful campaigns called Real Beauty Sketches, Dove bases their story on a simple fact – 80% of women feel anxious about how their physical appearance. Dove wanted to change this outlook and help women reconsider their own beauty.
The women in the campaign created a sketch of how they envisioned themselves, after which a professional sketch artist created a realistic drawing of themselves. The goal was to empower women and show them that they are more beautiful than they think.
According to Dove’s own data, the Real Beauty Sketches video has been viewed more than 180 million times so far, showing just how powerful brand storytelling can be once you know your target audience.
Tip #3: Think beyond profit
When speaking about brand storytelling, many companies immediately think of ways to market their product and improve their bottom line. Others think of improving their employer brand and becoming a more desirable company to work for. Toggl is quite a popular app but establishing an employer brand as a remote company is not an easy feat.
To show themselves as an interesting employer, Toggl published a story about how they hired a new writer to join their team, who accidentally got a job by taking a quiz on Facebook. The best part – the story is authentic and told by the actual person who got hired.
It’s not only startups that use brand storytelling to improve their employer brand. Microsoft got a few odd looks when they appointed a Chief Storyteller. It quickly became clear why – their Stories series depict a range of narratives from Microsoft’s employees, from a story on how their team invented a text-to-Braille translator to a story on how schoolgirls use Minecraft to improve public spaces around the world.
With a series of genuinely interesting stories, Microsoft was able to bring a sense of community to its employees, attract new hires and work on its employer brand.
Tip #4: Go the extra mile and experiment
If you take a product such as a printer, it’s pretty difficult to tell a story and present it in an interesting light. Right? Not if you’re HP.
In one of their most successful campaigns, HP produced a short film called The Wolf, depicting the well-known wolf and sheep story, shaped as a video ad about printer security. The video went viral, netting over two million views in a little less than two years. Its success is even more incredible given the fact that the video is six minutes long.
The secret to HP’s brand storytelling success? First – endless budget, of course. Second, taking a familiar concept and tying to a vaguely related one (printer security). Finally, it helps when you hire a great actor such as Christian Slater. Who knew printers could be fun?
Tip #5: Don’t tell your story – tell your customers’ story
Case studies are one of the most efficient ways to showcase how effective a product or service is. With over 150,000 users, Salesforce doesn’t really need to prove their worth, but they have an impressive collection of customer success stories that other brands can learn from.
Using examples such as AWS, Adidas, Schneider Electric, T-Mobile, Aldo and many other well-known brands, Salesforce tells a story of what companies were able to achieve after using their CRM solution. Customers can outline their challenges and talk in detail about how they achieve success using Salesforce. All this is followed by calls to action for visitors to give it a try as well. It’s authentic, it tells a great story and it works.
Brand storytelling doesn’t have to follow the usual pattern of taking a product/service and weaving a narrative around it. By thinking outside the box, using plenty of humor and researching your target audience, you’ll be able to find stories in the most unlikely of places.
About the Author!
Olga Mykhoparkina is a Chief Marketing Officer at Chanty a simple AI-powered team chat. This powerful and free Slack alternative is aimed to increase team productivity and improve communication at work. Having a 9-year experience in digital marketing field, Olga is responsible for Chanty’s online presence strategy, managing an amazing team of marketing experts and getting things done to change the way teams communicate and collaborate. Follow Olga on Twitter or feel free to connect on LinkedIn.