How You Can Reinvent Your Brand With Powerful Storytelling

24-May-2019 12:31 PM Digital Marketing

A powerful business story is exactly what your brand needs to reinvent itself. Even if you’re a startup, a founding story can get you huge traction in the media. Discover the power of stories and find out how they have the power to change fortunes.

Quick, tell me a story. One that teaches you to not let cockiness and overconfidence cloud your judgment. You probably couldn’t think of any.

How about if I asked you what was Aesop’s message in “The Hare and the Tortoise”? 

Yes. That’s what a good story can do. 

Storytelling is not just another buzzword

If you’re an entrepreneur pitching your startup to a group of investors with their heads buried deep in spreadsheets, how do you get your message across?

This was the problem facing Ursula Llabres as she was getting ready for a session with a room full of Microsoft Office 365 experts about Yammer, Microsoft’s latest acquisition in 2012. Llabres began her talk by narrating two customer stories about Yammer.

For the first time, in a day packed with back to back presentations, the executives put down their laptops and listened to her talk. Her storytelling approach even made some attendees request for another session later in the day.

Changing times, changing strategies

Big brands who’ve dominated the scene of modern advertising are recognizing this industry-wide shift to storytelling.

Coca Cola’s recent move to content marketing that is focussed on storytelling is more evidence of this trend. According to a WARC report, Arpan Basu, a senior executive for Coca Cola India & South-West Asia had this to say, “We don’t call it a website anymore, it is a digital magazine. It’s a platform where we tell stories about anything and everything to do with Coca Cola.”

It didn’t take long for marketing analysts to realize that they had stumbled on to a new and untapped resource.

“Everybody is a publisher now, everybody is a journalist, everybody has an opinion. Earlier, as corporate communications professionals, we had to deal with just a bunch of stakeholders or journalists, give them information and they, in turn, would go and talk about what the company is doing,” adds Basu.

Emotions make people buy, not just their needs. So it makes sense to appeal to their emotions rather than just their immediate needs. 

A good story is good for business

Brands have been telling stories for a long time, just not explicitly.

A business or a brand is an abstract entity to the human ego. It’s very hard to elicit an emotional response when advertising a cream for diaper rash. But when done right, a good story can convey all your business goals, corporate beliefs and industry vision in a few short paragraphs. In this case, a single image of a crying baby with a frustrated mother will immediately resonate with the target demographic.

Start a movement with your business story

The founders of Warby Parker Eyewear had the right idea.

When one of the founders lost his eyeglasses on a backpacking trip, he found the cost too prohibitive to buy another pair. As a result, he spent an entire semester squinting and complaining.

Warby Parker’s brand identity portrays them as heroes in an eyewear industry dominated by greedy capitalists who charge an arm and a leg for something so basic to a consumer. Theirs was a story that countless students and even working professionals identified with.

Advertisers are going back to the drawing board and marketers are rebranding entire companies to catch up to this trend. Creative copywriters have managed to craft Dickensian stories about HP Enterprise ProLiant Servers.

And it works too. Stories are the best tools to convince a small business owner about the importance of having reliable IT infrastructure. Stories take a product or a service and transform it into an experience the customer cannot do without.

Some simple neurochemistry is all it takes

A story that can engage you emotionally will cause your brain to release either Cortisol or Oxytocin, depending on the context. Of these, Oxytocin — the feel-good hormone — can really influence a customer’s mood. Oxytocin motivates cooperation by enhancing empathy. Advertisers usually tap into this response to make viewers empathize with their brand.

Studies show that people are more likely to give to a charity if they’re told stories about how donations have improved lives rather than just asking for a donation to improve lives.

Myth-building will destroy your brand

Forget big brands. Even sellers on eBay make a profit out of the storytelling trend. Malicious scammers on eBay have been hawking junk lying around their house for a small fortune with the power of storytelling for a while now.

This is something brands cannot afford to do. Building a false narrative to project your brand as undertaking a “hero’s journey” can do more damage than just sticking to old-school marketing.

Storytelling is one of our most natural instincts. Stories inspire trust and respect for the storyteller. Maybe it’s because we believe the storyteller to be a faithful raconteur. Whatever be the cause, this is a level of trust so fundamental that using a made-up story to evoke emotional response among consumers will backfire spectacularly when the truth gets out.

In the age of the internet, the truth always gets out.