Entrepreneur Editor in Chief Amy Cosper dubbed 2014 “The Year of the Story,” a title that suits 2015 every bit as well. Maybe better. And from the looks of things, 2016 is going to take the trend to a whole new level.
Writing about startup companies that raised funds via Kickstarter, Cosper noted, “… storytelling seemed to be the major business lesson of 2014. Financials still matter to investors, but your story is now the story—and the one that will land you cash money.”
Make no mistake, though: storytelling is NOT reserved to startups, crowdfunding platforms or capital investment campaigns. Storytelling transcends such boundaries.
Storytelling works for all kinds of companies in all kinds of sectors and it comes in many different forms. In fact, numerous companies that tell stories aren’t trying to “land cash money,” at least not directly. These companies use storytelling in their marketing and branding efforts to engage audiences emotionally as well as intellectually. Storytelling enables audiences to experience on a visceral level what is special about their companies.
When it comes to winning hearts and minds, nothing beats a good story, as this article from Inc. shows. The same goes for winning new business. Here are a few well-known examples of companies that have used storytelling brilliantly:
- Google Search’s “Reunion” campaign.
- Nike’s “Better for It” campaign.
- And Microsoft has devoted an entire section of its website to “Stories.” (It also tells stories in many other places on the site.)
One of the big trends in brand storytelling is the widespread use of video, a natural medium for telling stories. Of course, lots of companies don’t have the resources to produce videos. No worries—storytelling works across many different mediums.
You can blog to tell your company’s stories. You can use social channels such as Twitter and Instagram. You can tell stories throughout your website, as Microsoft does. You can even employ storytelling in your basic advertising, sales and marketing materials.
Of course, effective brand storytelling is an art. It requires clarity of message and purpose. For example, if you’re showcasing a customer’s personal experience using your product, don’t start beating your audience over the head with price points or a dissertation on features and benefits. Stick to telling the customer’s story. If you’re sharing an employee’s story about what it’s like to work at your company, stay locked onto that one employee and her personal perspective. Don’t dilute her story’s power by straying into company history, product promotions (no matter how subtle) or other “organizational propaganda.”
Every company has stories to tell, including yours. If you haven’t been using stories as part of your branding and marketing strategies, don’t worry. The “year of the story” looks like it’ll be sticking around for many years to come.
About the Author: Michael Civiello is a communications strategist and senior writer at fisher VISTA. He collaborates with clients every day to develop messaging, content and PR campaigns that build brand awareness and marketplace credibility.
Image by Joseph Sebastian, courtesy of freeimages.com.