We’ve all heard about storytelling marketing and there are a lot of storytelling examples that can inspire us for our next marketing campaign.
But what is really storytelling?
Why is it effective and how do brands use this approach in order to better their marketing results?
Well, I will try to answer all these questions in the following paragraphs and give you some working real-life digital storytelling examples to get inspired from.
So, what is storytelling?
Basically, storytelling is the ability and the activity to tell and write stories. It’s a social and cultural activity that has been present in human society since its dawn. Different cultures have different stories and narratives. While the subject matter or the style of the story differs from one culture to the other, one thing remains the same: the fact that there is no human society without narratives.
Why bring storytelling to marketing?
The answer is simple in this case. A cold impersonal marketing message may reach out to the target audience but it will seldom trigger any emotional response.
On the other hand, a story delivers a stronger message, a message that is easier to understand and remember by the audience, one that if told correctly will trigger emotions and get itself be shared across digital platforms. And this strategy works not only in marketing but even in corporate storytelling, as told by Jeff Bezos who already decided to ban slideshows and replace them with true narratives for internal memos.
How to properly engage in storytelling?
Well, there are different ways in which you can narrate a story. The narrative style differs from one person to another but at the same time, there are some elements that should not be missing from a good story. Here are the most important such elements:
- It should be compelling. This means that when you think about writing your story, first of all, you need to know your audience. In order to make it compelling, you have to know to whom you are addressing your message and what type of message and communication style they expect from a brand or a marketer. On the other hand, you need also to trigger some kind of emotional response with your narrative, a thing that depends on the audience and of course, on the topic you choose. We’re going to see some examples in the next chapter that will shed light upon this requirement.
- The conflict. A good story is based on several elements out of which, the most important, is the conflict. You can call it drama, tension, friction or uncertainty. Regardless of the name, a good story needs a build-up and a resolution. Otherwise, it goes flat and nobody will remember it after a few seconds. Imagine that Cinderella met a prince, married him and lived happily ever after. Is that a story? Isn’t something missing? Well, the thing that is missing is the conflict, the tension, the intrigue of the story, in other words, everything that happens in the middle before the resolution.
You can include either one of these two or both in order to make your story worthwhile. However, there should not be any narrative that lacks both of the above elements.
Examples of brand storytelling
A strong brand represents more than a slogan, a logo or even its best product. A strong brand has a background story that attracts the audience through corporate values and emotional responses.
Or, it can be as well based on data which paired to a relevant narrative, can increase awareness by appealing to the audience’s values or emotions.
1. Huggies: No baby unhugged
One of the best brand storytelling examples comes from Kimberly Klark and their brand of diapers Huggies. They knew they could not compete with Pampers, who at one point had 100% of the Canadian hospital contracts.
Based on the study data, they started to educate mothers on the importance of skin to skin contact with their babies while at the same time ensuring that Canadian hospitals had volunteer huggers available when babies were in need of hugs.
According to Global WebIndex, the campaign increased sales by up to 30% and the engagement rate with 300%.
2. Mouth Foods’ website
Mouth is a thorough anthology of artisanal and indie foods and beverages in North America. Some of the most passionate food makers share their brands and products on Mouth.com thus marketing their creations. In a way, this is the perfect platform to start browsing through some of the most original and powerful brand storytelling examples.
Moreover, by posting the creators’ personal stories on the platform, Mouth gives a whole new meaning to digital marketing.
3. Nike’s Equality campaign
Another good option when it comes to storytelling marketing is to appeal to the audience through shared values. Social values are the best choices since they are shared among a wider audience.
What has Nike to say in this matter?
Well, back in 2017, they created the Equality campaign which was intended to trigger a positive social change in the name of the brand. Being one of the strongest words in the last two centuries social movements, “equality” was, therefore, a wise choice for a branded storytelling campaign.
This was a great example of a strong narrative that connects the brand with the audience and vice versa. The audience is invited to become an active part of a collective social movement by wearing Nike products or, by engaging in social media along with the brand and its supporters.
It’s a win-win situation. You get engagement on social media which leads to exposure and awareness growth while on the other hand, you expand your pool of customers.
4. Warby Parker
What about regular, rather common or dull products? How would you advertise a pair of glasses? Can you use a narrative? Is storytelling the solution?
Well, yes, it is. And, Warby Parker, already did it.
Their narrative tells the story of how their glasses are made, starting with presenting the headquarters and the designing process. They also appeal to the social values of the audience, advertising that for every pair sold, a free pair is being given to a person in need.
This example of a storytelling marketing shows you how easy it is to come up with a narrative that helps you stand out from the crowd even if you don’t have a cutting-edge technology product. And, it shows us how a common product with a story and a social message becomes marketable as well.
5. Burt’s Bees
A story can be helpful as well if you direct the narrative to a popular topic among your target audience. For instance, this example will be all about natural living, natural products and a lifestyle that is in complete harmony with nature.
We all know that in today’s context these concepts are nothing more than ideals, especially among the younger generations. This does not mean, however, that we cannot work on behalf of an ideal and take as many steps towards it as possible.
The example I am going to share here is of a small company that produces all-natural personal care products. The brand is called Burt’s Bees and their approach to storytelling marketing is in a way different than all the above examples. How? They gave a face to their brand.
The narrative is inspired by Burt, the founder of the company and offers the audience a quick look at Burt’s natural lifestyle.
On one hand, there’s a documentary depicting the life of Burt:
On the other hand, the company released a series of videos on YouTube, their “Burtism” series which come with little pieces of wisdom:
6. Alaska Airlines
A great example of a storytelling marketing material comes from Alaska Airlines as well.
Instead of going like the above brands did, they choose a well-known figure, Kevin Durant, to narrate his travel experiences throughout America.
It’s a great example because besides the great narrative and the easy to watch video material, they used an already well-known face and voice in order to tell their story. Thus, they reached out to Kevin Durant’s fans and at the same time, to all the other people from the target audience who watch online videos and love to travel.
Marketing should never be only about banners and ads. You can grow awareness for your brand by only taking care of your content. And, here’s an example from Wondery, a website specialized in investigative podcasts.
I choose Laura Beil’s series of podcasts on Dr Death, which is the best example for a complete narrative with everything this type of content needs, including a build-up and a conflict, two elements that are present in the description of the podcast and at the same time, in the first episode.
If you are interested in the subject, as a member of the audience, it becomes quite easy to understand what the podcast is about only by reading the description or by listening to the first episode.
7. National Geographic
Another great example of storytelling comes from National Geographic, one of the oldest surviving magazines in the world. Just follow their Instagram feed and see what happens…
They publish historical, social, natural or wildlife images on a daily basis but this process only doesn’t make their marketing strategy. Why and how?
Well, every single picture they publish on social media comes with a story. You can look at the picture and imagine a narrative by yourself or, read the description and let their imagination surprise you with great narratives and at the same time, quality content based on actual data and real information.
To sum up…
We’ve seen together a few great examples of brand storytelling marketing which can help you get your inspiration back and find your own narratives.
Based on these examples, we can sum up a few of the most important things you need in order to create the best stories for your future campaigns:
- A valid topic. You need to attract the audience and in order to do that, you need to appeal to their emotions. Find a value or a social responsibility ideal and build your campaign around it.
- A voice. The narrative should be directed to the audience and adapted to their own tone of voice, interests, and values. Study the market, study the social media channels and find out the best approach to attract attention and generate leads.
- The visuals. You can tell a story in words only but as we can all agree, these days, people are more attracted to visuals than text. Otherwise, social media would not have become that popular. As of consequence, a great visual storytelling campaign, even if it is based on text narratives, should also include a lot of visuals and even videos.
Storytelling is a popular trend in today’s marketing context. Major and minor brands altogether choose to create narratives in order to market their brands and/or products.
People like stories, they can easily understand them and relate to them as they do from the dawn of human society.
Therefore, we are dealing with a new approach based on one of the oldest and most popular creations of the human mind: the narrative.
We’ve seen together with some great examples of storytelling marketing and we’ve walked through some of the most important parts of this strategy.
Did you use storytelling in your marketing campaigns and to what extent?