From the very beginning of time, humans have used the art of storytelling to build community and connection. These stories were passed down generations as a way to learn and evolve but also to remember our history and where we come from.
Now, stories are still important roadmaps to bring people together. By building empathy, we form connections across time and distance.
Stories are even an incredibly valuable marketing tool.
Map out storytelling
Storytelling combines fact and narrative to convey messaging to an audience. The goals behind reaching an audience are to achieve understanding, inspire passion, build community and more.
Like a map, stories take us on a journey. They show us where to begin and where to end, giving us the directions to get from Point A to Point B.
There are many reasons we tell stories, too. Stories can accomplish many things such as help educate, entertain, or sell.
Stories can aid or even replace data-driven material that’s weighted down with numbers, facts, and statistics. Stories break these concepts up, making them easier to digest and understand. Just as GPS highlights your routes, replacing complicated and cumbersome paper maps, storytelling is a tool to help reach your audience.
For example, an audience can connect with a person’s reasoning for back surgery after hearing their story of recovery, but if a healthcare facility only listed the benefits for such a treatment, using industry-heavy language and charts, the audience might not completely grasp how they fit into the equation or how such a treatment might benefit them as well.
Stories can also help an audience remember your brand. According to Quantified, research shows that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than just facts.
One good example of brand marketing through storytelling is Airbnb.
Airbnb is an online marketplace where homeowners can offer their property for rent. On the Airbnb website, travelers of all kinds book a stay in these homes. Some hotels also use the site to rent their rooms.
Airbnb makes a good example because their services are completely dependent on those who use it, whether offering property to rent or travelers renting property. With hosts adding appeal with extra amenities such as home gyms and swimming pools, Airbnb can market experiences, and people love sharing good experiences they’ve had.
Because people are at the heart of Airbnb’s brand, the company can utilize that to better market themselves. Instead of telling their own story or listing the benefits of their website and services, they rely on the people who use them. Through this, they market with authentic experiences and connect people with a common interest: travel.
The company allows people to tell their stories with Airbnb. They even devote a section of their website called “Stories from the Airbnb Community” to display for anyone to see and read.
It’s a clear example of a company using stories to better reach their audience and to show off their services.
Not to count out facts and statistics completely, a different example actually shows how the use of statistics helps to successfully market a business.
Audio-streaming platform Spotify is well-known for its yearly Wrapped; at the end of each year, Spotify releases personalized data on a listener’s music habits, new discoveries, and favorite tracks from the previous 12 months.
The popularity of this statistic slideshow led users to share their results across their social media platforms. According to moengage, in 2020, Spotify Wrapped increased Spotify mobile app downloads by 21% in the first week of December. As 2021 winds down, many are already talking about what they expect to find in their Spotify Wrapped.
Spotify’s Wrapped is a great example of how statistic-heavy marketing can also be a successful tactic. It created community as listeners share their yearly stats and connect over their love of music. Spotify also saw success with an increase of user activity on its mobile app.
The importance of using such market strategies is planning how the content will drive engagement. In both examples, each strategy strikes true to the company’s overall message and goals. If used effectively, storytelling and facts and stats—used on their own or together—are integral to reaching your audience.
Points of interest
So, what makes a story work?
There are three components of a story that make it effective. Hubspot helped break these down.
Every story has at least one character. This is who your audience will be relating to in your story. If your story does a good job of connecting the storyteller, the character and the audience, your audience will be more likely to put themselves in your character’s shoes and relate more to the story’s conflict and resolution as well as your overall mission.
The conflict is the problem the character faces and overcomes, related to a lesson they learn. This may be similar to what your audience needs or is experiencing. Conflict can draw out emotion in the audience, strengthening their relation to the character. If they are facing a similar conflict, the audience will likely stick with the story for the resolution, where they hope to find an answer to their problems, and hopefully find that answer within your company.
A story’s ending usually includes the character finding a solution to their conflict. In your character resolving their conflict, your audience will hopefully find similar answers to their own problems. If they are looking for a specific product, this will answer the question if this product will help them resolve their own conflict and hopefully enforce your call-to-action.
Modes of transportation
There are many different ways to get to where you need to be—bike, car, bus, plane—and stories can be delivered in just as many ways.
Stories can be told across multiple mediums. There’s no one way to tell them, so depending on your preferred way to market your business, it’s easy to fit stories into your process. Hubspot also helped break these different ways down.
Written stories can be both physical—found in books and magazines—and digital—including websites and email newsletters. With written marketing, it’s important to be clear and concise in order to retain your reader’s attention.
Like written stories, there’s no one example of spoken stories. They’ve been around since the beginning of verbal communication. You can find these in-person as well as online. They can be found in inspirational speeches and lectures to virtual conferences.
Like spoken stories, audio stories have the advantage of utilizing sound. Voices can carry strong emotion, strengthening a message; however, stories told strictly through audio lose the tool of a visual, but sometimes a listener’s imagination can be a powerful tool in replacing a visual aid.
Another alternative is pairing an audio story with helpful infographics or a presentation. Such examples will go beyond simple audio and incorporate multimedia aspects to add more to a storytelling experience.
Stories told across multimedia have the most flexibility in the ways they can be told. They can incorporate written and audio but can also include video or interactive elements.
Reaching your destination
Go ahead and unpack—you’ve made it.
Ultimately, stories can breathe life into a brand, but the trick is to be authentic. Just as stories can capture an audience’s attention and move them to act or buy your product, people are just as quick to spot fabrications and falsifications.
But with passion in your sails, stories can ship you and your audience wherever you want to go, helping to form a better connection between you and your clients.