The Heart of Marketing: Storytelling

Stories are one of the most powerful forces known to mankind. Without stories, humans would not have been capable of organizing into functional societies that foster cooperation, knowledge, and friendship. These are all attributes which ultimately led to the establishment of communities safe and stable enough to encourage healthy reproduction and population growth. This means that stories are the currency of life. It means that humans need stories. It means that stories are one of our evolutionary adaptations, one of our advantages, one of our strengths.

Humans are natural storytellers. And stories have been a central aspect of human life for millennia. Even today, everything needs a story to make sense. But what is truly powerful about stories is their ability to affect empathy and excite imagination in the minds of people. It’s a cognitive play that stimulates the way we think about the world and life. The importance of stories, in whatever shape or form, will never go away. They are here to stay because they transmit vast amounts of information, context, and understanding in a format that is effective, digestible, and entertaining. The ability for a story to make the distribution of a message so simple is what makes the use of storytelling an indelible marketing strategy component of any serious business.

This is precisely why companies seeking to grow must use storytelling to breathe life into their brands. You already know why you are creating this venture. You already know its purpose and meaning for the world. But are others aware of it? Do people really understand its identity? Is your audience even tuned into the message you’re trying to share? Are they even a part of your journey? If you want to build an iconic brand that is actually capable of changing the world, you must prioritize building a strong connection between your company and the people it serves. Stories will help you bridge that gap in ways you have never imagined, but your brand’s story must not only be authentic and inspirational, it should also evoke emotion in a creative manner that drives sustainable brand equity and revenue growth over the short, medium, and long term.

Humans are drawn to stories because they teach us valuable lessons, send us off on adventures to faraway lands far beyond the confines of our real world, over to places in our imagination where we will learn something new, something refreshing, something exciting. What lessons is your brand teaching the world? Are you even communicating the right values and eliciting the desired emotions through your branding efforts? These are important thoughts to keep in mind when developing your brand within the context of storytelling and marketing. Of course, it goes without saying that crafting a story is hard work, but it doesn’t need to be impossible. At the core of creating a story is the need to share something that matters to the lives of your audience and it must compel them to take some kind of action in both a subtle and creative way. In other words, the best marketing stories aren’t focused solely on the company, brand, or its products. They focus on something greater.

The most captivating stories are all about evoking emotions, sharing experiences, and awakening images deep within the minds of your audience. These stories move people in such a way that you don’t need to sell or convince them on anything because the conclusion has already been reached by them alone. The story has moved them, it has touched their hearts, it has changed their way of thinking. And that’s powerful! It’s why the pen will always be mightier than the sword. It’s why writers and storytellers will exact more power and control than their counterparts. It’s why good stories are like ideological Trojan horses which infiltrate our minds, powerful forces that enact change from the inside out. It’s why those in control of ideas, narratives, and stories will always command the attention of others. It’s why a great story can change the world forever.

If you are building a brand with any hope of achieving success, you must tell a story. Your ultimate goal is to devise a mental image that inspires, motivates, and encourages your audience to approach your product or service. In order to build a story around your brand rather than your product, you must look back at the origins of your venture and remember what it was that inspired you to begin. Think back to that spark of innovation and ingenuity, that aha! moment when you accepted the calling to pursue this idea. How did you feel back then? What struggles, problems, or obstacles were you facing? Were you frustrated, dissatisfied, or unconvinced? What led you to the conclusion that you needed to find a better product or solution? What made you think that you were the one chosen for this quest? Once you find that initial thread of insight, show us your journey. Take us to your world.

There’s a story itching to be told behind the underlying motivation and circumstances which compelled you to start this company. The world needs to hear your story! Share it in a way that is factual and engaging. But more importantly, make the story of your brand one that will resonate with the hearts and minds of others. When you do this in an effective way, you will harbor a powerful instrument that will enable your audience to catalyze growth for your brand. It’s how some of the best marketing stories have come to life. And it’s how you should build your company brand.

As companies grow it can also be easy to lose sight of the original idea that created it. This is especially true if you look at the media to provide you with information regarding startups. It is hard to see the simple online bookstore that Amazon once was in the behemoth it is today.

Remember that not every story has to be worthy of an epic biopic. Sometimes telling your company story is just about leading your listeners down the path so that they understand your value proposition the way you do.

We’ll discuss some examples of great marketing built on stories in the next lesson.