Why Storytelling Is Such a Powerful Communications Strategy

Years ago, marketers thought that the key to a good ad is memorability and repetition, with some confident claims thrown in for good measure. Sure, that used to work fairly well. But just as society at large continues to change year on year – marketing needs to evolve to keep up. 

People don’t want to be told what to buy anymore and this strategy hasn’t been effective for a long time. Today’s consumers, especially millennials and Gen Z, want to know why they should care instead. They want to feel a connection with the brand or product and they want their purchase to reflect their style and values.

Still don’t see why storytelling should be a priority for companies? Here’s a breakdown of the art of storytelling in marketing.

1. Content Marketing Is Driving the Space

Right now, content marketing is taking the lead over paid advertising because it’s where the most engagement happens. With content marketing, the audience gets something valuable from it, instead of being told what to buy. Statistically, this is a much more effective means of self-promotion as the audience views the content because they want to.

Content marketing and storytelling complement each other in a fantastic way because it’s much easier to create long-form content. Blogs, videos, emails, podcasts, and infographics all lend themselves to a narrative structure. 

2. Storytelling Is a Fundamental Human Experience

Neuroscience proves that the human brain takes information and organizes it into recognizable patterns. These patterns help people make sense of and retain information. Stories are generally presented in a specific pattern, which influences the way a person perceives that information. So people are hardwired to be more receptive to a story – at least, a well-written one.

Stories are designed to evoke a response in the brain, and this happens subconsciously. When people read a story, they aren’t looking at it from a detached perspective – they’re living it in their minds as it’s being told. This forges a deeper connection.

Today’s consumers care about the image of the brands they support. They want the companies they buy from to reflect and support their own values. The best way to communicate these values and form a bond with a potential customer is through storytelling.

3. Stories Are Memorable

Making content stand out is still a solid concept in marketing, and what’s more memorable than a touching or relatable story? There’s evidence to suggest that people do much better at remembering stories than remembering facts alone. One of the reasons why is related to how they make people feel – emotions have a powerful impact and they stay with people for longer.

4. Stories Build Trust

Everyone knows a company’s main goal is to sell their product or service. Telling them why the company or its product is trustworthy isn’t going to change their minds. Because they know that information is coming from a biased perspective. That’s why, instead of telling people how great new technology is, for example, Microsoft uses its blog to show how technology helps society. Because the science behind it is cold and often uninteresting to a lot of people. But they do care when AI is helping blind people meet their needs.

5. Storytelling Is an Effective Market Entry Strategy

Today’s media is extremely fragmented and overcrowded with information. Gaining any sort of foothold in the market is complex and challenging, and sticking to the same tactics as everyone else isn’t going to deliver. Storytelling is still a relatively unique concept within the marketing industry and gives a brand a different entry point. 

One of the fundamental sales questions that storytelling in marketing answers is, why should a consumer care? Stories bridge that sometimes yawning gap between indifference and interest. 

Just take the Micheal Jordan ad that Nike ran in 1999. It was fundamentally different from most commercials of that time. Instead of espousing the wonders of its product, the company ran a one-minute ad about Jordan, and only at the end, the brand’s slogan and logo appeared. At the time, it was nearly unthinkable to spend that much money on an ad that doesn’t even show off the company’s product. But it worked.

6. Stories Make a Brand More Relatable

Forging a connection is one of the core tenets of storytelling, and once again it is reflected in how storytelling benefits a brand. Brand loyalty is an incredibly difficult thing to cultivate and it doesn’t happen overnight. Loyalty is built over time through systematic effort and a consistent brand image – or story.

Given the oversaturation of today’s market, people have the luxury of choosing who they want to give their money to. It will likely be the company that resonates with them and feels authentic. They’re going to choose a brand that feels familiar and trusted over a completely anonymous company that’s just trying to push products.

Final Thoughts

Storytelling isn’t a new concept in marketing – in fact, some brands have been doing it for as long as they’ve been around. In a world that constantly pushes the “sell, sell, sell” principle, be the brand that gives instead.