Key Insights 📈 🌐
- Engage Through Relatable Narratives: Brand storytelling fosters a deep connection with audiences by narrating relatable and inspiring tales. For instance, Nike’s storytelling transcends athletic realms, resonating with a broader audience through stories of overcoming odds, encapsulated in their “Just Do It” mantra.
- Craft Enriching Settings: An enriching setting is paramount in brand storytelling, transporting audiences to a different realm and amplifying the narrative’s impact. It sets the stage for the unfolding narrative, providing a backdrop that complements the brand’s message.
- Invest in Character Development: Well-developed characters are the linchpin of compelling brand storytelling. They render the narrative relatable and engaging, allowing audiences to see themselves in the story or understand the characters’ motivations.
- Plot Drives Progression: A structured plot keeps the brand story moving, ensuring a coherent narrative from start to finish. It sets up conflicts and resolutions, keeping the audience invested in the unfolding storyline.
- Conflict Propels the Narrative: Conflict injects drama and tension, driving the narrative forward. It’s an opportunity to introduce your product or service as a solution, aligning your brand with the resolution of the story’s conflict.
- Establish a Resonant Theme: A central theme ties the brand story together, providing a cohesive message that aligns with the brand’s values. It guides the plot and character development, ensuring a unified narrative that resonates with audiences.
Nike is a brand built on inspiring athletes to reach their potential. The “Just Do It” tagline perfectly encapsulates this idea, and athletes worldwide believe this.
But Nike tells stories that relate to everyone, not just athletes. For example, this video below is a Nike ad from about ten years ago and tells the story of an overweight kid determined to lose weight.
Nike tells stories about people who have overcome impossible odds to achieve their dreams and reach their goals. These stories are told in a way that is both inspiring and relatable, and they help create an emotional connection between Nike and its customers. Nike also uses its brand story to promote its values of determination and perseverance. By telling stories about people who have achieved great things through hard work and dedication, Nike motivates its customers to stay committed to their goals.
Other Nike storytelling examples include:
|Campaign||Key Highlights||Additional Information|
|Just Do It (1988)||Focused on inspirational figures overcoming obstacles||Established Nike’s brand identity; Memorable slogan|
|Find Your Greatness (2012)||Inspired everyday athletes||Relatable message; Social media engagement|
|Featured inspirational stories of athletes||Conveyed brand values; Viral campaign|
|Nike+ Fuelband (2012)||Allowed users to share fitness stories and goals||Fostered online community; Combined narrative with data|
|You Can’t Stop Us (2020)||Showcased stories of real athletes overcoming challenges||Inspiring message; Leveraged digital platforms for storytelling|
This is Nike’s brand story. This is brand storytelling.
What is Brand Storytelling?
Brand storytelling is the art of using stories to connect with customers and create an emotional connection. When people see an ad or watch a video, you want them to feel tingles or a chill running down their spine. Brand storytelling can help acquire new customers, reinforce customer loyalty, and increase sales.
Brand storytelling is about creating a narrative around your brand, often called a brand narrative. This narrative should be based on your brand’s values and mission and reflected in everything from your marketing materials and customer service to your entire customer experience strategy. In addition, it needs to be embedded into the DNA of your culture.
The Fundamentals of Brand Storytelling
Your goal should be to create a brand story to which your customers can connect emotionally. You’ll need to adopt the basic principles of storytelling-setting, characters, plot, conflict, and theme. Here’s a familiar example.
Once upon a time, a princess lived in a castle. She had long blonde hair and blue eyes and loved to sing. One day, she met a prince who was also very handsome, and they fell in love. However, the princess’s father disapproved of the match and forbade them to see each other.
The prince was heartbroken, but he didn’t give up hope. One night, he snuck into the castle and professed his love for the princess. The two of them ran away together and lived happily ever after.
This story has all of the essential elements of a good story: setting, characters, plot, conflict, and theme. A well-told story can transport an audience to another world and help them understand complex emotions. Brand stories need to do the same, and they must also be consistent across all touchpoints. Only then can you create a powerful brand story that will resonate with customers.
Setting the Stage with Brand Stories
A story is only as good as its setting. The best brand stories transport audiences to another time and place, immersing them in a different world. A well-crafted setting can make even the most familiar story come alive. The setting is often just as important as the plot. After all, it sets the stage for the action and can provide clues about the characters and their motivations.
Whether a fictional small town in California or Albuquerque, New Mexico, a brand story’s setting helps create an atmosphere that draws readers in and keeps them engaged. To craft a truly compelling story, start by taking the time to develop a rich and detailed setting.
Character Development is Critical
I have two all-time favorite series on Netflix – Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad. Both shows have unique stories, and each plot is captivating. Sons of Anarchy was about a motorcycle club in California, and Breaking Bad was about a high school chemistry teacher who turned to cooking and selling meth. Both series had great settings and interesting characters.
I bring this up because both of these shows had impressive character development. The characters were fully fleshed out, and their motivations were clear. As a result, I cared about what happened to them. I was invested in their personal story. I felt like I knew them and cared about what happened to them. I was depressed when Jax … well, I won’t spoil it.
Great stories need great characters. Characters are what make a story relatable and engaging. Your audience should be able to see themselves in your characters or at least understand their motivations.
The Plot is What Keeps the Brand Story Moving
All good stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end – known as the plot. The plot drives the story forward; without it, it would simply be a series of events without purpose or meaning.
The story’s beginning sets up the conflict or problem that must be resolved, while the middle builds suspense and raises the stakes. The ending is when the conflict is finally resolved, and everyone lives happily ever after.
To create a compelling plot, it’s essential to ensure that each scene advances the story somehow and that there is a clear progression from beginning to end. Without a strong plot, even the most well-written story will fall flat.
The Conflict Sets up the Solution
Every story worth telling needs conflict. Without it, there is no tension, no drama, or a sense of stakes. The conflict is what drives the story forward and keeps the reader engaged.
Many different types of conflict can be used in a story, but they all boil down to two essential elements: characters in opposition and a goal that needs to be achieved. Characters can be in opposition to each other, or they can conflict with themselves. The goal can be as simple as surviving the night or as complex as defeating an evil empire. But without conflict, there is no story.
A conflict is an engine that can power a great brand story. It’s also a perfect opportunity to introduce your product or service as a character in the story that can help resolve the conflict.
Delivering the Brand Theme
A good story must have a theme or a central idea that governs the entire brand story. For a brand, this could be a campaign. Nike’s “Greatness” brand campaign is an excellent example of this.
The theme can be as simple as “Love Conquers All” or as complex as the “State of Cybersecurity in Public Sector.” Without a theme, a story is little more than a collection of events, and the theme gives them meaning.
To create a memorable brand story, you must first identify the theme you wish to explore. Once you have done this, you can flesh out your characters and plot, knowing that everything you write must serve the purpose and align with the theme. Without a strong and cohesive theme, your story will lack direction and fail to engage your readers.
The Difference Between a Plot and a Theme
The plot is the sequence of events that make up the story. The theme is the underlying message or moral of the story. So one way to think of it is that plot is what happens, while the theme is what the story means.
Both plot and theme are essential to a good story, and each can influence the other. For example, a story with a meaningful plot may have a more complex or nuanced theme, while a story with a simple plot may have a more specific theme. In any case, plot and theme are crucial elements of brand storytelling.
A Simplified Brand Storytelling Example
The brand storytelling process may seem complicated. So let’s summarize it more simplistically. The first step is to think through the story’s plot or context. The second is the structure. In other words, does the story occur along a linear timeline with a beginning, middle, and end? Or is it more complex like the Matrix, where the story jumps into the past, present, and future, leaving everyone confused?
A story’s climax is when the conflict peaks and some action is taken. This is often the turning point in the story when everything hangs in the balance, and the outcome is uncertain. The climax is usually preceded by minor crises that raise the stakes and build tension. After the climax, there is typically a resolution period in which the conflict is resolved, and the story ends. The climax is often seen as the most exciting part of a story, as it is here that all of the tension and drama come to a head.
The last piece is the form. This outlines where and how brand stories are delivered. Brand storytelling examples can be told through videos, podcasts, blog posts, white papers, eBooks, and even short social media status updates. Brand storytelling must be a core piece of a digital marketing plan and hit on all the human senses.
Telling Brand Stories Everywhere
Edgar Dale developed The Cone of Learning model in the early 20th century. It suggests that humans learn best when information is presented in multiple ways and through numerous channels. In other words, we learn best when we hear, see, and do.
This model hypothesizes that after two weeks, we remember only 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we hear and see, 70% of what we participate in, and 90% of what we do.
The cone of learning is about repetition and believability.
This is why telling your brand story across multiple channels is important. For example, a single blog post can be recycled into a video, an infographic, a slideshow presentation, etc. The more ways you can tell your story, the more likely your audience will remember it.
When it comes to brand storytelling, there are no rules. Be creative and experiment with different formats and delivery methods. The important thing is to keep the story focused on the theme and ensure that every element serves a purpose.
How Does a Brand Narrative Fit into Storytelling?
Typically, brand storytelling starts with writing a narrative. A brand narrative is a story arc used to communicate unique characteristics.
It should be written like poetry and is an explanation of the following:
- Who are you?
- What do you stand for?
- Why should anyone care?
Brand storytelling is key to having a solid narrative supporting key messages. These messages inform all stories across all channels, help you write meaningful content, and produce impactful creative campaigns.
Aligning Brand Stories to a Content Strategy
From a content marketing perspective, leveraging social media data analysis to inform your strategy is essential. And that data can come from several different sources:
- Audience analytics
- Social media performance
- Website analytics
- 3rd party research
- Digital media insights
The data and research insights are then synthesized into a strategy (or theme) that becomes the basis for your content strategy.
Here’s one way you can align content to your brand storytelling initiatives:
- Content where your brand is the hero of the story. This means all the content, creativity, and stories are about you. This can appear self-serving if not done authentically, in a human voice, or without creating value.
- Content where your brand is a character in a story. This means that your brand will take a back seat to something else. For example, the main character in the story could be a customer, partner, celebrity, or product.
- Content where your brand comments on a story. This is the largest opportunity in that it allows you to create a thought leadership platform around any topic where you have expertise.
The Connection to Social Media Storytelling
Some people are born storytellers. They can naturally keep people engaged and in anticipation of the punch line. I have a colleague like this. At every company event, he’s surrounded by people hanging on to his every word.
Brands need to find a way to do this.
Think about it. When did you last purchase a product because a story moved you or watched a commercial that inspired you? I think this every time I see an Apple commercial. Maybe that’s why I have one too many pairs of AirPods.
Stories can connect with us emotionally, allowing brands to reposition their business, change brand perception, and sell products. But to do this right, you must tell a story that resonates with your customer base.
And what better place to tell your story than on social media? With billions of active users, this channel can be where you tell your story to the world. But before you start to craft your marketing campaign, there’s one crucial thing you need to do: build your social narrative.
What is a Social Media Narrative?
A social media narrative is just like any other narrative, but this one is told through a brand’s social media channels. It should answer the same three questions as a brand narrative.
Several posts build this story over time, each contributing to the narrative. To create a compelling social media narrative, you need to consider several factors, including:
- Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
- The Target Audience
- Goals & Objectives
- Tone of Voice
Considering all these, you can start telling your compelling and authentic story. But it’s not just about coming up with a good story – you also must ensure that your story is relevant to your target customer.
The Narrative Fuels Social Media Storytelling
Social media storytelling is using social media platforms to tell your story. This can be done through text messaging, words, photos, social audio, or video. Storytelling on social media makes sense, given that the channel was built to create and consume this media type. When done well, social media storytelling can be an extremely effective tool for your business.
Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are the most popular digital media platforms for telling a story. Each platform has unique features that can be used to create compelling stories. For example, Instagram Stories and TikTok allow users to string together a series of images and videos to create a narrative. And you can do the same thing on YouTube.
Data & Insights Drive Social Storytelling
Data and insights are essential in social media storytelling because they help you understand your community and create relevant content. For example, it isn’t easy to know who your target audience is and what their top interests are without data. And without insights, it’s impossible to understand how your stories perform and what you can do to improve them.
Data and insights allow you to see the big picture and make informed decisions about your social campaigns. They also help you track your progress and ensure your stories make the desired impact.
Social Media Storytelling on Twitter: Be a Newsroom
Media companies like CNN effectively use Twitter because they deliver real-time news to interested audiences. Brands need to do this, too.
Twitter is a powerful platform to tell your story and should always be included when developing your digital marketing program. It provides an opportunity to reach large audiences in a news-like format. Twitter supports multiple media types, so you can share photos and videos to drive community engagement. Twitter provides a great way to drive traffic to a company website if you share long-form articles and thought leadership.
Twitter is also one of the only platforms that support two-way conversations, which is excellent for building relationships with customers, influencers, and other stakeholders. You can quickly connect with an audience and start conversations through regular tweets, @mentions, hashtags, and direct messages. This two-way dialogue is essential for building trust and loyalty among customers and other important constituencies.
When using Twitter for social media storytelling, it’s necessary to keep the following in mind:
- Tweets should be concise and to the point
- Include images or videos whenever possible
- The post copy and creative (image/video) should tell a story
- Always use hashtags to reach a wider audience
- It’s smart to @mention influencers to drive engagement
Twitter has an open API, meaning you can tap into just about any conversation on the platform. You can pull relevant data and insights to determine trending discussion topics and respond accordingly. You’ll need access to a social media monitoring platform to analyze conversations in depth.
Storytelling on TikTok: Be Fun, Not Boring
TikTok has quickly become one of the most popular social platforms in recent years, with users spending an average of 52 minutes daily on the app. TikTok’s uniqueness focuses on short-form video content, allowing users to consume and share engaging clips with their friends quickly. For brands, this presents an opportunity to connect with TikTok’s highly engaged audience through creative storytelling.
When developing your story for TikTok, it’s important to remember that the platform is all about entertainment. Therefore, your content should be exciting and visually appealing. In terms of format, videos should be between 15 and 60 seconds long, and you should use hashtags and trending challenges to reach a wider audience. Finally, don’t forget to include a call-to-action in your videos so that users know what you want them to do after watching.
Recently, TikTok released a report that shares how users engage in the platform and their path to purchase. According to the report, users on TikTok are highly engaged with the platform and open to discovery. They’re also quick to take action, with 65% of users saying they’ve purchased after seeing a product on TikTok. This makes TikTok an ideal platform for social media storytelling if you want to drive conversions.
Storytelling on Instagram: Show-off Your Brand Personality
In a world constantly bombarded with messages, cutting through the noise and grabbing customer attention can be hard. But, when done right, stories can engage audiences and build connections. And there’s no better platform for storytelling than Instagram. Instagram is a smart channel to tell your story and create community with its visually rich format and highly engaged audience.
But how do you tell a story on Instagram that is engaging and true to your brand? Here are some tips:
- Keep it visual. As a visual-based platform, Instagram is all about images. So make sure your stories are rich with visuals that accurately represent your brand.
- Be authentic. Your audience can see through fake stories, so ensure your content is genuine and relatable.
- Keep it personal. Use Instagram Stories to give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your brand. This will help connect with your followers and make them feel they know you personally.
- Tell a story. A great story has a beginning, middle, and end. Ensure your Instagram stories follow this structure so your audience can easily follow along.
- Hashtags are key. Hashtags help you reach a broader audience on Instagram. When using hashtags, make sure they are relevant to your story and accurately reflect the content of your post.
While Instagram resembles TikTok, you should tailor your content to fit the platform.
LinkedIn Storytelling on Social Media: It’s All About Business
In a world where the average person’s attention span is shorter than that of a goldfish, it’s more important than ever to tell engaging stories that deliver business value. And when it comes to business storytelling, LinkedIn is one of the most powerful platforms. LinkedIn has over 810 million users, and two new members join every second.
Of those members, 44% are in decision-making roles. That means a vast audience of potential customers use the platform and are ripe for engagement. And when you tell your company story on LinkedIn, you can reach them where they’re already spending their time.
But how can you tell a compelling story on LinkedIn? First, you need to understand what makes a good story. A good story is memorable, relevant, and relatable. It should also be concise, as people on LinkedIn are busy and likely won’t have the time to read a long-winded story.
Fluff doesn’t work on LinkedIn. You can’t make things up and pretend to know what you’re talking about.
To get the total value of using the platform, you must focus on creating authoritative content highlighting your expertise on a topic. Authority is critical on LinkedIn, as users look for trustworthy, reliable, and helpful content. Content in the form of thought leadership articles, videos, how-to guides, and valuable resources can help position your brand as an authority in your field. In addition, content that is human and aligns with your company values usually performs exceptionally well.
According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, LinkedIn is the most effective platform for sharing B2B brand stories, and it makes sense. The platform was designed as a social network for business professionals. Therefore, LinkedIn should always be the focal point of your social media strategy for B2B.
However, it’s still important to note that posting your content on LinkedIn isn’t enough. You need to try to promote your content and ensure the right people see it.
Here are a few thoughts for storytelling and building your brand on LinkedIn (note: these tips are specific to organic posting, not paid):
- Share your content multiple times: This may seem spammy on the surface. But here’s the trick. If you share a report or blog post, you can use different images and post copy and share the content at other times of the day.
- Tag relevant LinkedIn groups or companies: When you share your content, it’s wise to tag groups or companies when applicable. This provides more context to what your content is all about for audiences that want to know more.
- Tag influencers: When sharing content created by influences, tag them in the post copy. This is a smart way to get on the radar of influencers who may now know about your brand.
- Engage with the community: Take the time to respond to questions or comments and be thoughtful. This will help you build relationships and create brand advocacy.
There is power when using social media to tell stories and potentially influence behavior. But don’t forget to distribute your social media content smartly by making sure your stories reach the audiences on the platforms where they prefer to spend their time.
Storytelling with Twitter Spaces & Clubhouse
Social platforms like Twitter Spaces and Clubhouse have gained popularity among influential audiences since the beginning of the pandemic. These platforms allow users to connect in real time and share stories, experiences, and ideas personally and engagingly.
Social audio also provides accessibility, often lacking in other forms of media. For example, Twitter Spaces allows users to join or leave conversations quickly, and Clubhouse offers transcripts of all conversations so that users can follow along even if they can’t participate. In a world increasingly driven by social media, these platforms offer a unique opportunity for brands to connect with their audiences more personally.
So, how can brands use social audio to tell their stories? Here are a few ideas:
|Share behind-the-scenes content||Social audio provides an intimate look at the people and processes behind your brand.||Share stories about team, product development, or company culture|
|Host interviews and discussions||Connect with thought leaders in your industry and have meaningful conversations via social audio.||Generate new content ideas; Build influencer relationships|
|Answer customer questions||Use social audio for customer support or to answer frequently asked questions.||Build trust; Show responsiveness to audience needs|
While social audio is great for storytelling, you should always prepare yourself for a potential crisis. Because it’s real-time, there is always a risk of something going wrong. So be sure to plan how you will respond if someone says something offensive or the conversation takes a turn for the worse.
Social media storytelling is one of the most effective ways to connect with customers and create a connection with your brand. However, you need to start by understanding your data to be successful. What are people talking about on social media? What are they engaging with? What do your analytics say about what content resonates with customers and drives traffic?
Once you have that information, you can begin shaping your social media narrative accordingly.
The four elements of brand storytelling are Context, Character, Conflict, and Resolution.
Apple’s narrative of innovation and simplicity is a good example of brand storytelling.
Brand storytelling involves identifying your core message, understanding your audience, crafting a narrative, and delivering it through various channels cohesively and engagingly.
Brands use storytelling to convey their values, build emotional connections with audiences, and differentiate themselves in the market.
Successful brand storytelling brings enhanced customer loyalty, increased brand awareness, and improved brand perception.
Good brand storytelling is authentic, relatable, engaging, and delivers a clear and compelling message.
Twitter allows for real-time engagement and two-way conversations essential for building audience relationships.
Brands should create exciting, visually appealing short-form video content entertaining and engaging the TikTok audience.
Through visually rich and authentic stories, giving a behind-the-scenes look and maintaining a personal touch