Storytelling in marketing connects with audiences through an engaging, sometimes interactive, format. This marketing effort lessens the aggressive nature of campaigns by using personal, branded, and user-generated stories. The idea is to promote a product/service’s features, benefits, and use through an open, emotional journey.
Does your business have an interesting story, operation, or community? Think you could use it to attract new customers, increase referrals, or simply maximize marketing efforts?
This post will help you understand the concept behind storytelling for marketing. And, how to produce it.
A Brief Overview of Storytelling
Perfect examples blending marketing and story could include Apple’s famous 1984 commercial. Or, even recently, 84 Lumber’s “The Journey” sharing a story connecting immigration and border walls. There have been quite a few in this last year turning ads into long-form storytelling.
The common elements of storytelling for marketing include:
- Having an angle or point of view
- Determining the tone of voice
- Tapping a viewer’s emotions
- Showing authority/brand value
- Keeping it concise and ‘punchy’
These storytelling efforts make viewers forget they’re watching an ad. The subject and positioning become a rallying cry, in some ways. This is topped off with a reveal subtle enough to supplant the brand and encourage discourse. It’s all very similar to the old idea of emotions over logic — tug at their heart strings and you’ll create a resonating impact.
Using Visual Storytelling to Market and Grow Your Brand
The brand examples shared above have a seemingly unlimited marketing budget. Their teams can bring on celebrity appearances, shoot on location, and fine-tune the marketing efforts months (even years). Their budget and time let them maximizing every detail and hitting every mark with test audiences and final viewers.
How can a small business, startup, or solo-venture do this on a budget?
First, collect and/or invest in these items:
- Your customer avatar, content policy, and market research
- In-house visual assets and/or tapping Freelance Photography
- Social profiles, owned online assets, and marketing lists
The central elements of these campaigns include the business website, social media accounts, newsletter, and its use of advertising channels. These are the distribution channels for its visual storytelling efforts.
The budget for these are gleefully inexpensive:
- Avatars, policies, and research are crafted in-house using basic analysis and analytical tools
- Visual assets include owned media of you, employees, and its operations
- Freelance photographers are tapped via marketplaces and stock platforms per hour or session
- Profiles, assets, and lists are crafted using free tools else a minimal investment with domain/hosting/theme
You may also choose to tap those presenting these items and services as a side hustle. This lets you work with up-and-coming pros offering respectable rates but also fire, passion, and a deep understanding of social and media.
Now, it’s time to create something great for your audience — here are one (of many) processes:
- Identify a common problem or strong belief found via targeted market research
- Match the intended topic to your customer avatar helping to find emotional pain/joy points
- Research present competitors with accomplished marketing in this direction by monitoring social and ads
- Combine ideas and research to form an outline, script, and resource list of needed visual assets
- Queue media assets using an in-house team, freelancers/side hustlers, or templates
- Add topics & pain/joy points to the copy pairing it with emotional trigger media
- Distribute the work through social accounts, owned assets, and lists
This process repeats with each new social share forming an overarching story to engage audiences. Your humanity is front-and-center of these efforts with branding and sales on reserve. Try telling the story of your business and struggles or how your products/services have impacted a customer’s life. There are many story ideas worth exploring.
At the end of it all, visual storytelling is taking the extra step to include a message and emotion to your content, advertising, and marketing efforts. If you nail these three already and add a story on-top, you’re bound to make a substantial, memorable impact on your audience (radiating outward, helping to grow the brand).