This article was contributed by Diana Adjadj.
If you’re reading this, you’ve already done your homework and know very well that storytelling has a great potential to improve customer engagement.
So let’s cut to the chase: not only storytelling is nice to have in your digital marketing strategy. It’s becoming a must for online businesses.
With so much content published these days, brands need to make personal and emotional connections with their intended audiences. This is a great way to stand out from the competition and attract the attention of quality leads, mainly because it makes a brand more “human” and differentiates it from the crowd.
Besides, wrapping marketing messages into a story that provokes an emotional response is something that your customers want you to do.
According to research, 55 percent of customers agree to consider buying from a brand that had a story they loved.
That’s why 52 percent of marketers use this technique to build meaningful connections with their intended audiences and foster trust and loyalty, according to research.
Credit: Content Marketing Institute
Storytelling is a popular method used by b2c marketers to nurture their audience.
Well, what can you do, people love to consume content in stories, so providing them with meaningful ones will go a long way at improving the performance of your business.
In this article, we’re going to talk about storytelling in more detail and focus on its implications for business owners and designers. If you’re a web designer looking for actionable storytelling tips, feel free to skip the next section and read the dedicated section after that.
But if you’re an online business owner, take a look at the next section where we’ll talk about how you can use this powerful tactic to your advantage.
Storytelling for Business Owners: What You Need to Know
Let me begin by saying that your customers crave transparency. Thanks to many years of being exposed to hard sell, in-your-face advertising, they’ve learned to recognize immediately it when a brand’s marketing is even a bit pushy, salesy, and otherwise irrelevant to them. This is one of the main reasons why storytelling is quickly becoming a powerful marketing technique.
In fact, customers want to know more about your brand, how you prefer to conduct your business, how you treat your employees, what is your overall mission is, and what materials you utilize to produce your products.
Many of these customers are Millennials – in fact, this demographic group is the driving force that made storytelling a big deal in marketing – the generation of people who values authenticity, environmental consciousness, and transparency in business.
One of the best examples of brands following the trend of storytelling is Timberland. The company’s digital marketing strategy is based on storytelling, which they use to show how they conduct business. For example, Timberland is trying to build an image of an environmentally responsible brand, and storytelling is the technique they use.
Almost every marketing message is told through stories. The latest of them is the Nature Needs Heroes campaign, the goal of which is to “inspire a greening movement that makes a difference every day with tangible and small actions.”
Every Hero participating in the campaign on behalf of Timberland has their own, unique collection of footwear and outdoor wear that customers can check out. For example, here are some of them, as shown on the brand’s official website.
In addition to that, Timberland intends to plant 50 million trees in five years by partnering with such non-profit organizations as TreeAid, in an effort to do their part in fighting the global climate change.
And that’s not everything. Recently, the brand has opened a new concept store called “Timberland Tree Lab” in Pennsylvania whose purpose is to emphasize storytelling. There, visitors can get to know how the company stands up to its values by investing in environmentally conscious production.
While at the store, shoppers can even taste a local craft beer and drink water from bottles that the brand uses to make shoelaces and linings. The Tree Lab, without a doubt, is a powerful move by Timberland, which reinforces their mission and attracts the attention of like-minded customers.
So what does this example tell you as a business owner?
- Timberland use storytelling to base their marketing strategy and connect to their target audience: environmentally conscious individuals who like to spend time outdoors
- Their content is popular because it’s authentic relevant, therefore resonates with customers
- The company practices what it preaches, which adds credibility to their storytelling.
In the sea of similar outdoor wear brands, this undoubtedly makes Timberland unforgettable for many people and differentiates it in a meaningful way. No other brands can copy their authentic and unique story now, that’s for sure.
How to Make Sure that Your Business’s Storytelling Helps to Achieve Your Goals?
To maximize the chance your storytelling strategy is a success, you’ll have to be engaged in the project yourself.
Storytelling starts long before you begin brainstorming about ways how to construct a compelling storyline for a brand, design, or product. To tell an engaging story that creates trust, you have to think about what makes your brand unique.
Is it the way you do business? Or maybe something happened that inspired you to start the company? Did you face a problem that your intended audience faces on a daily basis?
The best person to answer these questions, of course, is you, the owner of the brand. Don’t just take my word for it. According to Sir Richard Branson, the storytelling strategy should begin with the person who knows the brand of the product the most.
“Today, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you also have to be a storyteller,”
Branson wrote in this article at Virgin.com. “Of course, it is no use being a good storyteller if your product or idea is rubbish. But it is not enough to create a great product; you also have to work out how to let people know about it.”
Take Under Armour as an example of a brand that used their story as a competitive advantage. The company started as an underdog because it was up against giants like Adidas and Nike but still managed to get a large customer base. They’ve managed to get an NBA star Stephen Curry to represent their brand because he also was thought to be a bench player when he came into the league (but eventually became one of the best point guards in the history of the game).
In fact, Under Armour even used the name “Underdog” for a pair of $120 basketball shoes they’ve created together with Curry. This strategy paid off nicely, as the brand has become the “anti-Nike” company of choice, and their sales of basketball shoes increased by a whopping 754 percent the year they signed a contract with Curry.
Under Armour’s success tells us one important thing: the story must be driven through a certain personality. By using the experience, they’ve managed to come up with an excellent story that resonated with a lot of people.
Remember that your storytelling, regardless of whether you create it for a product, a product line, or for your company, should:
- Use stories that contribute to your target customer’s identity and reflect their interests. This ensures that the story would have something your customers can be interested in, which also means that they’d want to know how your brand can make a difference in that
- Establish an emotional connection. The narratives you create should make your customers feel positive emotions, e.g. empower them to do something, appeal to certain emotions or make them feel a part of something special
- Show that you play the role your target customer wants you to play. The customers are the ultimate heroes in your storytelling, as they’re the ones inspiring your content. Your brand, albeit important in giving them the content they need to succeed, should not always play a deciding role in a story
- Engage customers. People like to be a part of stories, so you can give them that chance; for example, you can launch a social media campaign to have them add new chapters to your story. User-generated content can be an excellent way to engage customers and show others how awesome the experience is with your brand.
So, as you can see, storytelling can be a great tool to make your brand or product stand out and get your point across. With so many communication channels to use to share your stories now, there has never been a better time to take advantage of this amazing strategy.
Obviously, you as a business owner play a critical role in this strategy, so hopefully this guide has been helpful to you to realize where to start.
Now, let’s focus on what storytelling means for web designers and how they can help businesses to share their stories in a more meaningful way.
Storytelling for Designers: What You Need to Know
Even though storytelling sounds something that copywriters should take care of, actually this strategy has important implications for design as well.
First and foremost, you as a designer will be an important part of the discussion of how to present your brand’s stories to the audience, and plan the content strategy appropriately.
For example, the way the brand presents its stories to customers can help you to convey the primary message or feeling more accurately. The main hero of the story, as well as the message that you’re trying to convey, need an appropriate setting.
That’s where your skills come in.
“The setting is the graphic or visual design that should be appealing to the intended user in terms of atmosphere and appearance,” explains Kim Denson, a UX writer from Studicus. “It should guide the user through the story to the logical outcome while allowing to communicate important marketing messages in an implicit manner.”
Clearly, a bad choice of graphics and design can hurt the credibility of the story, therefore, undermine the effectiveness of the entire strategy.
Let’s consider an interesting example of a website done with storytelling in mind. Qualcomm, a B2B business specializing in digital communications, uses stories to convey their marketing message as well as explain how they were able to deliver the next-level technology, 5G.
As you can see, the first thing that attracts the attention of visitors on their website are the faces of people who participated in making 5G a reality. If you click at the CTA, you’ll land on a page with a video where the company’s CEO, as well as the technology inventors, explain how they brought it to life.
The video follows the essential storytelling process consisting of 4Ps: People, Place, Plot, and Purpose. The designers did a great job at focusing the attention of the visitors on the video, which means that they had it as one of the critical considerations of page design.
In addition to video, the designers had to think about the ways to show the benefits of the 5G technology in the lives of the company’s customers. They did a great job at using quality visuals that aim to make the viewers visualize the use of 5G in everyday life.
For example, the page below shows that people can use it for safer driving.
The text compliments the overall design well by concisely explaining the benefits of 5G for a specific customer group: drivers. While the copy uses just a bit of tech vocabulary, it’s still doesn’t make the message hard to understand.
To summarize the design takeaways from this website:
- It uses visuals that engage the users and delight the user by showing how the product helps them
- Videos and images show emotions that create experiences that users will remember for a longer period of time
- The typography is fairly readable, even on large imagery
- The website uses a lot of negative space to focus the attention of users on specific content
- The website has a responsive design that ensures a good user experience on a variety of screens (this is a critical consideration since Google uses responsive design as a ranking factor).
Another tremendously important thing that Qualcomm’s storytelling-based website design does is defining customer success. By showing how success looks with their products through the experiences of people, they’re building a vision and eliciting emotion.
This technique makes it easier for people to conceptualize, as they understand very well how their success with the brand’s products looks.
So when should you use the abovementioned storytelling principles and tips in web design? Without a doubt, they’re a great way to go in situations where the customer – the user of your design – may be asking themselves the following while browsing your website, app, or another digital product:
- Why should I trust these people/this brand?
- Are they practicing what they preach?
- Do I really want to click this button?
- Why should I continue scrolling down and read the rest of this?
- Do I want to give these people my email address?
- Am I really interested in what these people have to say?
While trying to fit all these considerations together can be a daunting task, designing with storytelling and your target customer in mind can result in something truly engaging and interesting.
Now you know how to begin your journey in storytelling and start transforming your digital marketing strategy. With more and more online businesses choosing this technique to build trust and loyalty in their audiences, it seems like a perfect time to join them. Clearly, storytelling is something that your business can benefit from big-time, so hopefully this article inspired you to start creating your own story.
As you can see, storytelling is highly relevant to both business owners and web designers. By working together, they can come up with super engaging designs that customers will love to use.
Diana Adjadj is a professional blogger and copywriter who helps businesses to share their messages and connect with more people. According to her, brands have to be connected with communities they serve, so storytelling is one of the best ways to engage them.