Warning: this article might make for an emotional read.
As human beings, we are hardwired to connect with stories on an emotional level. Every interaction we encounter, no matter how large or small, needs to speak to us on a deeper level in order for us to resonate with it. And while we might usually associate this concept with human relationships, it’s no different when it comes to how we market our products and services.
So let’s take a look at how your team can incorporate emotional storytelling into your business development and marketing processes to increase brand awareness, build customer relations and ultimately boost sales.
What is Emotional Storytelling?
Emotional storytelling is a way of conveying a message or idea by evoking specific emotions from the audience. Instead of presenting dry facts, storytelling aims to engage the audience on an emotional level by making them feel happy, sad, empathetic, excited, inspired — or just to make them laugh. The goal is to create a deeper connection with the audience and get your message stuck in their minds.
When a brand uses emotional storytelling as part of their communication approach, they’ll often introduce characters, conflicts and resolutions to move the audience through the narrative and make it easier for them to relate to it.
A great example of this is in Nintendo’s ‘Two Brothers’ commercial, which tells the story of how two brothers rekindled their dwindling relationship through the shared love of video games — an emotional rollercoaster guaranteed to tug at the heartstrings.
Another classic is Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Be’ campaign. Started in 2010, Old Spice were keen to shake off their reputation of being for the -cough- older gentleman, so they created an online commercial full of absurd and fast-paced humor targeted at younger generations. This video, featuring Isaiah Amir Mustafa, is memorable for all the right reasons, with quote-able and meme-able content that is still loved to this day.
Emotional storytelling in branding
So, how does emotional storytelling relate to branding? The first thing to remember is just how many different aspects go into a company’s brand. While many people may just think of logos, fonts and color palettes, a brand actually encompasses pretty much every element of a business — it’s the whole identity.
While historically we may have been able to rely on simple graphic designs to differentiate ourselves from others in the market, there is now a much bigger focus on building human connections and communities.
With emotional storytelling, you’re able to connect with audiences on a personal and relatable level, sharing stories that create a bond and loyalty that weren’t possible in the past.
The way a brand presents itself to its audience is what makes it stand out. Even in the most crowded of market places, if you have a message that everyone knows and remembers, you will always be their first choice.
Benefits of Brand-Focused Emotive Storytelling
Not convinced yet? Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of emotive storytelling and how it can help you build long-lasting relationships with your audience.
1. Building brand identity
Emotional storytelling marketing will help you build a strong brand identity in a competitive marketplace. By sharing stories that align with your brand values and mission, you can forge a genuine and memorable connection with potential and existing customers. In fact, 71% of customers recommend a brand based on their emotional connection to it.
Patagonia, for example, is a sustainable fashion brand with a strong focus on sustainable, eco-friendly practices. Their ‘Stories We Wear’ series tells the stories of the people who wear their clothing — and more specifically, how long those clothes last without needing to be replaced. Their aim is to draw in eco-conscious audiences to support the brand, share in their message and feel as though they’re part of the wider picture.
2. Enhancing your customer experience
Emotional storytelling isn’t just something that’s used in marketing videos. When you’ve got a good message, it should be absolutely everywhere; from your in-store displays to your website and social media interactions. This helps drive your story home, making it more memorable and keeping you top of mind. This enhances the overall customer journey and reinforces the emotional connection with the brand.
3. Humanizing your brand
One of the best things about emotional storytelling is how it can bring the people within your brand to life. Not necessarily the ones who started it, or even the people who work there, but the customers who actually use your products and services and benefit from it. It gives you the opportunity to showcase their stories and successes and bring that human touch back to what you’re doing. Tesco did this really well with their ‘Tesco Food Love Stories’ series, with real customers sharing their favorite recipe, while sharing personal stories these recipes helped them get through.
4. Increase in sales
Let’s be honest. None of this would be worthwhile for any brand if they weren’t seeing any results from their marketing efforts. But fear not — emotive storytelling isn’t just about making people feel something. It’s also about making them want to buy something. You see, when stories evoke desire, aspiration, or a sense of urgency, customers are more inclined to buy. Think about it. When you see someone in an advert enjoying themselves, being successful, reaching their goals, you want what they have. And of course, you can have it, if you buy whatever it is they’ve got.
Take a look at Nike’s ‘What Will They Say About You?’ commercial. Its aim is to inspire women across the world and of all ages to achieve their goals and do something special — and boy, does it achieve that.
The facts talk for themselves on this one. Research has found that emotionally triggering ads can persuade a whopping 70% of viewers to buy a product. Definitely not something you want to ignore.
How to Use Emotional Storytelling in Sales
Now that you’re completely bought into the idea of using emotive storytelling in your marketing strategies, you might be wondering how to actually implement it in a way that’s not only relevant for your audience, but also memorable. Here are some of the key steps you need to take to get started.
1. Get to know your audience
This step may seem like an obvious one, but you’d be amazed at how many brands seem to skip this step when they’re coming up with their marketing messaging. While something might resonate with you and your team, the people you’re speaking to likely have completely different wants, needs and goals. It’s up to you to find out what these are and build your storytelling campaign in a way that’s tailored to these. Do this, by investing in market research, competitive analysis or by even talking directly to your existing customers in-person, via telephone or a simple survey.
2. Identify which emotions relate to them and your brand
The way you speak to your audience and the stories you tell will be hugely dependent on who you are as a company. What do you sell? Who do you help? Why do you do it? Think about the kinds of emotions that will resonate with your consumers and create your campaigns around these. The last thing you want is an audience who are left completely baffled by your messaging.
3. Craft a compelling story
Now it’s time for the fun part — bringing your story to life. Take time to develop a well-crafted narrative that aligns with your brand’s values and purpose, making sure you include a clear beginning, middle and end. Use relatable characters with compelling conflicts — by building a story that your audience can understand and resonate with. You can focus on any story you like; whether it’s that of your founders, your staff, your customers, or the industry you’re in. It’s important that you’re always authentic in your storytelling, avoiding exaggeration or any deliberate misleading. You want your audience to trust you and go on the journey with you.
4. Put your customer at the center of your story
We cannot stress the following point enough: your customer should always be the main character of your story. While you may like the idea of creating content that focuses on your brand and all the amazing things you do, the chances are this will fall flat on its face. The more you can talk about your customers and their stories, the more people will see themselves in your narrative and want to be a part of your community.
5. Utilize different media
As we mentioned briefly above, the story you tell should be threaded through every part of your brand. This could be through blog writing, testimonials, images or video — pretty much anywhere your audience interacts with you. Video is an especially strong method for emotive brand storytelling, giving you the opportunity to combine audio and visual elements to evoke a powerful emotional response from your audience. It’s almost like an immersive experience; taking them on a journey packed with authentic human connections that are likely to influence their behavior.
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4 Brands that Leverage the Power of Storytelling
Want to get an even better understanding of how to bring your story to life in a way that captivates your audience? Let’s take a look at some examples of brands that are absolutely killing it with their storytelling skills.
Dove have positioned themselves firmly in the seat of the social and human activist. They put a huge focus on creating products for real people; lumps, bumps, scars and all. With campaigns such as the Dove Self Esteem Project, they continue to promote the importance of inner beauty and looking after yourself. Their campaigns always center around real people, of all shapes, sizes, genders and nationalities. They want their audience to see themselves in their messaging and relate to them on a closer level than you would with just any old skincare product.
IKEA’s brand message centers around making their customers feel at home. Which, as a furniture brand, is both obvious and clever! The adverts that we’ve all come to know and love often take us on completely different emotional journeys — with childlike humor of the ‘Every Home Should Be a Haven’ advert, or the ‘Bring Home to Life’ commercial, a creative take on how we decorate our homes enables family life.
Airbnb is quite unique in the way they have two distinct and very different audiences; guests and hosts. Their campaigns often have to speak to both, bringing them together and inspiring to be part of their mission.
Their ‘Belong Anywhere’ campaign gave the audience an idea of what someone might expect from the Airbnb experience, moving away from a typical message of ‘going on vacation’, and encouraging them to experience somewhere as a local. Airbnb don’t just put their customers at the center of their stories — their customers are the brand itself.
There aren’t many people out there who haven’t heard of Starbucks. And while they do a great job promoting their products, they also put a huge amount of effort into talking about their customers. Their ‘To be Human’ series is a set of heartwarming interviews with real-life customers that come to their shops. In their own words, “If you walk up to a perfect stranger sitting at a Starbucks, will they share their story?”
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