Human-to-human connection should be at the heart of marketing. Storytelling as it relates to your brand is crucial for reinforcing these bonds. Stories can give your brand a powerful voice and something consumers can relate to. The most successful brands like Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are masterful storytellers that connect with their users through authentic, human stories, suggesting that storytelling is a must for growing your brand and building a base of loyal brand advocates.
In the ever-changing marketing landscape, if brands want to be successful, they can no longer take the “all about me” position; consumers want the focus on them. Therefore, according to Jon Hamm’s Adweek article  “Why Agencies and Brands Need to Embrace True Storytelling,” brands need to move away from thinking about branded content and embrace true storytelling. Stories allow the audience to develop their own imagery and detail, thereby co-creating. Whereas content is primarily created in the internal mind of the content originator, without being mindful of the context of the audience.
According to Daniel Newman’s “In the Age of Experience : The Best Brands Tell Better Stories and Make You a Part of Them,” consumers don’t want to be “sold at”—to have advertisement pushed in their faces. We are in the age of “me,” where the best content is:
- Entertaining with heart and soul (not business stats).
- Involves consumers, understands their needs, and makes them the main character of the story.
- Makes consumers feel something about your brand but more importantly, feel something about themselves.
Truly great storytellers like Apple, which has been identified as the top storytelling brand in the UK for the fourth year in a row, according to creative agency Aesop’s 2016 research , recognize that the most powerful stories happen in the mind of the audience, making every story unique and personal for the individual. Apple’s brand story—technology can be beautiful and human as well as functional—is clear in its storytelling about what it looks like for customers to successfully use Apple products. Apple’s TV spots for the iPhone 6S put its customers at the center of the story: the spots don’t linger on close-up shots of the iPhone and how sleek and pretty it is. They show relatable people using the iPhone to do cool things that make their everyday life more productive, entertaining, and connected. An emotional connection is what drives Apple consumers to be loyal. It explains why people sleep on the street, waiting for the latest iPhone release—not because the camera has been improved from 8-to 12-megapixels.
The ROI of Brand Storytelling
Research from co:collective looked at the impact of brand storytelling on the financial performance of 42 publically traded companies. It found brand storytelling to have a significantly greater impact on brand engagement than traditional advertising. This higher level of engagement led to increased ROI:
- In 2011, when comparing the number of social media mentions for traditional branding/advertising messages versus storytelling, the latter approach garnered 1900 percent more mentions.
- Of those, storytelling prompted 10 percent more positive mentions
- These companies spent almost two-thirds less on paid media per dollar of revenue.
- From 2008-2013, these companies experienced almost double the number of social media mentions compared with traditional branding/advertising approaches.
- Their annualized revenue growth rate from 2007-2011 was 70 percent
- And their annualized share price growth was 227 percent
How To Tell Your Story
As brands, we need to remind ourselves of why we started—tell the nitty-gritty, get-your-hands-dirty part of our start-up that once meant the world to us and ignites the passion of why we do what we do. These are stories people want to hear. The vulnerability we reveal in our storytelling will humanize our brands and our companies, and make what we do that much more relatable. When shaping our story, we need to understand the brand’s full narrative and which parts of the story we need to create, which to co-create with the audience, and which to leave to the audience to impart and complete their own meaning. Our job as a storyteller is to harness the magic that can come from storytelling to evoke in our audience, an emotion, and to connect with them in an authentic and human way.