How successful businesses are integrating storytelling into their marketing
Marketing is fast evolving. Brands today are maximizing their commercial appeal by leveraging on storytelling. These brands have been aptly able to distinguish their brand message from the noisiness that typifies highly competitive markets, enabling their targeted audience to hear them clearly.
By telling the right story with the right narrative, these brands have been able to emotionally connect with their audience, fluidly sending the message home. Indeed, some of the stories can be thoroughly factual, while there would be parts of the story that are embellished to amplify the emotional reaction from the audience. Nonetheless, all great stories share a base of authenticity.
The efficiency of storytelling is admirable. Brands have found that their audience resonates more with them when they come with the right stories. This is further corroborated with studies showing that the human brain tends to retain (as a sustainable memory) real stories 22x more than they would retain figures and facts alone. The marketing implication of this is even more enticing. Further research has shown that storytelling amplifies conversion rates by 30%.
In this case study, we will examine how brands are integrating storytelling into their marketing campaigns to achieve superior results.
Brands build compelling stories around characters their audience can relate with
The businesses successfully maximizing storytelling today are tapping into their audience's emotions, propagating a good story with characters the audience can readily relate with. With such tangibility of the principal protagonist(s), the audience can bond with the story, making it far more engaging. The characters resonate with the audience, leaving strong impressions on them.
Precisely, these stories are built around protagonists that the audience connects with in real life. This introduces substantial realism to the story. With this realism comes the amplified capacity of the audience to get attached to the central figures in the story, getting drawn in.
This technique was exponentially leveraged – to great results – by Manchester United in its 'Wake Up The Devil Inside You' campaign to consolidate its prominence in China. In this case, Manchester United crafted a story around the famed "red devils" they are well known for. By partnering with Qumin digital creative agency in China, the story blended Manga, gaming, and football to create a perfect marketing campaign that culturally resonated with the average Chinese football fan.
The story revolved around Manchester United stars on a campaign to save the world from invading predatory aliens. The protagonists included the likes of Anthony Martial, Paul Pogba, and then Man United star, Romelu Lukaku. These protagonists were already well known to the audience, magnifying their emotional connection to the story? What more, the story was presented in the massively-adopted Chinese Manga comics, making it even more culturally resonant with the audience.
Brands create powerful stories around conflicts
Conflict is the spice of a compelling story. Many of the brands winning with storytelling marketing don't miss it. These brands know well enough to introduce this crisis to heighten the emotional crescendo of their stories, keeping their audience on their seats (sustainably engaged) all through the story.
To successfully create the perfect conflict in their stories, these brands identify end targets for the characters or protagonists in these stories. These goals will decide the progression from one scene to the other in the story.
These characters would have a motivation powering them on to the end. The conflict in the story is the impediment these characters have to overcome on their way to the endpoint. To overcome this conflict or challenge, they will have to channel into their motivation.
To magnify the emotional response to the story (on the part of the audience), some of these brands go as far as introducing some disaster elements. This is commonly seen in the protagonist almost failing to reach the objective or even failing outrightly and then recovering back.
The goal, which is the protagonist overcoming this crisis, is frequently tied to the protagonist discovering or applying the brand's product or services. This is targeted at propping up the messianic or restorative reputation of the product or service as the element that saves the protagonist.
In a bid to embellish the competitive credibility of that product or service, some brands would introduce elements in the story where the protagonist tries several alternatives but still fails. This brings that sense of immense relief (and emotional climax in the audience) when the character finally discovers this brand's product and uses it. Thus, this brings the much-sought solution finally.
The conflict technique was amply employed by reputed Credit card processing company, Square, in their storytelling campaign. This storytelling campaign was divided into twelve short films, telling stories of "little heroes" in American communities who had to fight their way through adversity.
The severe travails the characters in these stories told were inciting, sucking an emotional response from the audience enough to get them engaged. The audience is naturally curious to see how it all ended; how well the character could overcome the conflict in the story.
So effective was this Square's "For Every Kind of Dream" storytelling campaign, that it won the 2018 Tribeca X Award. This award recognizes powerful content that impeccably weaves together entertainment and advertisement.
According to Square: "All the films in the series feature Square sellers of all types of backgrounds that are bonded by their common dream of entrepreneurship and the risks each of them have taken to become a small business owner.
Brands keep their stories real
The companies integrating storytelling in their marketing tend to keep it realistic. Such authenticity breeds a sense of real-life relevance to the audience. Also, most brand stories lose their appeal if they are directly replicated from previous campaigns by rival brands. Therefore, these brands creatively find a way to merge genuineness with thrill.
These brands keep their stories real, avoiding a significant departure from their brand values or persona. Effectively, the original brand personality must be substantially represented in the story. Because this is the residual image, these brands want their audience to have of them after the campaign.
Guinness perfectly executed this realness in their signature "Made of more" campaign. In this particular series, Guinness aimed to propagate a sense of inclusiveness within the rugby community. To achieve this, Guinness brought in a lot of realism into the story by integrating the first-hand experience of the Japanese women's rugby team, Liberty Fields RFC. This was the first women side to represent Japan in the competition.
The story is set in typical 1989 Tokyo, integrating the then-prevailing social discrimination against women. The story goes on to tell how these brave women fought against all the odds and societally propagated stereotypes of gender-based inferiority to represent Japan at the Rugby Women's World Cup. The campaign featured a real-life documentary of the experiences that prevailed in the Japanese women Liberty Fields rugby team.
The narrative and authenticity all perfectly blended into the contemporary paradigm of women stepping out to own their worlds. In all, the Guinness campaign was inspiring, uplifting, and a huge commercial success.