Narrative Design: How Product Marketers Can Tell a Story People Can’t Ignore

Narrative Design: How Product Marketers Can Tell a Story People Can’t Ignore

Social media and Inbound Marketing always give positive results for marketing strategies. 

But what happens with time if everyone realizes this? That’s right, when all brands want to stand out in a medium, very few of them actually succeed.

In competitive fields such as Digital Marketing, just doing what worked for some won’t guarantee it will work for you too. Understanding what your product’s story is and creating a unique, compelling strategy is the right approach.

That’s what Narrative Design is about for marketers. In this post, we will go over the following topics:

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    What is Narrative Design?

    To give you a better understanding of what Narrative Design is, we can take a look at a different professional position that shares the same denomination, even if they aren’t exactly related. 

    We need to talk about video games. Unlike movies, in a game, you can’t predict how a story will be exactly told, because a lot of it depends on the player’s interaction. 

    So how do you engage them from the start and make sure your narrative is fresh, compelling, and unique?

    These professionals build a world around their product — in this case, the story. They create a believable scenario with their own rules and limitations, and they give the players a chance to be a part of it. 

    Great stories in video games aren’t made just of text displayed on the screen. It is in every element of itself.

    So how does all of this relate to marketing? 

    Think about the tools you have at your disposal right now to build a brand and call the audience’s attention to a product: Content MarketingLive Experiences, Social Media, niched discussions.

    Engagement and interaction are now part of the game marketers play. Positioning your product in the same spaces where there is already competition will only make it be seen as another one in the mix.

    Here is where Narrative Design becomes a concept for Digital Marketing. 

    Creating a story for a product and inviting people to be a part of it can take you out of the existing categories and create a new room in their minds, just for that brand.

    In more objective terms, Narrative Design is a strategy to create a unique story for a product and plan the content streaming that will deliver it in an engaging way to the buyer persona.

    What is the difference between Narrative Design and Product Positioning?

    To better understand Narrative Design, we can compare it to the closest concept most CMOs already know: Product Positioning. They seem to be the same thing at first, but their approaches make a world of difference.

    Product Positioning is a strategy that became more accessible to companies as software and services evolved to bring solutions on how to plan and distribute content. 

    The idea is to create a story for your branding that shifts the audience’s perception about it, as something they have never seen in your competitors, and they feel that can be a part of their daily lives.

    To exemplify this difference, we can think about Apple and Samsung’s strategies back at the beginning of the smartphone era. The iPhone was thought of entirely from a Narrative Design point of view. They not only showed us a better device but a new world that we now live in.

    On the other hand, Samsung made their first modern smartphones with a different, cheaper, and more practical approach. 

    Seeing the competition’s success, they created a new series to build the same premium image — the Galaxy S. While Apple did Narrative Design, Samsung did Product Positioning.

    The first iPhone and the first Galaxy S
    The first iPhone and the first Galaxy S

    Neither approach is wrong. They both have their time and place to be used — they can even be activated simultaneously. 

    But it is undeniable that one of them is more powerful in fixating brands in people’s minds. 

    Those who create a new category will always be viewed as a trendsetter while that category exists.

    Why are marketers using Narrative Design?

    You probably are already thinking about the positive consequences of that difference. But why not dive deeper? 

    Here are some ways you can impact a product’s perception with Narrative Design!

    Being more than a tool

    A product sold only to be the answer to a need is just a tool. A product that combines function with form and context is much more. The costumer of the future is looking for meaning and identification when consuming a brand. Nothing can bring out those feelings more than good storytelling.

    Being more engaging and persuasive

    There is a reason why interactive strategies are becoming more popular among marketers in the digital field. 

    Engagement creates a stronger bond between customer and brand.

    Narrative Design can bring to marketing the same power we discussed in video games. 

    When a story pulls the buyer persona into a product’s world and allows them to be a part of it, the brand gets more shares, more discussions, and more conversions as a result.

    Lowering the CAC

    Every CMO noticed this in recent years: customer-acquisition costs are rising, exactly because there are so many players fighting for their space. 

    Trying to force your way into the crowd can work sometimes, but differentiation is always the best approach.

    If Narrative Design creates interaction, that’s a sure path to lower that investment. 

    Engaged prospects are more prone to follow the buyer’s journey and share their experience along the way — increasing the reach of your acquisition channels.

    Leaving a mark

    Even if you have the best product, it won’t guarantee that the public sees it that way. 

    After all, every brand says they are the best.

    How do you convince people you are the one telling the truth?

    Nothing does that better than a good story. Narrative Design can not only create a new category in which your product is the leader but also make the story connected to it be remembered for years.

    Let’s go back to the iPhone example. More than 10 years later, its first keynote is still a case studied by marketers worldwide. 

    Why can’t you also do that with the right narrative for your audience, even if on a smaller scale?

    How can you prepare your team to start a Narrative Design strategy?

    Obviously, Narrative Design demands planning, data, and really hard work. 

    If it was like a switch to make it happen, every marketer would be doing it. And what is the point of doing the same as everyone if your goal is exactly to stand out?

    The problem here is that many companies, and even some CMOs, are always looking for a formula that will never exist

    Developing a Narrative Design strategy is about knowing your public, your product, and the world you want to create. 

    Let’s see how you can start doing it!

    1. Get even more data about your target audience

    When planning strategies, marketers are already used to data gathering — about the buyer persona, the competition, the best channels to use. But to create your own category based on a narrative, you’ll need more than that.

    The protagonist of your story will always be your customer, but how can they be introduced into your product’s world in a valuable way? 

    What pains do they have that every brand is trying to solve, and how can you make a story with a new, fascinating journey that they can’t find in other content?

    So this is not only about age, habits and financial situation. It is also about aspirations, dreams, and meaningful emotions. 

    A brand needs to know its audience’s lives better to find the right space in them for its product.

    2. Consolidate the world and invest in all kinds of content

    Narrative Design needs to have a cohesive world, understandable rules, and a path to guide your customer. It means that what will consolidate your campaign will be the map you layout for it.

    Your world map is all the content you create to tell your story, the ways you invite the buyer persona to be a part of it, and your distribution channels. 

    As we mentioned, Interactive Content can be a great place to start.

    The most important thing when telling a story is the balance between setups and pay-offs. Build the hype and deliver it

    When you get the whole plan done before putting it to action, it’s easier to find these major plot points, how you can reinforce them, and the shortest path to the end of the journey: your product as a brand-new category in which it reigns absolute. 

    3. Build your own saga

    When a marketer succeeds in using Narrative Design, the result is a product known for its innovation and disruptiveness. But that aura won’t last much if you stop there.

    Like the great literature sagas, you can think about this strategy as a first chapter that asks for sequels. 

    You can go back to the first plan and build a new one whenever you see the need for a new product positioning or even another transformation. 

    Narrative Design has this power. And remember that audiences love a good plot twist.

    Want to know more about the planning and execution of great Narrative Design strategies? 

    Watch our recorded Webinar Jam SessionNarrative Design: How product marketers can tell a story people can’t ignore — an interview with Marcus Andrews!


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