What drives us to buy and acquire new products, goods, or services? Our needs or our wants?
When it comes to the indispensable factors in our lives, we agree that it is our needs. For the rest, our wants.
While necessary purchases are guided by practical and objective reasoning, purchases motivated by our wants are entirely subjective and irrational.
By talking directly about your product data and positive aspects, you attract new customers due to necessity.
Since our needs are very restricted, revenue based on them may not be enough for your company to grow.
If you want to outperform the competition and really grow your business, you need to connect emotionally with your customers and make your product desirable — not just necessary.
To do so, there is no more effective method than to tell stories. Not just any story, but rather very well-developed, strategic, detail-rich storytelling that is part of your target audience’s worldview.
Before explaining how to do this, we need to address some concepts. Continue with us to find out:
What is storytelling?
In practice, storytelling is a set of narrative techniques inspired by screenwriters and novelists designed to turn any content into a unique journey for the reader, develop an emotional connection, and convey a message.
Based on your experience with movies, series, and pop culture in general, you know that not every story manages to hook and delight its audience.
Likewise, some narratives may arouse love in one person but hatred or indifference in another.
This is because there are several layers and elements in building a good storytelling strategy.
How to tell a good story?
There is no secret recipe or magic formula. There are even some frameworks, such as the Hero’s Journey, which we will cover.
But blindly following it is no guarantee of success. You need to understand the storytelling construction process to create a good story.
Understand your audience’s worldview
Much more than understanding who your target audience is, you need to know your ideal customer in-depth:
- What are their pains?
- Their desires?
- Their goals?
- Their main challenges?
Based on these insights, you have a starting point for creating your content and can start brainstorming ways to reach your buyer persona.
Choose where to set your story
Knowing where your story takes place — or where you will disseminate it — is just as important as understanding your audience.
If you choose to build an actual narrative, its setting should be related to the worldview you already know.
When promoting your content, it is necessary to identify the environments in which you would be more likely to find your target audience.
Develop the conflict properly
Based on your buyer persona’s pains and challenges, you need to develop the conflict in your materials and propose solutions to achieve their desires and goals.
It is not enough to just mention the pain. That is too simple and does not develop an emotional connection.
You must go deeper into the conflict, creating a whole scenario that clarifies the problems if the pain is not addressed and develops a journey that presents the solution.
Convey your message in an unforgettable way
Most of the time, the message is related to the solution of the conflict.
What you must understand is that your audience needs to undergo a transformation when consuming your content.
If they remain the same person — with no new experiences or knowledge — you have failed to deliver your message.
For your content to be impactful, you need to present a conflict and a solution: realistic and clear. That way, you are guaranteed to emotionally connect with your buyer persona.
Do you want an example of how superficial confrontations jeopardize a piece of content?
Think about the last romantic comedy movie you watched. The one where everything is resolved in the blink of an eye and you knew the ending right from the first scene.
What was the message it conveyed to you? Would you recommend it to others?
This is exactly what weak storytelling does to your materials. You certainly don’t want to turn your content and your company’s brand into a romantic comedy.
How to apply storytelling in Marketing?
Ironically, this is an article about telling stories, but no narrative has been presented so far.
This is because Storytelling involves many other techniques and nuances that you can work on.
The applications of storytelling art also go far beyond mere texts and scripts.
A well-formed storytelling strategy can captivate your audience, develop an emotional connection, generate brand awareness, and leverage your sales.
Besides the classic concepts of Content Marketing regarding the buyer persona, it is possible to seek inspiration in narrative techniques to structure your content.
Even if you don’t tell a story per se, structure your content to turn it into a journey for the audience — with beginning, middle, and ending very well evidenced by the linking of ideas and scannability.
There is a highly subtle practice in email marketing that brings greater familiarity and encourages the recipient to open messages: the email signature.
What happens if the email marketer signs the email? There is a reasonable chance that the recipient does not know them, and there is also the problem that this professional may eventually be replaced.
So it isn’t easy to create a connection and familiarity through the sender’s name.
Therefore, the person who usually signs the emails should be an influential person in the company and with great market visibility.
Branding and Brand Management
What story does your company say to the market?
We are not talking about a purpose, a manifesto, or the cultural values that can be displayed on your website, but rather about what is implied.
If your company ceased to exist today, what would your customers miss?
Taking Rock Content as an example: if you know the idea of Content Marketing and are interested in learning about storytelling to improve your strategy, we take great merit in that.
Since 2013, we have been educating the market on how to work and develop Digital Marketing strategies.
That’s what we offer to our clients: market education — to generate value for the audience and, consequently, perform business.
With this value comes the possibility of gaining authority — that’s how we became the largest Content Marketing company in Brazil.
However, talking about yourself to promote yourself can sound quite arrogant and boring.
For this reason, it is important to let other people tell this story for you.
Success stories and client testimonials
Publishing and sharing stories of successful partnerships is the best way to show the effectiveness of your work.
Instead of simply talking directly about how you can help new customers, show success stories you have achieved.
This way, you let other people promote your work for you, and you also make the audience feel like it could be them telling that story and achieving the same results.
Now, let’s talk about the framework of a story so that you can take it as a basis and build your own.
We can fit many famous and successful stories into a specific pattern of sequences and elements: from the Bible to Harry Potter, through fables, Greek mythology, Star Wars, fairy tales, and contemporary comedies.
What is the Hero’s Journey
In his book “The Hero of a Thousand Faces“, Joseph Campbell presents us with the Hero’s Journey, or Monomyth, a study that shows the presence of a narrative pattern in famous and exciting stories.
According to the author, all stories revolve around a hero, who can be either a hero as such, like Hercules, or a subjective one.
This hero goes through many situations and faces various elements, which can be perceived as patterns in many stories.
Have a look at an applied example of the Hero’s Journey and try to fit other tales you know into this cycle.
1. The importance of the introduction
“Frodo was a hobbit who had a quiet life in the Shire.”
The introduction is an essential element in the structure of your story.
This is the time to locate the character, the location, the environment, and the situation they are in before “something” happens.
Here begins the process of generating empathy so that the audience can identify with the hero.
This connection is fundamental for awakening the viewer’s interest and identification with the story.
2. Introducing the problem
“One day, Frodo was introduced to a new world, which contained a challenge that seemed impossible to overcome.”
The presentation of the problem should come right after the introduction.
It should not take too long between one and the other. After all, presenting the problem ensures that curiosity acts as a connecting element between your audience and your story.
This problem can be supernatural, mundane, a psychological situation, or even a pain similar to your buyer persona.
It doesn’t have to be something miraculous, as long as it arouses identification.
3. Refusal to accept the call
“Frodo refused to go, because he thought himself weak and powerless.”
You must not underestimate the problem in your story.
Many times, the hero thinks of giving up and has several arguments for believing that they will not be able to accomplish such a task or overcome such a challenge.
Here you present the impediments the hero holds that may discourage them from trying to achieve victory.
4. Offering Help
“However, Frodo had Gandalf, a mentor who would guide and help him on his journey.
In addition, he had the company of good friends and was given items, such as a sword, that would help him overcome adversity. So he decides to go.”
At this point, the hero finds the thing that will help to accomplish the goal.
It is common to have a mentor figure, someone who will always protect and guide the protagonist, conveying security and affection.
5. Overcoming in stages
“Frodo, then, leaves his life in the Shire and sets out toward the Unknown. On the way, powerful villains test his courage, but he finds more and more strength to overcome each succeeding stage.”
Even though they have the help of their mentors and their powerful items, the hero will not find an easy path ahead.
New challenges will arise, and with each new stage, new ways to overcome conflicts and obstacles will be discovered.
All this can be considered training, a refinement, or purging of fears — preparing the hero to deal with the final great challenge.
6. The final challenge
“Frodo, at the end of it all, close to accomplishing his goal, undergoes an ultimate challenge of character and faces his most powerful enemy: his own fear.”
In almost all stories that follow the monomyth pattern, the hero can only overcome his last great challenge by overcoming his own fears.
This is the moment to inspire confidence and faith in your buyer persona.
They will cheer for the hero’s victory and will believe that, with all the elements at their disposal, all it takes to get out of that situation is the initiative to overcome their own barriers.
7. Resolution and conclusion
“Frodo manages to get rid of the Ring, thanks to the help of his friends, and finally defeats evil. After all, he returns to his home, but as a much wiser man than before.”
This is the moment to highlight the hero’s transformation and how it impacted their initial life.
The overcoming of the conflict and the protagonist’s change build the message to be conveyed by the plot.
Now that we have covered all the elements and steps necessary to build a good story, it is worth making one final aspect clear.
It’s not enough to tell a good story; you have to live it in practice
In terms of marketing, digital transformation, and the massive flow of information we face, it is not easy to build a reputation — not even based on a story. But it takes only a tweet to lose all credibility.
Therefore, it is not enough to compose a flawless story if it does not match your company or your product.
What are some examples of how not to use Storytelling?
An excellent example of what not to do is Lennox, an international supplier of heating, ventilation, air conditioning, and refrigeration.
To create greater proximity with the public and generate an atmosphere of familiarity, Lennox resorted to a strategy similar to what we mentioned above when talking about email marketing.
When calling to get in touch with the supplier, you would find a recording of its founder, Dave Lennox, answering the phone with incredible enthusiasm and making you feel like you were really part of the family.
So far, so good. Unless you had a problem with a piece of equipment and really needed to get in touch.
Then, you would find out that you wouldn’t find the Dave that you welcomed so well.
Not only because he was not at Lennox, but because he passed away in 1947, and the company started using an actor to play him in the advertisements.
Worse than Dave not being there, his ghost was not there either — the level of customer service was considerably low, frustrating customers and making them feel misled.
Sears and Sandy Hurricane
In the midst of Hurricane Sandy, which hit the United States in 2012, the Sears department store had a bad idea to use the hashtag #HurricaneSandy to promote its products.
The repercussion, of course, was terrible.
What are some examples of well-crafted Storytelling?
Always: like a girl
In this campaign, Always use a phrase and idea often used in a derogatory way: “you are doing this like a girl”.
However, the campaign shattered this expectation and used the sentence to show women’s power and to disarm prejudice.
The result is that, even though it was launched in 2014, these advertising pieces continue to be the subject and reference in content like the one you are reading.
Charity Water is a non-profit organization with the goal of providing clean drinking water to developing countries experiencing scarcity.
Founded in 2006, the organization has funded more than 64,000 projects and brought clean water to more than 29 countries and 12 million people.
To achieve such results, Charity Water relies mainly on storytelling. This involves both the discourse in the campaigns and their filming style.
Instead of focusing on guilt, the organization turns all publicity into opportunities to transform people’s lives.
In this way, Charity Water shows us that:
- stories are more impactful than facts;
- stories are more easily remembered;
- stories provide an emotional connection;
- stories provide a context for the audience;
- stories empower people to take action.
Therefore, after telling a story, you need to understand that your audience’s journey does not end there.
So, try to understand what your next step should be, and extend that invitation to them.
To continue learning about storytelling, check out more of our content. In this webinar, you can watch specialist Marcus Andrews talking about narrative design and its applications.