The Storytelling Pyramid in Marketing: How Freytag Can Help You

How can you use Digital Storytelling in your Business Strategy?

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Think for a moment about how many ads and slogans you’ve been bombarded with during the last 24 hours.

They’re literally everywhere, from billboards, leaflets, newspapers, and magazines to online ads that follow us across the internet. Even when we’re trying to relax, there are ads on TV, too.

Now think about how many of those ads you still remember right now. Chances are, if an ad has stuck in your mind, it’s because it had a great story that drew you in.

Storytelling really is an art, and it’s one that you can apply to your marketing to increase your likelihood of connecting with your audience and making the sale.

It works for any type of digital marketing, including social media content creation and SEO content creation.

In this article, we’re going to look at why storytelling is important in marketing, what the storytelling pyramid (or Freytag’s pyramid) is, and how you can use it to structure your stories for better effect.

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    The Importance of Storytelling in Marketing

    According to HubSpot, “Stories solidify abstract concepts and simplify complex messages.” Stories help us understand new ideas, look at the world from someone else’s point of view, and accept, or at least acknowledge, a different opinion than our own.

    And in marketing, storytelling can really draw your audience in and sell for you. You can bring people into your story and have them sympathize with the main character and the problem that they face.

    Situations, concepts, and ideas can become completely relatable. You can teach your audience that the solution to their problem is what you sell.

    Good brand storytelling enhances your reputation and increases the public’s knowledge of your brand. You can have your audience picturing themselves buying your product or service and imagining the results they’ll get.

    Storytelling allows businesses to create a deeper and more emotional connection with their target audience. A well-crafted story can help brands to communicate their values, mission, and unique selling proposition in a way that is engaging, memorable, and relatable.

    You could bring your audience to a point where they are convincing themselves to buy what you sell and justify the purchase.

    Storytelling really is extremely powerful, and there’s no need to limit it to fiction. Not when it can have such a positive impact on your marketing.

    What Is The Storytelling Pyramid

    The storytelling pyramid is more commonly known as Freytag’s Pyramid. It was invented by German novelist Gustave Freytag during the 19th century.

    Freytag wanted to better describe the dramatic structure of a novel, and he came up with a pyramid-shaped diagram that shows the five different elements of a story.

    He believed that these elements include:

    1. Introduction

    This is the beginning of the story and involves what Freytag termed “Exposition.” The author sets the stage while introducing characters and the current situation. World-building is part of the introduction as well.

    This phase also includes the “Exciting Force,” which some people call the “Inciting Incident.” This is the point when either an outside influence forces the protagonist to take action and get involved in the story or the protagonist makes a choice to do so.

    2. Rising movement or rising action

    This is the part of the story where the tension rises and so does the action. It leads toward the climax.

    3. Climax

    For Freytag, the climax came at the midpoint of the story. If the story was a tragedy, things began to go very much downhill for the protagonist. If the author planned a happy ending, the situation began to get better and lead toward a satisfactory conclusion.

    Modern versions of this pyramid tend to push the climax back to the last two-thirds of the story or even further back. But as long as you keep this structure in mind, you can adapt it to suit your story.

    4. Falling action

    The story runs to its conclusion from here. This is where you will begin to wrap up your story and draw any conclusions or morals from it.

    5. Catastrophe or denouement

    Freytag focused entirely on writing tragedies, so for him, the last part of the story was always a catastrophe. The final portion is otherwise known as the denouement, where the story is finally finished off and the reader can relax.

    You can see why this works quite well for novels, though there are other structures that may work better depending on the type of story, genre, and other factors.

    However, what does this story structure do for marketers?

    Well, just like a novelist, when you’re putting together a marketing campaign or ad, you need to plan out what you will do. Freytag’s Pyramid gives you a clear structure that will aid your storytelling and provide a coherent narrative for your audience.

    Freytag's pyramid simplified diagram

    How to Use The Storytelling Pyramid to Create Stories That Resonate With Your Audience

    While some novelists “pants” their stories and make them up as they write, many others do plan their stories out.

    As a marketer, you need to think about your audience. Who is going to consume this content, whether it’s an ad, blog post, video, or something else?

    What is the aim of your content? What do you want the audience to do once they’ve consumed the content?

    How do you want people to react throughout the story? Do you want them to empathize and relate, or are you going for shock value because you want them to react against part of the story and come to the conclusion that they need your solution?

    Think about these questions, and be sure that you have the answers as you work through the storytelling pyramid.

    1. Introduction

    Here, you need to determine how you’re going to quickly capture your audience’s attention, set the stage for your story, and make sure people react to your main character in the desired way.

    You will need an inciting incident to move the story to the next point and make your main character take action, just as you would in a novel.

    2. Rising movement

    You’re piling on the stakes and the tension in this section, all leading up to the climax of your story.

    Think about what will get your audience’s attention and keep it. You want them to watch and pay attention. In fact, you want them not to be able to look away.

    Think about how you’re going to get your point across and how you’ll make them want your product or service. How will you introduce it?

    3. Climax

    Here, you’ve got to decide whether you’re going to surprise your audience, make them laugh, or thrill them… What suits the story you’re telling and the impact you want to have? How can you keep them thinking about your content tomorrow?

    4. Falling action

    Start to wrap up your story, and bring in more details about your product or service. Add a subtle call to action or an example of how your product has helped the character in the story.

    5. Denouement

    Finish the story to satisfy your audience. You want them to feel good at this point, and you want them to feel satisfied. Leave them at a memorable point that they’ll think about when your story is over and they’ve moved on to other things.

    Don’t forget to add a call to action that will get them to take the next step.

    Really, it doesn’t matter whether you’re making a video or writing an article. You can use this structure to make your storytelling more powerful and impactful.

    Storytelling Examples in Marketing

    Here are just a couple of examples to show you how powerful storytelling can be. Use them to inspire your own stories:


    When you buy from TOMS, you can be sure that you’re doing good at the same time. Check out the Impact page on their website.

    They take you through a great story of how they provide mental health resources to people and spend one-third of their profits “in support of grassroots organizations focused on creating more equity at the local level.”

    It’s well planned out and organized to make you want to continue watching and reading. And don’t you feel warm and fuzzy afterward as you ponder the idea of buying what you want and helping others at the same time?

    Love Has No Labels

    The NFL used a kiss cam to zoom in on a man and woman seated next to each other in the crowd. Most people probably expected them to kiss, but the man leaned over and kissed his male partner instead. It confounded expectations and made us think.

    The ad showed other examples of the same idea of challenging stereotypes. There was no product for sale. The whole point was to challenge people’s perceptions and associate the brand with values of diversity and inclusion, and it worked beautifully.

    The point of this storytelling structure is that it’s very familiar to all of us, even if we didn’t know what it was called. Most of us have been listening to stories since we were children and we know when a story isn’t working for us, even if we can’t put our finger on why.

    Following a proper story structure helps you stick to the things that work when creating your digital content.

    If storytelling isn’t your area of expertise or you’d like a little help with your content creation, why not hand your stories and content over to our team of talented writers at WriterAccess? You can try WriterAccess for 14 days at no cost and see what a difference our writers can make in your marketing campaigns.

    Why not sign up and enjoy two whole weeks of access to over 15,000 professional writers for free?


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