Illustration for an article on how storytelling principles can be put to use in designing marketing campaigns
August 6, 2019 by Mark Brownlee

How storytelling can supercharge your next marketing campaign

Connecting with your audience is a difficult job.

You not only need to learn about them, but use this understanding to design marketing strategies and tactics that will speak to them on a fundamental level.

It’s a tough ask, and you need all the help you can get – which is why storytelling can be such a huge asset when building marketing campaigns.

Storytelling is an ideal tool for connecting with your audience in a logical, sharable and meaningful manner.

Here is why you should be using principles from the world of storytelling for your next marketing campaign.

Stories are logical

Imagine jumping into the middle of the Harry Potter franchise and trying to figure out what’s going on.

Among the questions you might ask yourself:

  • Why do these kids live in a castle?
  • What’s up with this talking hat?
  • Why are they carrying sticks of wood around?
  • How does this points system work again?
  • Wait, aren’t witches supposed to be bad?

But, because stories are presented logically, this isn’t the case.

If we start watching from the beginning of the series we know the castle is the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the hat is the Sorting Hat, the sticks of wood are wands that help control magic and in fact witches are (mostly) good. Okay, the points system remains inexplicable, but you get the idea.

These same principles can also be put to work when we build out marketing campaigns.

Marketers are always trying to explain things in a way that make sense to audiences.

Not only how a new government policy or company product or association’s service will benefit them, but even how it works in the first place.

By using the principles of storytelling logic we can better explain to our audiences what we need them to know.

Stories are sharable

A key part of marketing is growth. We’re (frequently) trying to get our message out to as many people in as short a period of time as possible.

In this day and age, everyone is trying to go “viral”. But when we aspire to “going viral” we really mean one thing: We want our marketing campaign to be shared.

One person shares it with another, that person shares it with another person and – bang – before we know it it’s everywhere.

How does storytelling play a role in all this?

Because stories were meant to be shared.

That’s why we swap tales of our extra-long morning commute around the breakroom table and how we met our significant others at family get-togethers: Because stories enrich our lives. They help us get to know each other, adding context, nuance, and details we can connect with and relate to on a personal level.

By harnessing the power of storytelling, you can make your brand’s story sharable by humanizing it and making it relatable.

Stories create meaning

The holy grail of any marketing campaign is turning your organization’s value proposition into meaning for your audience.

Remember the old adage “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole.”

It’s a powerful metaphor for any marketing campaign. But it’s also somewhat incomplete.

As Seth Godin writes in his book, This Is Marketing, people don’t necessarily want a quarter-inch hole. They want whatever the quarter-inch hole is going to create.

Maybe it’s to build a new crib for a child that’s on the way. Or perhaps it’s a bookshelf to hold a lifetime of great reading memories.

Whatever it is, the point is this: The real value of any product or service is in the meaning it has for the person you’re trying to reach.

Storytelling is so powerful because it helps to turn a particular set of facts into something that’s a narrative which people can follow and with which they can identify.

Movies are a great example of this. We walk into a theatre with barely any conception of what’s about to take place (perhaps a rough sketch of what the plot is from a commercial or trailer). Then, if the movie’s any good, we emerge a couple of hours later with a deep interest in the characters in their lives.

What’s changed?

Storytelling has transformed a particular set of actions into something that has meaning for the viewer.

You can use storytelling to do the same with your brand.

Mark Brownlee is a digital marketing strategist with Banfield Agency in Ottawa, Canada.

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