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What is storytelling marketing?

Storytelling marketing is a cohesive narrative that seamlessly weaves together the facts and emotions that a brand evokes. Here’s why it’s so powerful.

There was once a cute little duckling, whose life was all about hanging out with his parents, swimming in a pond and never leaving the tiny field in which they lived. In his imagination, though, he was free and living out the most exciting of duck adventures.

This little duck had found a discarded comic book and spent all his spare time reading and re-reading his beloved comic.

Then came the time his parents announced they were flying south for winter, and the poor little duckling was forced to leave his comic book behind. Heartbroken, little duckling followed his parents through the sky… but wait! Where were they taking him?

As the warm sun rose, to the absolute delight of little ducking, the family lands at Disneyland Paris, where waiting to greet him was none other than his hero, Donald Duck!

Now Disney could have run an ad telling people that Disneyland Paris is a place where the dreams of children come true, but that wouldn’t have come close to evoking emotions or been as memorable as the little duck story they decided to use as the centrepiece of their marketing.

And that, my little ducklings, is why storytelling marketing is being embraced by some of the world’s best-loved brands, and why you should incorporate it into your marketing too.

What is storytelling marketing?

Broadly, marketing aims to do two things: inform customers about you and your product or service (e.g. you are a family-run business that sells environmentally friendly cleaning products) and create the emotions you want to have associated with your brand (e.g. caring, nurturing, healthy and happy). Storytelling allows marketers to tick both those boxes.

Storytelling marketing is the creation of a narrative that tells customers about you and your product and services while building solid brand perception.

Storytelling marketing creates emotional responses by weaving facts into a narrative. A story might tell us that texting while driving increases your chance of a serious accident by 23 per cent, but it’s when we read about the young man who lost three of his friends due to an accident that he caused that we decide to put away our phones when in the car.

Why is storytelling marketing compelling?

Humans are wired to respond to storytelling. It’s the reason why storytelling has been used since the dawn of time to explain life lessons and teach values.

Parents know that telling kids to stop winging doesn’t work; but the story of the boy who cried wolf will get them thinking.

More recently, public health officials used the horror stories told by patients in COVID-19 wards to hit home the importance of vaccinations.

We’d much rather sit down and read a story about a family on a limited income who were able to buy their second home than read an article about offset bank accounts and negative gearing.

We are more likely to watch a video about the man who transformed his home with DIY projects, than watch a seminar on woodworking.

There’s a mountain of evidence that points to the effectiveness of storytelling marketing. Famed American psychologist Jerome Bruner found we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it is presented in a story.

Recent research by Stanford’s Graduate School of Business into the effectiveness of marketing pitches found that when people listened to pitches containing facts and figures and a story only five per cent remembered the statistic, but 63 per cent remembered the story.

What are some examples of storytelling marketing?

There have been some great examples of storytelling marketing from the United States.

Recently, credit card processing company Square produced a series of 12 short films, each telling the story of how people and communities have lifted themselves out of hardship despite truly tough circumstances.

Of course, Coca-cola has taken storytelling marketing to the next level. In a marketing campaign, customers were encouraged to point their phone’s camera at a can of Coke to see one of 12 stories, each centring on a difficult situation, which was made better by a can of Coke.

In Australia, storytelling marketing is achieving the same success. We all still remember the 2005 Telstra commercial that featured a dad on the school run, being asked by his kid a question about the Great Wall of China and, not knowing the answer, responding that it was built by the “Emperor Nasi Goreng” to keep the rabbits out.

Cadbury enjoyed great success in its ‘There’s a glass and a half in everyone’ television campaign, which tells heart-warming stories, like the little boy who offers a girl crying on the bus a piece of his chocolate, or the little girl who pays for her mum’s birthday present of chocolate with little toys and bits and bobs.

Why should you use storytelling in your marketing?

Whatever your industry, you’ll have many competitors, and the digital age means they are all on the same platforms as you, vying for the same customers. Storytelling can make you stand out from the crowd.

A financial services business suddenly becomes more memorable when you hear the story of how the woman heading it was once bankrupt and living in her car, before becoming a success.

Stories of how a family, stranded at night on the side of the road when their car broke down, were rescued by their insurance company that offered roadside assistance will be remembered more than its competitors.

Storytelling marketing makes your customers relate to you like a friend or family member. It develops an intimacy as well as understanding that can only come from sharing a yarn, forging a deeper relationship.

Want to include storytelling in your marketing?

Every brand has a story, and their customers have a myriad of them, but storytelling is an art and to tell your stories you need a professional.

Assemblo is a full-service marketing agency based in Melbourne, and we know how to tell a great story.

To find out how we can help your business, give us a call on (03) 9079 2555 or send us a note via the contact form below.

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