6 Storytelling Ideas to Inspire Marketers

Thursday - 17 April 2014
Man on the Moon

Bring brand narratives to life with these storytelling ideas.

If you look at the photo above, you see what appears to be a man walking on the moon.

The photo, taken from The Most Perfectly Timed Photos Ever, shows how the right photo angle can captivate an audience. The same is true for stories.

Storytelling as a marketing technique is powerful because people think in narratives. Leo Widrich of Buffer explains the “science” behind storytelling’s influence: 

“A story, if broken down into the simplest form, is a connection of cause and effect. And that is exactly how we think. We think in narratives all day long, no matter if it is about buying groceries, whether we think about work or our spouse at home. We make up short stories in our heads for every action and conversation.”

When marketers speak to their audience as their peers rather than industry experts, it allows for the most difficult and boring topics to become interesting and familiar. This is the reason TED organizers insist presenters approach TED Talks as stories rather than lectures, Alexander Jutkowitz points out.

Another advantage of storytelling is that any brand can do it. Storytelling can be as simple as retelling a customer success story. By creating a new angle, the customer becomes a real hero who went through a struggle and succeeded by using your product.

If you need inspiration for ideas, consider these concepts for your next marketing story:

Use customer success stories or testimonials.

Most effective stories center around the customer. It’s the most basic of story arcs: the “hero” has a problem, he/she looks for a solution to the problem, and he/she finally finds that solution. Bob Duffy advises crafting your story around this basis, while adding important details like the approach your team applied to resolving the challenge and the concrete results your product or service created for the customer.

Tell a picture story.

Twitter recently released a new collage feature for mobile that allows users to share up to four photos in a single tweet. The feature packs serious storytelling potential for brands, according to Amanda Walgrove. Marketers can create “comic strips” out of brand events, animations, products, etc.

Another useful visual storytelling tool is Storify, which enables users to collect media from across the web and curate it into a story.

The example below shows how the Twitter handle for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon used Twitter’s collage for a quick behind-the-scenes story:

Ask your audience to share their stories.

Consumers trust and interact with their peers, which is why user-generated content is so influential. Brands can aggregate photos, videos and stories from consumers, or they can highlight individual cases that tell powerful stories.

The marketing team at Coachella, an annual spring music festival, encouraged attendees to share their photos using the hashtag #PECoachella.

Attend a conference, event or show and write about it.

Document your recent experience at a marketing event or workshop. Did you meet a major influencer and have a conversation worth sharing? The event you write about doesn’t necessarily have to involve marketing or your company. Perhaps you saw a movie or TV show that you can relate to your industry. Writers do this all the time (example: Winter is Coming: 5 Game of Thrones Marketing Lessons for Entrepreneurs), and they often make for great content.

Discuss data.

Marketers can tell stories based on the data they gather. In this post by Jen Lopez, she explains how Moz measures social media to create a Community Action Plan.

Note: be sure not to reveal confidential data or information your competitors can use against your company.

Tell the “rags to riches” story.

Enhance your company’s “About” page and tell the story of how your company was founded and how it grew to where it is today. Don’t be afraid to be detailed — adding characters and dialogue makes your company story much more convincing. Consider how the CyberAlert Story takes readers through a step-by-step process of the idea of CyberAlert and its gradual expansion. Note how the story is broken into sections, as well.

Bottom line: by combining colorful characters with an interesting angle, marketers can create a compelling story to attract their audience.

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