What is Your Story and Why Does It Matter?
“You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything.” – Beth Comstock
Storytelling is a long and respected tradition. Stories have been humanity’s primary means of communication and education since we first learned to speak to one another. It is both art and science, and brings people together more than idle chit chat. From the perspective of the marketer, this makes for a beautiful and intimate way for a business to connect with the consumer.
While the process of turning a story into a marketing strategy, the content is actually quite simple. The content is the story of your business. Who you are, and what you do. Every day, we at Encite live the story of a marketing agency. On the surface, our story may seem like that of many other ad agencies. However, it is our people and their interactions with our clients that sets us apart. No other business does things exactly like we do, has the same clients we do, or even drinks the same beer after a successful contract. These are the things that make your story unique. Your people, your processes, and the culture of your organization.
“If your stories are all about your products and series, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.” – Jay Baer
Let’s strip this whole process down to its bare bones. A story needs to have a beginning, a middle, but not necessarily an end. If your story is focused on something finite, ends are just fine, but we want your business to thrive and continue on for the foreseeable future. Your business’s story goes way beyond where it is at this moment. Because of this, the mean of your story will be the “middle”. It’s not the beginning, but you haven’t reached the end yet. The beginning is simply how things got started. Where the idea for this particular project started, or how your company started as a side project before it grew to where it stands today.
But what kind of stories should you tell? That’s the difficult part. There are so many topics to choose from. For our answer, we can just look at the world’s greatest storytelling industry: Hollywood. If we consider both modern movies that are raking in hilarious amounts of money at the box offices, and those classic films that have stood the test of time, we see a few common themes. First, people love underdog stories. They love movies like “Remember the Titans” where the team faces incredible odds both from other schools and from within their own team. We love to see the Titans grow as people and as a team to overcome these odds and win big (it also helps that this story is true). Second, “average joe” type movies are always a big hit. We find regular everyday people in sometimes extraordinary situations very relatable. “12 Angry Men” is a great example of mundane jury duty turning into something much more. The best part is that we can totally see ourselves in that room with them. Lastly, feel good stories always seem to make their way into our memories. Disney certainly has this figured out, and have built a vast empire on that very premise. They know that feel good stories lighten the mood and bring people closer together.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
At this point you must be asking “What story is right for my company to tell?” Quite simply put, that is really up to you. If you currently work with an ad agency, we certainly advise you to ask their help, but no one knows your business like you. Take a step back and look at what you enjoy about what you do. See things not as an owner, but as someone looking from the outside. It’s likely what you love is what your audience will love. You just have to find a way to tell it to them.
For inspiration, here are a few storytelling marketing campaigns that we think are particularly effective.
Dove: Real Beauty
Dove has done an excellent job at telling the story of average people. They focus less on their products, and more on the people that use them. To Dove, everyone is beautiful in their own way, and has a right to let the world know that.
Dove Real Beauty Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-owM4crSd4Q
Honey Bunches of Oats: Real Employees
Honey Bunches of Oats and their parent company Post love telling the stories of their employees. They are real people who get to talk about what they love about making great cereal.
Honey Bunches of Oats Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZiNe6cWz7w
Chipolte: Cultivate a Better World
Despite recent issues with tainted food, Chipolte has always been a strong proponent of responsibly sourced food. They have even gone so far as to remove a popular menu item until they could find a source that fit their rigorous requirements. Chipolte has numerous story based ads illustrating how getting your food from a sustainable source can slowly change the world.
Chipolte Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUtnas5ScSE