Imagine that you have the option of buying one of two brands of coffee.
The cost and ingredients are nearly identical - the first bag of beans gives you a straightforward description of volume and roast. The second features a story about the exotic origin of the beans, the values of its founders, and how for each cup of joe you drink in the morning, 5% of proceeds from your purchase will be donated to a charity that provides quality espresso for the homeless.
Most likely, you’re going to go for bag of beans #2, thanks to persuasive storytelling.
Storytelling has become a major focus in marketing these days. One of the key challenges for a marketer is getting consumers to connect to the brand, and the best way to do this is through story.
Since the dawn of time, human beings have been naturally drawn to storytelling to make sense of the world, and a good story can be what makes your brand significant and resonant.
Big name corporations like Nike and Microsoft have already mastered the art of storytelling to sell their products. Another example is Toms, a company which integrates its brand with a social cause, and invites audience participation.
From these examples, the non-profit world – which essentially is “selling” a cause – can find some valuable lessons which can be tailored to their own needs.
The right brand narrative has the power to boost your content marketing efforts to the next level, with stories that can transform lukewarm audiences into loyal advocates. Let us give you some tips - along with the most colorful corporate storytelling examples - so that your organization can get the 'happily ever after' that it deserves.
Components of a Great Brand Story
What defines a compelling brand story? Great stories transport audiences into the experience - here are a few tips for making that happen:
1. Clearly establish what your brand is all about
As Simon Sinek would say, start with the “why” of how your organization came into being. Clearly define your purpose, mission, and core values for your audience.
2. Create a character
Without a central character, your story risks falling flat. According to an article from Adweek on how to be a great storyteller on Twitter, your audience needs something, or someone, it can relate to, and eyes through which the story can be told.
3. Illustrate the changes
Great stories don’t stand still, they grow and progress. With this in mind, create a brand story that illustrates how your organization has changed over time, the challenges that you overcame, the people you’ve helped and those who've made it all happen.
4. Include a call to action
When developing your story, consider what you want the end result to be. Ask yourself what you want your donors to feel and what you want them to do.
As Network for Good points out, these steps will “guide you through the logical and emotional sides of creating your story and engaging donors with the copy.”
5. Collect the pieces
Good storytelling requires creativity and planning. Start collecting images, inspirations, and memorabilia into organized files today to provide the building blocks of your content for the future.
Storytelling Lessons from the Heavy Hitters
If you look at all the major brands that have become industry icons, you'll find quality storytelling at their core.
The key is to distinguish yourself from your competitors, and stories are the best way to achieve this. A well-told story will showcase your organization’s unique brand in a memorable way.
Nike offers more than just a pair of sneakers and sassy workout gear. Fortune magazine recently named Nike as a force for positive social impact in their Top 50 list of companies changing the world. Nike is a perfect example of using brand storytelling to connect with the audience, inviting them to become a part of a collective movement – through Nike.
An essential idea behind Nike's approach is showing everyday people (like your audience) participating and enjoying a sense of achievement in playing a sport at their own level. Want to see some cool videos as example? Check out Nike’s “Find Your Greatness” and “Equality”.
Get involved in the community. Branding should draw people in and make them feel part of something bigger.
To take this idea one step further, consider creating a campaign that encourages your audience to share their experiences on your social media platforms.
This aforementioned footwear label is known for its purpose-driven consumer experience – namely, inspiring social awareness built on its “One for One” mission of donating one pair of shoes for every pair purchased.
Using various social platforms, Toms has raised brand awareness through the branded hashtag #WithoutShoes, through which people post photos of themselves barefoot to bring attention (and charitable contributions) to those too poor to afford shoes. In addition, Toms YouTube channel showcases fans posting videos that document their day without shoes.
Instead of depending on celebrities or expensive advertising, Toms gets students, bloggers, and selfie lovers on board as brand ambassadors. Today, Toms is known as a “leader of conscious marketing” for their focus on supporting causes.
Similar to the Nike case, look for ways to excite your target community by creating opportunities for user-generated content. Create a hashtag or other campaign to ignite interest, leverage all relevant outlets to tell your brand story – with photos, videos, memes, and more – while also keeping careful track of what’s working and what isn’t.
Microsoft takes its brand storytelling so seriously that they appointed a Chief Storyteller in 2010.
Composed of journalists, speechwriters, artists and other talents, Steve Clayton’s team at Microsoft is responsible for collecting and curating stories from all corners of the company. The stories are then shared on the Microsoft Stories platform and social channels.
Dedicate a single person to building and enforcing your brand standard, as recommended by Content and Social Marketer Aaron Agius. Forget about talking like a marketer or techie and focus on using language that your audience can easily digest. Ignite excitement in your brand with riveting stories and your followers will want to spread them for you.
The Collective Voice
The most successful corporate entities understand that emotional storytelling works because it makes their brands less about a product and more about a feeling. Non-profits stand to benefit when they use storytelling to personalize and present their cause as an experience designed for audience participation.
As Alan Berkson, global director in community outreach at Freshworks, puts it:
"[In the 21st century] we are not just dealing with an audience, but an audience of audiences."
Brand managers need to come to terms with the fact that they're no longer the only voices in the conversation who determine brand perception - the collective voice of your audience can work as a force multiplier for your cause.
As such, you need to find a way to make the audience part of your story.