PVC: The 3 Secrets of Storytelling for Brand Marketing Success
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Many of America’s best known and most loved brands have adopted content marketing with relish. General Electric’s Instagram account casts science and technology in a beautiful glow, and Lyft shares inspiring stories of passengers and drivers on its blog. Cheerios has further endeared consumers with videos about “#HowToDad” on YouTube and Red Bull produces glossy, magazine style articles about adventurers.
A majority of marketers in both the B-to-B and B-to-C worlds actively use content to attract consumers, raise brand awareness, distinguish themselves in the market, and convey their value proposition. Storytelling is one of the hottest trends in brand marketing today, and for good reason. Consumers are bombarded with marketing messages and advertising at all times on multiple fronts. This barrage of distractions has caused our attention spans to plummet, and meaning marketers have just eight seconds to capture their audience, and storytelling is the net.
Why? Because responding to stories is a core part of human existence. Storytelling helps brands craft a personality and seem relatable. This is especially key given the importance Millennials place on authenticity and their desire to form meaningful connections with brands. No brand can afford to forego the opportunity to integrate storytelling into their marketing campaigns.
The three secrets of storytelling boil down to P, V and C: People, Voice, Connection. These are the three keys to telling stories that stick.
1. People: Find Your Characters
Storytelling is powerful because it helps us connect with others. It teaches us new things and cultivates empathy and understanding. People are what make stories interesting. One of the most common mistakes of content marketing is to focus on yourself and your company. That is just not that compelling to most consumers. The best brand storytellers look outwards for inspiration and seek narratives that are bigger than the brand.
Clif Bar’s “Farmers Speak” is a great example of this. In this series, the brand’s farmers talk about how they got started in organic farming. Another example is Mint’s blog, which tells the story of “How to Be a Starving Writer in NYC (Without Starving)” to relay the importance of smart budgeting. These stories help create a personable and accessible aura around the companies that publish them. They present a narrative arc by capturing authentic moments that unfold throughout the subject’s journey.
2. Voice: Be Authentic
A key to all storytelling – branded or otherwise – is an authentic voice. This type of authenticity predates the "Millennial" marketing buzzword. It is one of the most important elements of literature, which is why every Intro to Creative Writing class prompts students to “find their voice.” Authenticity is important because it makes you believe, or want to believe, whatever the narrator is saying. It’s how people form opinions and sentiments about what they read, and governs whether they find content worthwhile, trustworthy, amusing, informative and ultimately worth paying attention to.
Take the example of e-retailer ModCloth. The company has made a name for itself by embracing women of all shapes and sizes. Unlike most fashion brands, it has eschewed cookie cutter models and sample size clothing for a more inclusive approach to fashion. Its blog reaches fans with an authentic voice that espouses this persona. The blog is witty, educated, and culturally savvy, and understands its audience's value system.
3. Connection: Evoke Emotions
Great stories hit our emotional cores by touching on aspects of the human experience, whether it be love or loss, success or failure, hope or despair. We are emotional creatures and emotion is what connects stories to their audiences. To have an impact, a story cannot be rooted in lofty principles or generalizations. It has to be specific and detailed to elicit a vivid emotional response.
An extreme example of how to integrate emotion into your marketing is Budweiser’s puppy ads, which have tugged on heartstrings all the way to the top of the SuperBowl ad rankings. Coca-Cola is another example – the company does a great job connecting the idea of “sharing a Coke” to friendship. GoPro also tells emotional stories by appealing to our innate desire for adventure.
Put PVC at the center of your content marketing and watch as your brand’s storytelling attracts, engages and retains your customers.
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