The Art of Business Storytelling

Storytelling has been around as long as communication; it has integrated itself into the lives of people and communities, and has grown from relying on mouth to mouth transactions to being just a click away. Today, stories can be told through anything- from images to campaigns.

They have always played an integral part in the human life; even from the time of being a toddler. They teach morals, history, values and facts that have shaped us into the people we are today.

With the technological advancements in the last few decades, and the importance of maintaining an image on social media; storytelling has become more significant than ever, especially in the global commercial hub.

What is storytelling in a business?

It is as simple as using a narrative to connect to an audience of consumers through your brand via shared values.

Storytelling is the ability to capture the essence of a brand; how it’s driven, the non material factors that make it unique in comparison to its competitors, and the values that define it. 

This technique of advertising allows consumers to connect with brands on a different, more personal level; creating an atmosphere of shared values and opinions. 

As the entrepreneur Ben horowitz said; “a compelling story puts the company in motion”.

Why do we do it?

Research has proven that the human response to stories is more significant than to raw, unseasoned facts. Thus, telling a story is more likely to keep your customers interested.

With less than 10 seconds to get a person’s attention in today’s world; it is important to create an attraction that will draw consumers in immediately, and stories are a great way to do it.

They are known to trigger an emotional response in people; be it through an article, an image or a video- something graphs and tables cannot do. The rush of emotions from just a few impactful seconds could lead to making a purchase, or even an investment.

A study done by Hubspot shows that the most shared advertisements rely greatly on their emotional content. Consumer’s are naturally more able to connect to stories; empathizing and relating to the characters and the plot, and research even shows that there is a direct link between empathy and commercial success. Thus, this vital tool is not just about profitability; it’s also about increasing your visibility, and creating an image for your brand.

Besides that, the newly formed democratic nature of the internet has resulted in more consumers demanding that the companies that request their support deserve it; which is determined based on whether their efforts are making an impact or not. 

Today, companies are expected to have a purpose and drive beyond profit; to be more human. Buying from the businesses that are supporting the right causes, and doing more social work makes consumers feel that they too are helping through their own purchases; increasing the chances of gaining consumer loyalty. 

With the high pressure that exists today to have eco-friendly, cruelty free, vegan etc. products and to be supportive of diversity, consumers are setting the standards that they expect companies to follow. In return, companies can share their support with the world by sending out a message that they care about their consumers’ needs and wants, via their stories that portray it.

How do we do it?

We answer this question with one more; what is the lasting impression you’d want your consumers to have of you?The story you tell will determine how your brand is presented. 

Content

Use storytelling elements; characters, plots, settings, climaxes and conclusions. Whether they are real or fictional, they are much easier to follow and remember than statistics and facts, and can be used as bait to draw consumers in instead of forcing your product on to them.

Keeping the content of your story simple is also an important measure to take; while it could be thought provoking and have depth to it- consumers should be able to understand what is happening clearly.

Themes

Paul Ekman states that there are 6 basic emotions; happiness, anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and surprise. In making your story; you could choose which of these elements to focus on. The underlying consumer response unveiled by each theme varies.

Many companies want to be associated with positive emotions, and so stick to happiness and surprise. This could be through the use of touching, motivating stories, heart warming situations, and even advertisements with comedic value. 

As shown below, this popular technique can be seen in many Coca Cola advertisements; which frequently portray their product being shared between friends, lovers, siblings and parties- all of which instill in viewers the comforting feeling of developing relationships, and community. 

Positive emotions can also be brought out through empowerment, and embracing diversity. For instance, the brand Dove has had many of its campaigns go viral for their body positivity; challenging the unrealistic beauty standards that exist in the industry.

Brands like Nike use stories that inspire viewers to conquer all obstacles; giving them an adrenaline rush by using inspirational people like Michael Jordan, climactic music and slow motion edits in their videos; compelling people to buy a pair of shoes and be as free, and as great as the people who wear it in the story.

As for the more negative emotions; companies tend to focus more on these when they want to press their audience to make a change. Although many companies don’t want to be associated with such feelings; the strength of these emotions are underestimated. 

Here are a few examples;

Chevrolet does this by using relationships and sad milestones in people’s lives; be it the death of a family member or pet; ending each commercial with the characters getting into a Chevy, either as a flashback or as a new beginning. Either way, it gives the audience the impression that the car will be with them from the beginning to the end; through thick and thin.

Pedigree’s Adoption Drive advertisement shows its audience a heartbreaking video of a dog inside a kennel; waiting to be adopted while people walk past it. It’s surroundings are dark and lonely, and the dog innocently looks out waiting for them to come back. This 30 second clip may be short, but it makes the audience feel guilty, and determined to help. 

Besides the above; the lighting and music used in these stories also has a significant impact on the overall effectiveness of the theme. Warm, colourful and bright hues are used to set a positive atmosphere; while cold, monochrome hues are used to set a more melancholic, negative one; all while the right music playing in the background will ensure that no words need be used to describe the tone of the story.

The main idea is to make a story that people will feel compelled to share with others; regardless of the themes you choose to represent. Successfully doing so could gain incredible exposure. 

Thus, storytelling is a great way for a brand to connect with its audience, and is an integral part in its success.

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