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June 12, 2015

Storytelling Advice and Resources for Marketers

She had done it: slipped undetected into a house that wasn’t hers. The heat and darkness of the night fled, banished to the outside by a snarling blast of cool air from the vents, and the bright white of the bulbs over her head. She thought of her children, new and young and hungry. She carried no money, had to feed them somehow. What would any mother do for her children? Anxious, she tasted the metallic iron tang of blood in her mouth. It helped ease her; it was the taste of life, sweeter to her than the freshest of summer strawberries. But before she could take what she came here for, there came a “Sorry, little bug” from behind her, and she was enveloped in white, 3-ply softness. It was over.

And that is the story of the mosquito that I found in my house last night. You probably never gave much thought to a mosquito’s point of view before, or granted the little f***ers much sympathy. But that can be the joy of storytelling – you can bring your audience into your world, and make them remember you. (What would you remember – what you just read, or if I had simply told you I killed a bug?) You can cause them to feel something, and embrace a perspective they hadn’t considered.

Simply, storytelling helps you convert your audience into advocates. (But marketers, just make sure the hero of your story doesn’t meet an untimely end!)

But is storytelling really necessary? Can’t my awesome product speak for itself?

Maybe you think your product is so fancy it sells itself, or maybe you’re worried your B2B product isn’t thrilling or sexy enough. Come on, now. If I can write a blurb about a bug, you can find a story, too! Storytelling has been around forever (think cave drawings, and traditional, cultural oral stories) for good reason. It helps us remember, it teaches us important lessons, and connects us together.

You’ve probably heard all that before. But check this out:

When we are given facts and information, the language processing parts of our brain kick in, trying to comprehend what we are learning. But when we are told a story, other areas of the brain come alive as though we are actually experiencing the events of the story. If you hear about delicious foods or think about performing actions, your sensory or motor cortex lights up. Whaaat!! It’s true, according to researchers.

Essentially, that means when you tell your audience a story, it’ll be like they’re feeling it and living it themselves. As another researcher from Princeton said, “By simply telling a story, [you] could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.” Imagine sharing a story and the listener turning it into their own idea and experience! No wonder humans have been telling stories for so long.

Take advantage of storytelling in your marketing strategy so you don’t miss out on one of the most powerful ways to express your story and turn viewers into customers. After all, the Significant Objects experiment proved that a creative story can make a monumental impact on profit. One of Google’s latest videos also talks about the need for brands to have “hero” content to help push B2B customers through the buyer process.

Where can I get inspiration on storytelling?

Marketers don’t need to be novelists. You just need to tell an authentic story that will help your audience connect with you. As marketing whiz Seth Godin once said, “[Marketing is] the art of telling a story that resonates with your audience and then spreads.”

Here are five awesome resources that might inspire you when you’re searching for and creating your next story:

  • Copyblogger: “The battle is won or lost, right here. Put me up against the greatest writer in the world, and if I understand the audience better, I will kick his or her ass every time when it comes to connection, engagement, and conversion.” The Copyblogger blog has a number of excellent posts on how to tell marketing stories that people embrace and share. It isn’t just about writing a story, but writing one that will help convert your target audience. From this one to this and this, give this website with its plethora of awesome advice a gander.
  • Content Marketing Institute: Whether you are telling the story of your brand, or portraying your customer as the hero to engage them through storytelling, this blog post is worth a read. Learn about the classic hero’s journey, and how it can be applied to the marketing world. The post also gives great suggestions on the different questions you can answer and angles you can take in your own storytelling.
  • GetResponse blog post: Every story needs a hero. But what’s a hero without a villain? Don’t make the gut assumption that the villain in your story is your competitor. The villain is actually whatever keeps your customer up at night. This post by the email marketing company will help you clearly identify who the good guy and the bad guy really are.
  • Guy Kawasaki blog post: Just like movies use similar storylines because they’re powerful and everlasting, there are similar storylines that you can consider for your marketing stories. Writer and business exec Guy Kawasaki discusses nine of them in this blog post.
  • Newscred whitepaper: Any great marketer knows that visuals have to be part of an incredible story. Newscred, the content marketing platform company, created a whitepaper in partnership with Getty to help marketers understand how to control and utilize the power of visuals in their storytelling. Choose images that people can almost touch, and create a sensory experience so your audience can live in your story.

Can I see some examples?

Oh yes, you can! It’s one thing to do research and read all all about it, but experiencing examples of amazing storytelling is a perfect way to get inspiration for your own stories. So watch a bunch of movies and read some books, all in the name of research! And watch these awesome examples of video marketing stories to really get your creative juices going:

Purina Puppy Chow: If this video doesn’t cause you to make squealy noises, you may just be dead inside, and I can’t help you anymore.

Sainsbury’s Christmas ad: It may be five months old, but amazing storytelling just doesn’t expire.

Huggies: This true story of a mother meeting her unborn baby, Murilo, is beautifully moving.

Turkish Airlines: If this is what happens when you fly this airline, I’m booking my ticket now.

Wells Fargo: Last, but definitely not least, Wells Fargo is here to help the amazing hero moms of this story.

Just try to tell me those stories didn’t move you! That’s how to put storytelling to use in your marketing strategy. What’s your story?

Photo of a desk with a laptop, charts, etc. overlaid with text reading:
Emily Ross

Emily Ross

Emily was previously the Brand and Creative Manager at Vidyard. Today, she's a UI writer at Intel. Emily loves creating interesting and unique content oh, and food...if you haven't already noticed, she loves food.

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