Why Storytelling Isn’t Just Marketing — It’s Marketing with a Story

Marketing is a form of communication that can either encourage or discourage behaviour. The goal of marketing is to influence someone to take a certain action or make a buying decision. However, marketers have increasingly seen that the most effective forms of marketing aren’t focused on selling a product or service, but on telling a story that encourages an audience to respond with action – rather than simply accepting the message without question.

Consider outdoor advertising. Until recently, billboards, billboards, and posters were mostly confined to advertising goods and services – primarily commercial messages seeking customers. However, with technology advancing, businesses are now able to utilize digital billboards that display non-commercial messages. This has provided a way for advertisers to communicate their brand and offer their products without having to limit themselves to one simple message like ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Use This Phone’ – because now they can tell a story!

The same concept can be applied to marketing messages in general. In recent years, we’ve seen an explosion of digital marketing platforms that allow businesses to efficiently and effectively communicate with customers. This has led to an entire new style of marketing – dubbed ‘story-based marketing’ or ‘marketing with a story’.

On one hand, using stories to market a business can be seen as a natural progression for marketing. After all, it’s been around for decades now as one of the four types of advertising that will get you results (along with cost-per-click, social media, and SEO). But, on the other hand, using stories in marketing can be quite the culture shock for many business owners who are used to more traditional forms of marketing.

Whether you’re a seasoned marketer or just starting out, storytelling in marketing can be a useful tool to gain trust and engage an audience. Here are just some of the reasons why using stories in marketing can be beneficial.

Engage Visually

Inevitably, when we’re faced with a barrage of advertisements, stories can help make an advertisement more memorable. After all, we’re much more likely to remember something that captures our imagination – even if it’s just for a short while.

For instance, consider the digital billboard advertising example given previously. By telling a story about a father who travels the world with his daughter, an outdoors advertiser is able to grab the attention of drivers for a couple of seconds before they realize that they’re supposed to be paying attention to the road ahead of them. But, for a short while, they were totally engaged with the story because it was something that interested them…

…before they resumed their normal driving routine. In other words, the story allowed the advertiser to connect with the audience on a more emotional level than a typical billboard would have been able to do.

Create Urgency

In today’s world, consumers are bombarded with information – much of it unnecessary – and they’re becoming less and less likely to be influenced by traditional marketing tactics like advertising.

Instead, consumers are looking for ways to be encouraged to make a buying decision. One way to do this is to create urgency by portraying what will happen if a consumer doesn’t take action right away.

For example, let’s say that you’re a business owner who sells handmade soaps and lotions – something that I’m sure most of us can relate to. You’ve been able to build a decent sized audience on your blog, but now you want to take it to the next level by getting the word out there about your soaps and lotions. However, you’re not exactly sure how to go about it.

The first thing you could do is to use storytelling to your advantage. Rather than just presenting information about your business, you could use a personal story about how you came up with your products or how they were inspired – all stories that relate to your business in some way.

By using storytelling, you’re able to humanize your business. In other words, instead of just presenting an overly simplistic message about your business – such as, ‘Our products are unique because we use specific herbs that have magical effects when chewed by humans,’ you could tell a more specific story about how you came up with the idea for your products – like, ‘One day, while browsing the Internet, I found a blog post about how soapmaking is a traditional Korean practice that uses rare Himalayan herbs. Since then, I’ve been experimenting with different combinations of herbs to create unique soaps, and now I’m finally able to share my findings with the world.’

By using personal stories, you’re able to draw the reader deeper into the narrative and make them more easily relate to your business. And, in turn, this can make them more inclined to purchase your products.

Make A Stronger Connection

Since humans have been connecting with each other through stories for centuries, it makes sense that businesses would want to follow suit. After all, stories are a universal language that everyone understands.

When a story is told well, it can be extremely powerful. Consider how a good salesperson is able to connect with a potential customer on a more personal level than a cold sales pitch ever could – even if that customer doesn’t want to buy anything just yet.

By telling a story, you’re able to establish a connection with the audience that you’re trying to reach. And, in turn, this can make them more inclined to act in the ways that you desire them to. For example, let’s say that you’re a business that supplies restaurants with paper products. You decide to tell a story about a chef who used your paper products to create delicious meals for their customers – one story led to another and before you knew it, the chef was cooking you a meal. And, since he knew how much you enjoyed his cooking, he wanted to thank you for visiting his website and decided to send you a free meal as a token of his gratitude.

Even if the chef intended to provide you with a free meal regardless of whether you visited his website or not, that connection is still very much present. And, as a result, you’re more inclined to act in the ways that the chef suggests – whether you want to order more paper products or pick up a meal kit from his restaurant.

Make A Brand Association

It’s well known that humans relate better to things that they understand – even if it’s just for a short while. This is why marketers try to use stories in their advertisements as much as possible – because it allows the advertiser to connect with the audience on a more personal level and encourage them to make a purchasing decision.

For example, if you’re an outdoors advertiser that wants to target surfers and fishermen in their 20s, you could do so via a blog post that tells the story of a father and his young daughter who travel the world together. Since surfing and fishing are two of the most popular activities in this demographic, the blog post would not only be entertaining, but it would also allow the advertiser to make a brand association and gain a small piece of mind share.

Even if the blog post doesn’t persuade the reader to buy their equipment, it means that they’re spending more time on your website than another similar blog post would – which could potentially result in more business.

Get More Traffic (And Build Something Long-Lasting)

Back to the chef example. After reading the blog post about how he used your paper products to create delicious meals, you visit the website of the restaurant where he works. And, since you’ve connected with the chef on a personal level, you decide to become a regular customer and order from his restaurant.

Even if nothing else about the chef or his food appeals to you, you can be sure that the taste of the food will linger in your memory – and that’s all that matters to you. In other words, your visit to the website was more than just a quick stop on your way to somewhere else – it became something that you looked forward to each week!

The point here is that your first interaction with a business isn’t always going to be the last interaction that you have with them. In fact, it could potentially be something that leads to further engagement – like, joining a business’ mailing list or following them on social media.

Building a business that relies on selling a product or service alone is becoming less and less desirable when compared to building a brand – and earning the loyalty of – those who are interested in what you have to offer. After all, a business can disappear overnight, but a loyal audience can still be found if you maintain strong enough connections.