What is storytelling and why should it feature in your marketing?

Trevor MacDonald ITV Television

Storytelling is not a completely new marketing technique, but over the past year or so it has really come to the fore as a way to grab people’s attention in a memorable way.

In summer 2018, Smart Insights called storytelling “the future of content marketing strategy” and pointed to National Geographic as an example of a brand that sells well using storytelling.

National Geographic, or NatGeo for short, have a presence across every major social media platform, where they post the most striking images from photographers all over the world.

These may be awe-inspiring, or poignant, or terrifying when they relate to an upcoming storm, and are always accompanied where possible by a detailed caption that tells the story behind the image.

How does storytelling work for NatGeo?

Carolanne Mangles, digital marketing executive for business memberships at Smart Insights, notes that NatGeo have impressive social media stats:

  • Ranked #1 TV brand and #2 printed media brand on Facebook.
  • 7 million followers on Instagram (June 2018, now up to 107 million).
  • Over 350 million followers on all social media platforms.

She adds: “It took me a while to convert to a paying member and that’s because they do such a great job on social with free and still interesting content.

“So for a while, I didn’t think I was missing out by just following their social platforms. But the more I saw on social, the more I wanted to know.”

This continuous positive reinforcement is what gives storytelling huge lead generation potential, because it is not a one-shot marketing technique, but one that has the potential to convert even customers who have been following you for free for some time.

NatGeo even go so far as to spell it out on their landing page, which opens with the line: “For 128 years, National Geographic has delivered incredible storytelling.”

Stronger brand retention with storytelling

National Geographic is a household name brand, so if you are still building your audience, you might ask if storytelling is still relevant to you. It is.

You don’t need 350 million followers on social media. In a Forbes article, brand storytelling coach Celinne Da Costa writes that storytelling helps brands to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

She also references the quote “Stories are about 22 times more memorable than facts alone,” often attributed to the cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, although it is unclear exactly where he may have said this – ironically, people remember the story of the quote more than the facts.

What is clear is that storytelling can help your brand to resonate with potential customers on a personal, emotional level, significantly increasing your lead generation and conversion rate.

How storytelling can go viral

Finally, a good story always has the potential to go viral on social media platforms, with the chance to boost your audience substantially almost overnight.

A good recent example is ITV’s ‘Television’ ad, which looks back at some of the channel’s positive representation of women, BAME and other minorities over the past decades, as well as the strength of storytelling as a way to be seen.

The 90-second clip by Uncommon Creative Studio went viral – especially among marketing professionals – soon after it was released in mid-April, and is a timely reminder of how telling a story can help you to reach more people.

Whether you do that using text, images or video, compelling web content that connects with your viewers on an emotional level is currently one of the most powerful ways to build an engaged audience and, ultimately, to convert those prospects into paying customers.

How can I incorporate storytelling into my content strategy?

Customers are more likely to buy from your brand when they feel aligned with your personality and values. So how do you go about incorporating storytelling into your content strategy?

Simply get in touch or drop us a line and we will sit down with you to look at how storytelling can help increase engagement for your brand.

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