No matter what a brand sells, it seems that today it is engaged in the business of storytelling.

Of course, some brands are better at storytelling than others, and that increasingly influences whether a brand is able to cut through the clutter or not when trying to reach consumers in highly-competitive marketing channels.

Here are five ways that brands can tell better, more compelling stories.

Make stories about people

Stories about people have the ability to create emotional connections in ways that other kinds of stories typically can’t and as a result, the most compelling stories are those about people.

Because of this, it is critical for brands to be thoughtful about the human elements they incorporate into their stories. Naturally, the people who are best positioned to help brands tell stories are those who have an emotional connection to the story being told. For example, when pharma giant Novartis decided to partner with a celebrity to be a part of its Rise Above Heart Failure initiative, it choose singer-actress Queen Latifah, whose mother suffers from heart failure.

Align the brand to values and lifestyles, don’t piggyback on trends

While it can be tempting for brands to create stories around topics that are trending, the stories they tell are more likely to resonate with target audiences when they are congruent with the values and lifestyles that the brands have aligned themselves to.

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One of the companies that best exemplifies this approach is Nike, which has for decades aligned itself with world-class athletes whose dedication to their sports and desire to achieve has become a part of the Nike brand. Many of Nike’s ad campaigns tell the stories of these athletes and through Nike
products, make them relatable to the countless individuals who aspire to perform their best.

Create the right media for each channel

Brands have more channels than ever in which to tell stories. This is both a challenge and opportunity. Many of today’s most popular digital consumer platforms, for example, are social and/or highly-visual. Brands wanting to successfully tell stories on these platforms thus need to be strategic and thoughtful.

Instagram, for instance, is both social and highly-visual. While it was originally a photo-based service, since it launched support for video, it has quickly become one of the most popular places for video content. Brands have numerous ways to engage consumers on Instagram, including photo and video posts, as well as Stories and IGTV. When thinking about the stories they’re telling on Instagram, brands should be strategic about which they take advantage of.

YouTube, unlike Instagram, is exclusively video-based and far less social than Instagram. But here too, brands need to be thoughtful about how they tell their stories. For example, the Google-owned service is seeing a trend under which the length of popular videos is increasing. While this trend is driven in
part by monetization considerations, the viability of longer videos is something brands will want to take into account when developing content for YouTube.

Build campaigns around stories

Consumers are hard to pin down in one channel and for that and many other reasons, stories are typically best told over time and across channels as part of larger campaigns.

One of the implications of the way that consumers interact with brands today is that story-based campaigns need to take into consideration the fact that consumers are likely to take different paths when engaging with campaign content, and might not be present in certain channels at all. As a result, brands are wise to ensure that each component of a campaign can stand alone.

This said, brands can still find ways to exercise some control over how consumers interact with campaigns. For example, 84 Lumber, a building materials supply company, directed consumers to a website to watch the end of its controversial 2017 Super Bowl ad, which Fox refused to air. Other brands have used this tactic of starting a story in one channel and concluding it in another.

Listen

To tell better stories, brands should consider the wisdom of becoming better listeners. The seeds of great stories are everywhere and often come from stakeholders, including customers. In fact, numerous brands such as Airbnb and REI have found ways to use user-generated content from their customers to craft stories about their brands.

Customer-inspired stories can be especially compelling because, if well presented, can convey a greater level of authenticity.

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