“Consumers build brands, not companies” (S. Gunelius, Forbes.com). Basically, what we choose to purchase is usually connected to how we perceive ourselves and that perception precedes and dictates our choice of consumer goods and services. So how do companies tap into such personal characterizations and does it affect their business turnover? They do it through storytelling. Good stories, well narrated, take us beyond our own parameters into worlds we may never see or experience but which are linked to commonly identified emotions. On one level, as we recognize love, hate, beauty, or revenge, a story that encompasses them will not only grab our attention but will linger in our memory and heart for a long time. More than any other form of information, a story will linger the longest and the strongest in our minds.
Coca Cola invented a new persona with its own story and called it Coke Zero. This is a coke designed specifically for men. Why? Because its Diet Coke product was overly identified as a women’s drink and therefore men wouldn’t buy it. Coca Cola acted in accordance with a universal truth in order to boost trade. Namely that people make choices in accordance with how they believe a product will reflect on them.
Applying the theory of storytelling to a marketing context may seem like trying to harness the impalpable. We know it increases website visits but how do you go about creating a story that will increase a company’s sales?
Start by humanizing it. Anecdotes, personal experiences or relatable common situations are all excellent ways of humanizing a brand because they create a common link. To say something works for 81% of people is not as powerful as saying that it solved your Aunt Bessie’s problem from the moment she tried it. The more relatable the story, the more people recognize themselves in it. It also becomes imminently shareable because we all know someone with a similar problem and Aunt Bessie has found a way to solve it.
Become an authority in your field. A perfect example of corporate storytelling is the continuing sales volume of brand name companies in the face of the significantly cheaper generic over-the-counter medicines. Generic products are subject to the same strict regulations of the Food & Drug Administration as any brand name version and yet people willingly pay three times more for a brand name version of products like anti-allergy tablets or flu medicines. Why? Because they are familiar with the brand and they believe in the story it tells, namely that the brand assumes responsibility for the trustworthiness of its products. This trust is transferred into a reluctance to change or even to try another. Without a doubt, generic medicines have a perception problem blocking their sales volume.
Be true to yourself. The image of Dubai as an ideal international family-friendly holiday destination where there is something for everybody has been extremely successful. Compared to its neighbours in the Gulf, Dubai wins the prize for attracting a serious number of western tourists who feel safe enough to venture to a region with political concerns. Through major investment in the country’s infrastructure, communications and a hospitable international business environment, Dubai guarantees safe luxury accommodation and entertainment for everyone, not just the elite and it fulfils that promise. It is the ultimate example of how storytelling can affect ROI
What is sauce for the goose is not always sauce for the gander. In other words, make sure you know as much about who you want to attract and then act accordingly. Language and cultural differences must be taken on board before anything is formally launched into the digital world. Mistakes at this juncture are extremely hard to rectify and can cost a brand everything. The editorial content of a website is very much a part of a brand’s story and is the path to an increase in website visits. Formal language as opposed to slang, sober up-market contributors as opposed to YouTube celebrities, the font, the background colour, background music, background graphics, each and all will affect the mood and tone of a site and must be chosen with a brand’s image in mind. Pop Art won’t suit pension fund managers and classical music just doesn’t speak to young high street fashion retailers.
Make sure you have all the bells and whistles. ROI in marketing is gaged by an increase in the number of people visiting a site, registering on a site and, if possible, purchasing on the site. In other words, it’s about the volume of interest shown on a site. So make sure you have lots of appropriate and pleasant infographics, videos, calls for action, site maps, company information, contact email addresses and numbers. All of which must fit the overall personality of the brand at the heart of the story.
Not everyone has the confidence to tell a good story but all of us have a story within us that is dying to be heard. If you can follow the guideline above and apply it to a commercial enterprise or an individual business, the storytelling will take off, bring its own narrative into play and directly affect your ROI, which ultimately will affect your sales volume!