In today’s noisy world, brands are finding it more difficult for their messages to reach their existing and prospective customer base. Companies have to work harder than ever to be noticed. Yankelovich, a market research firm, estimates 30 years ago the average person living in a city saw around 2,000 advertising messages a day, compared with up to 5,000 today.
Consumers are bombarded with messages, so how can you stand out? There are a couple of powerful methods that companies are using to reach their target: experiential marketing and storytelling.
Storytelling – sharing what makes your brand different
Why is it that out of the thousands of marketing tactics is storytelling one of the most impactful? Turns out, it mainly has to do with how we are wired. The Guardian’s article, the Science of Storytelling, examines why storytelling is an effective way to reach target markets. “Researchers in Spain found that being told a story drastically changes the way our brains work. When people hear neutral words like “chair” or “key,” language-processing parts of the brain called Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas are activated exclusively. However, when people are being told a story, the language processing areas of the brain are activated along with other sensory areas being used to experience the story.” The bottom line is that the human brain cannot distinguish between hearing, reading or experiencing a story. Our brains don’t only hear a story; we experience it with all of our senses as though it were happening. From the days of cavemen as long as 35,000 years ago, we have begun describing what we see and telling the story of the human experience. Think about the cavemen drawings, even before spoken languages were defined, we had a way to communicate. We are designed to tell and retain stories, rather than independent statistics or figures.
But what is the secret to creating a great story for your prospects and customers to buy into? In their article “5 Secrets to Use Storytelling For Brand Marketing Success”, Forbes put together a great list of ways how to craft your own storytelling.
1. Speak truthfully.
Honesty and transparency are important in brand storytelling. Yes, you’re crafting “stories,” but they need to be rooted in the reality of your brand, products and industry. In other words, even brand stories must adhere to the three primary steps of brand-building: consistency, persistence and restraint. If your brand stories are inconsistent, they’ll confuse consumers who will turn away from the brand in search of another that meets their expectations for every interaction. Be creative but don’t stray too far from your brand promise. Confusion is the number one brand killer.
2. Infuse personalities into stories.
Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads and they are not sales pitches. Brand stories should be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at center stage. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can.
3. Create characters your audience will root for.
Brand storytelling requires that you create characters your audience will like and cheer for. That doesn’t mean you’re required to create fictional characters or brand mascots to tell your stories. While characters like Allstate‘s Mayhem can be very effective in presenting brand messages and stories in a variety of ways, you don’t need to create a fictional mascot to tell brand stories. For example, create buyer personas and tell stories from their perspectives. Tell stories from your employees’ points of view or from a third-person point of view. The important thing is to create characters that enable your audience to become emotionally connected to them to such an extent that the audience wants to follow their character arcs (discussed in #4 below).
4. Include a beginning, middle, and end.
Fiction stories follow a structure that includes a beginning, middle, and an end. Your brand stories should follow a similar structure. In the beginning, you need to open strong and establish your story setting and the characters. The middle should set up your main character’s problem and present conflicts that get in his or her (or its) way before he or she (or it) can find resolution in the end. This is your character’s story arc, and you need to take your reader along for the ride. If they enjoy the ride, they’ll stick around, tell other people about it, and come back again and again. 5. Don’t give it all away.
Make sure your brand stories are page turners by focusing on the use of perpetual marketing in your efforts where one piece feeds off of the next. Leave your audience wanting more, and they’ll come back again and again. Consider using “Watch This Space” hooks on your website or Facebook Page, or try releasing teasers via Facebook, email, or Pinterest. Perpetual marketing tactics offer the perfect opportunity to include offline and mobile marketing in your brand storytelling initiative, too.
Experiential marketing allow prospects to connect with your brand
Another way that companies are breaking through the clutter is by allowing customers to “experience” their brands. TV ads, radio ads, and even billboards are one dimensional. They can be easily disregarded or ignored. According to Ad Age, experiential marketing is defined as “messaging you can touch, feel or view in a physical space”. When a brand develops a three-dimensional experience, it can often create an emotional connection. In the book “The Experience Economy”, authors B. Joseph Pine II and James H. highlight the fact that “brands must begin to provide consumers with memorable events and engagements that allow the brand to stand out from their competitors.” Just like with storytelling, experiential marketing creates a connection to the brand, whether physically or digitally.
There are hundreds of successful examples of experiential marketing. For example, Strauss Family Creamery appealed to families playing on the beach by burying “hidden treasure”—their ice-cream. When kids played in the sand, they discovered the hidden ice cream. Instead of just handing out free samples, Strauss allowed families to experience the joy of finding treasure and eating a free dessert. Chances are the next time any of these families is in the dessert aisle; they will choose Strauss brand ice cream to relive the experience.
In another successful use of experiential marketing, Nescafé, appealed to consumers by spreading 1,000 of their iconic red mugs all over two Croatian cities. According to Creative Guerrilla Marketing, Nescafé locked the mugs with 4 digit bicycle locks, “reminiscent of the trend of ‘love locking’ where couples lock their love in padlocks along bridges all over the world.” When they found a mug, all they had to do was connect with Nescafé on Facebook to receive a code to open the lock. Then, they could take that unlocked mug to a nearby Nescafe stand to receive not only a warm cup of coffee, but another free mug, giving participants the ability to share a coffee with a friend.
Both the Strauss Family Creamery and Nescafé experiential marketing campaigns took products and created a memorable and engaging experience around each item. These experiences become compelling reasons for consumers to recognize and purchase these items in the future. Another huge bonus behind these campaigns is that participants now have a story to share with others about these brands and their products, amplifying the reach of these campaigns beyond the direct consumers initially touched. Stories and recommendations shared on social media have the potential to go viral and reach audiences far beyond those directly impacted from the original campaign.
Hopefully, storytelling and experiential marketing can invigorate your campaign strategies, allowing prospects to connect to your brand on a deeper emotional level. After all, successful marketing is all about showcasing how using your product will better your customers’ lives.