This column was originally published on Entrepreneur.com on March 19, 2020
In our modern marketing landscape, brands cannot afford to exist as just another faceless entity. They need to have a powerful story that sells who they are and allows them to appeal to their target audience. While most brands understand this basic need to tell a story, many fail to succeed on the execution. Thankfully, brands that are failing at their current storytelling efforts tend to share a few common issues (see below), ones that can be identified and fixed with the right tools and techniques.
1. Your marketing isn’t memorable
Your customers have a desire to engage with quality brand stories, but if the story you’re trying to tell isn’t that memorable, you won’t make a lasting connection. A study in the UK found that while 79 percent of adults “want brands to tell stories as part of their marketing,” 85 percent of those surveyed couldn’t think of a memorable brand story.
As this sorry statistic reveals, most brand-marketing efforts fail to rise above the noise that bombards customers every day, particularly amid the rise of social media. Nielsen estimates that the average adult in the United States spends 11 hours per day interacting with various media, and while all that time certainly presents an opportunity, it also means there are lots of other stories competing for customer attention. It’s becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to create desirable, scroll-stopping content when users are constantly encountering the same messages over and over again. Be it templated digital-response campaigns or generic Instagram captions, this approach simply won’t cut it anymore.
Part of the problem could be that you’re not actually telling stories to begin with. While a case study can certainly be persuasive, if it doesn’t tie into a narrative with an emotional element, it likely won’t have as much of a memorable impact. According to the Stanford School of Business, stories are 22 times easier to remember than facts.
Consider how statistics, customer testimonials and other marketing options can be tied together as part of a cohesive narrative. A story with an emotional core will put those facts in perspective so they have a greater impact for your audience.
2. You haven’t built a “tribe” around your brand
Many of the world’s most successful companies have achieved their status by building a brand tribe — a group of people who believe in the brand and its mission, are intensely loyal to its products and services and will even promote the brand in their daily living.
This is especially prevalent with technology brands like Apple or Tesla, which achieved high rates of loyalty by linking their products with a unique set of values and beliefs shared among their target audience. The brand becomes more than simply a product — it becomes an experience, and even part of a lifestyle.
If your audience doesn’t seem to be very engaged or passionate, chances are high that a lack of cohesive brand storytelling is at least partly to blame. Your messaging needs to create a sense of solidarity and belonging among your target audience. Successful tribal marketing goes beyond basic demographic information and focuses on behaviors that create more meaningful connections.
In addition to fine-tuning your own marketing, leveraging the power of influencers can be a great way to build your brand tribe. A study conducted by Twitter found that 49 percent of its users turned to influencers for product recommendations. This is why influencer testimonials and interviews play such meaningful roles in advertising. They provide social proof, which is of particular importance when it comes to overcoming trust barriers or breaking into a new market.
Influencers have already created a tribe based on their personality, shared interests and engaging style of communication. Partnering with relevant influencers can help contribute to the growth of your own brand tribe. Similarly, basing your storytelling patterns off the techniques used by top influencers in your niche can help you better communicate your story in an appealing manner.
3. You aren’t communicating your impact
These days, it’s not enough to be a “fun” or “exciting” brand. More and more people want to engage with brands that they feel are making some kind of positive impact on society. In fact, the 2019 Porter Novelli/Cone Purpose Biometrics Study found that 72 percent of American consumers felt it was important to buy from companies that reflected their values. And close to 90 percent reported being likely to buy from a “purpose-driven” company.
This reveals two common issues where brand storytelling often falls short: not having a meaningful cause or purpose that you support, and then failing to communicate what you are doing to support your cause. Brands that succeed in the long run try to impact the lives of their customers in a meaningful way. They also strive to make the world a better place.
For any of these efforts to have positive storytelling outcomes, they must stem naturally from your company values and the products and services you offer. Find a relevant cause that you can support, like looking for ways to reduce your environmental impact. Attaching your brand to such initiatives and then integrating them into your storytelling will fuel loyalty and help you build your tribe.
However, do keep in mind that it is important that this element of social good be genuine. Consumers are intelligent, and if your impact doesn’t align with the overall tone of your brand’s message and mission, it won’t be as effective.
With quality storytelling, your brand becomes far more relatable and appealing to your target audience. You can make powerful connections that fuel the lasting loyalty needed to build a successful business. By digging deep into your storytelling genes, you can take your brand to the next level.
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