Boost marketing with storytelling

For memorability and emotional connections, nothing beats a good story.

Think back to your child’s bedtime, a cocktail party at work or the last neighborhood potluck. How often did those around you request a list of features and benefits? Recite your ROI metrics? Ask for independent reviews? Hopefully, never!

What usually fills those situations are stories. Once-upon-a-time fairy tales, funny anecdotes about coworkers on business trips, shared reminiscences and urban legends gone viral. “Remember the time Bob got lost in Denver?” or “Tell the one about golfing in Thailand again!” or “Can you believe the cliffhanger on last night’s episode?”

The unique power of storytelling fuels them all.


Two-thirds of consumers remember stories.

When marketers tap into the art of storytelling, their brands can soar. Just as our prehistoric ancestors realized when they painted their tales on cave walls and documented their history with hieroglyphics, stories resonate with time-tested influence.

With storytelling—unlike other forms of communication—you listen differently. You remember more. You connect at a deeper level. You move beyond processes, logic and facts to people, emotions and shared values.

According to a recent article, nearly two-thirds of people remember stories—compared to just five percent who remember statistics. The results are even more compelling when it comes to television. An advertising study analyzed more than 100 commercials broadcast during the Super Bowl. The stronger an ad’s storytelling and plot, the greater its success.

It’s the same with print, the reason stalwarts like the J. Peterman catalog take time to craft a narrative for every trench coat, blouse, boot and umbrella; prospective buyers can go beyond fit and price to envision themselves in the lifestyle inspired by the clothing.

Stories shouldn’t replace other tactics in your marketing arsenal, but they should be a strong component of your approach. Follow these tips to inject narrative elements into your next campaign:


Find your common ground.

Just as there are good stories, there are also the bad and the boring. Anyone who’s been trapped next to a talker in the middle seat of an airplane knows this dilemma. Make your stories as enticing as a best-selling novel by focusing first on your audience. What do your target consumers want to hear—and what will they want to tell others? (Hint: It’s not about your product or service.) Stories need to be engaging, entertaining and educational in order to captivate.


Weave your plot.

All stories incorporate a beginning, a middle and an end. There are characters to adore and revile. Action, challenges and suspense carry the audience along.

Your advertisement should be no different. Use the beginning to introduce your characters and the problem—the quest—that they must resolve. In the middle, unpack their challenges in more detail, showing how they face obstacles on their journey. And in the end, of course, create a resolution. This is not a simple “happily ever after” because of a product purchase; effective stories unveil the new world of possibilities and always keep the characters at the center.


Show, don’t tell.

Stories activate multiple areas of the brain. As you hear and see Goldilocks trying the bed that’s too hard and the bed that’s too soft, you can imagine yourself in the same situation: the feel of the mattress, the squish of the feather pillows, the thrill of eluding the bears. The more vivid the details, the more emotions you engage with your audience. Let your characters, settings and actions shine; save the facts for later.


Be authentic.

Lastly, keep it real. Storytelling has generated tremendous marketing buzz and prompted many brands to rush in without first figuring out their own point of view. Storytelling that’s just a veneer over traditional corporate promotion will backfire. Consumers—and especially those on social media—will quickly pan those brands that fail the sniff test. Brands that excel at storytelling often enlist their customers, in their own words, to create exceptional—and genuine—content.


Inspire your audience. Discover how Creative ESP can find the stories that will win your customers’ hearts. We craft, measure and optimize every emotive variable of your broadcast advertising to reveal what moves your audience.