Good storytelling is at the heart of every great novel, play or movie. Why not marketing campaigns as well?
Most marketers are natural storytellers anyway. They have a knack for getting and keeping people’s attention, for building a narrative arc. When they apply these skills to their marketing programs, they can connect with their customers in profound and lasting ways.
To help you understand how to weave the art of storytelling into your company’s marketing strategy, let’s look at the five elements of storytelling one by one.
Setting is the time and location a story takes place -- the “when” and “where” of it. In the context of marketing, think of setting as the current industry landscape. Good marketers know how to analyze the dynamics of their marketplace and position their companies as being in the right place at the right time. SalesForce became what it is today by owning the moment when software could be stored in the cloud. Slack came along at a time when people were overwhelmed by too many disparate work communications. What is happening in your market right now? What problems are your customers experiencing? What technologies are available to them? Give your story the right context by painting a descriptive setting for your customers.
All stories have, at minimum, a protagonist. Most stories -- most of the good ones, anyway -- also have an antagonist, which is crucial for creating conflict (as we’ll discuss below). In your storytelling, think of your customer as the protagonist and whatever pain point your company solves as the antagonist. Paint a character that your customers can relate to, so they can easily put themselves in that person’s shoes. Then, set that character in motion. Show them overcoming their challenge, with you as their deuteragonist, there to help.
Plot is the sequence of events that happens in a story to push it forward. In dramatic storytelling, "Freytag's pyramid" divides a plot into five parts: the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement. In marketing, you get to define your plot points every time you make an announcement, host an event, publish an article, or make any public statement. Think of each of these as an opportunity to move your story forward. What does each one say about your company? How does it support what you’re trying to achieve? Use marketing tentpole events to build momentum towards your big moment.
Conflict is created by the protagonist needing to solve a challenge in order to achieve their goals. It’s what gives the story its tension. In marketing, conflict arises from the struggle between your customer and whatever obstacles stand in their way. Show the conflict by describing your customers’ pain points in vivid detail, then explaining equally descriptively how your solution works. Really show it doing its job and overcoming the challenge. The resolution of this conflict should give your customers that “Aha!” moment you’re looking for.
Theme is the main idea that pervades the story -- its central concept. Some common themes found in great literary works or plays include freedom, courage, discovery, justice and compassion. The theme of your company’s story should reflect its values. What do you stand for? Quality? Community? Authenticity? Advocacy? Decide on the themes of your company’s story and weave these throughout your outbound communications. What you write about and how you present your company becomes what your story is about.
People love a good story because they are hardwired to connect with it. If you can tap into that connection, you might just be able to turn your audiences into lifelong customers and loyal brand advocates. To tell your story right, try incorporating these five basic building blocks into your marketing efforts.