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Once Upon a Brand: Storytelling 101

Storytelling has always been an art form. Today, it’s become a marketing art form.

In a study published by AdWeek, consumers were more likely to purchase – and pay a higher price for –products that were tied to a compelling story.1 In one instance, a product attracted 64% higher bids. That’s because consumers can identify with emotions much more closely than they can with brands.

A story is simply the best way to get a thought or idea across to an audience. Great stories hook audiences by creating emotional connections. As Maya Angelou famously said, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” If you want customers to remember how you made them feel, share compelling stories. Stories that build trust, captivate audiences and create empathy lead to positive brand perception and a larger percentage of qualified leads. A few things to keep in mind:

Authenticity rules

True stories are filled with struggles, not sunshine. Audiences want to know that your brand is human. Showing your mistakes and failures is not a sign of weakness, but of strength. When brands are authentic, they are able to embrace their failures and learn from them. Draw audiences in by allowing your brand to be vulnerable. There’s a good chance your audience is already telling stories about your brand. Tie elements of those stories into your brand’s narratives to build a foundation of authenticity.

It’s not about you

Your audience doesn’t want to hear all about you and your products. They want to hear stories from real people in real world situations. Your brand should be secondary to the story, not the focus of it. It’s your customers who are the heroes – they are the ones who’ve struggled and persevered – with the help of your brand. If you want to create empathy among your audience, you must let them see themselves in your story. Captivate your audience by sharing authentic, emotional stories that put your customers in the spotlight. Rather than talk about your products, show how they are being used in real life applications. Let your customers tell their personal stories, and use these to motivate your audience.

Show, don’t tell

You’ve probably heard this classic storytelling advice. Telling your audience how to feel and what to think doesn’t work. But when bring them into your story, they feel and think for themselves. Consumers want to feel good about the companies they buy from and the products they purchase. Knowing the story behind a company’s products makes the company more relatable. A strong story begins by setting up a problem. Share your customers’ struggles: plummeting sales, perhaps, or stalled website visits. Then show how they overcame the problem with the help of your solution. When your audience feels empathy, they are more inclined to cheer for successes, and look to you for their own solutions.

Storytelling in action

Microsoft’s Real Stories of Digital Transformation campaign leverages customer experiences to show how our technology solutions are impacting companies large and small across all verticals. A “written evidence” piece is created to show how a company transformed its processes, while a blog post shares the personal side of the story, including quotes from the company representative and the Microsoft partner. Videos, infographics, and/or social content rounds out the campaign content, creating a complete picture of each customer’s digital transformation journey.