Storytelling has been a fundamental part of human society since time immemorial. It has been the process by which we share, interpret and pass down knowledge and experiences.
The interesting aspect of storytelling is that it is the most effective way of transferring knowledge when people are gathered together in a social setting. The advent of social media and the creation of communities, hangouts and forums have created an environment for storytelling to again take center-stage and thrive. As individuals we love to hear about the experiences of other people through stories. There is nothing we enjoy more than listening to a story; we engage more intimately with a storytelling narrative than we do with other communications. This is because we all have a cognitive memory that is designed to understand, remember and tell stories. This is the way we think.
“So, what has this to do with brands?” you ask. Well, our expectations of marketing communications are changing, in large part due to the way we engage on social. This is now the way we expect to engage with brands. Don’t just tell me about your product. If you want to engage me emotionally tell me a story about how your customers engage with your product. We want to understand the brand experience through the eyes of another person and to understand the emotional experience it created. It’s all about empathy and how we can relate to what they experienced. We no longer believe in brand rhetoric, we want to hear the truth. Engage our hearts and minds.
A great example of this is the Cannes 2013 Lion winner. Unilever very successfully communicated the Dove brand as a reflection of the individual experiences of a number of people who narrated their personal stories. This narrative was compelling, believable, unique and emotionally inspiring and in my mind is the only way that brands can now convey their values in a way that truly engages an audience on an emotional level.
Another great example from the masters at Coca-Cola.
So if you’re not thinking of your brand as a reflection of the individual stories of your customers, then you may well have challenging times ahead.