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The power of storytelling in marketing

It all comes down to two things, a good story and the way you tell it.

Why do people pay hundreds of dollars for a pair of sneakers? And why do we feel an emotional connection to some brands, and not to others? The answer is simple:

It all comes down to two things, a good story and the way you tell it.

Storytelling has been a buzzword in marketing for quite a while now, but it echoes back thousands of years to what makes us really human. As the marketplace is growing increasingly noisy and ad-blocking programs limit traditional advertising options, we caught up with Claudia Martinez Monsanto, Marketing Manager at PieSync from HubSpot to find out why now is the time to make storytelling and content marketing a part of every marketing strategy.


"Storytelling has been a buzzword in marketing for quite a while now, but it echoes back thousands of years to what makes us really human"


Storytelling creates value


Have you heard of the Significant Objects Project? It was a social experiment carried out in 2009 by reporters Rob Walker of The Washington Post and Joshua Glenn from The New York Times. They wanted to test their thesis: that stories are the main driver behind perceived value. The writers bought $128.74 worth of thrift-store trinkets and set out to create compelling backstories for each item – before posting them on eBay. 

And yes, they proved their point. The very same items, now with stories added, were sold at a total of $3,612.5. That's an increase of 2,700%. If that's the difference good storytelling made for a bunch of random junk-store objects, imagine what it can do for a brand.


Buying decisions based on emotions


But how can a story affect us so profoundly? Behavioral science explains it. There are plenty of studies on the power emotion has over our decision-making, both from a marketing and non-marketing perspective. In short, it has been proven that emotion trumps our rational thinking.

Heineken is a good example. They don't have the best beer in the world, but their founders have a great story. They waited years before selling their beer to make sure it had premium quality. Heineken buyers buy that story. They buy the legend of the Heineken family and their search for a premium taste. Another thing Heineken does great is telling that story consistently across channels, using slogans like "It's all about the beer" and the tagline "premium quality" on their bottles.   

Even B2B buyers, despite the pretense of being data-driven, rely strongly on emotions when making business decisions. There is no industry where storytelling will not benefit your marketing. Because as long as the buyer is a person, stories will be the most impactful means of communication.


What does this mean for marketers?


"Man – let me offer you a definition – is the storytelling animal." This quote from the novel Waterland by Graham Swift says it all. As human beings, we communicate, learn, and connect through stories. Research shows that stories make information more memorable. According to psychologist Jerome Bruner, we're 22 times more likely to remember something if we hear of it in a story context.

Studies indicate that 78 percent of CMOs believe content marketing is the future of marketing. And what is content marketing, but storytelling at scale? That's why successful content marketers aim to do what Heineken does: they distill their messaging down to the very core, and then they use storytelling to repeat it, over and over again.

"As human beings, we communicate, learn, and connect through stories"

Examples of storytelling in marketing


Let's have a look at two companies that have created incredible brands using storytelling: Burt's Bees and Landrover.


Burt's Bees – a strong founder's story


Burt's Bees is an excellent example of how a brand selling a simple commodity product like chapsticks has managed to create a global brand with a loyal following through strong storytelling. 

Burt's Bees has always stuck with one very simple idea: what you put on your body should be made from the best nature has to offer. This is their mission statement, and they're brilliantly creative as they weave it into compelling stories – often about the founder, Mr Burt himself. 

A good founder's story is a classic and effective way to build a strong brand story.


Land Rover – the customer is the hero


To celebrate their 70th anniversary, Land Rover created a beautiful video bringing to life the story of "The Land of Land Rovers", shot in a remote area in the Indian Himalayas. It tells the story of the local drivers relying on meticulously maintained 1957 Land Rovers to transport people and supplies between two small mountain villages. 

This campaign shows how the best strategy is often not to tell stories about yourself, but rather the people you serve.


Storytelling is a crucial part of any marketing strategy


Storytelling is the most powerful means of communication there is. As human beings, storytelling is part of who we are. Storytelling is what makes us feel, learn, react, and remember. And given that purchase decisions are primarily guided by our emotions, storytelling is one of the most effective tools in the marketer's toolbox

A strong brand story that aligns with the values and aspirations of your target audience is your most important marketing asset. How will you put it to good use?


If you’re interested in learning more about digital marketing, check out our Content and Social Media Marketing or Digital Marketing Strategy short courses, delivered 100% online.


About the Author

Bio: Claudia Martinez Monsanto is the Marketing Manager at PieSync from Hubspot. Claudia creates blogs, case studies, and newsletters and also loves working with PieSync partners to create unique co-marketing campaigns.

This article was originally published on 23 July 2020