On a dark and stormy night, Arthur Essio sat in his large leather writer’s chair smoking a mahogany tobacco pipe that had belonged to his great-grandfather. It was a quarter after midnight, and he’d be getting ready for work in less than six hours. Hearing the teakettle scream, Arthur rose to retrieve it from the kitchen stove.
As he poured steaming hot water over a chamomile teabag slumped in his favorite mug—white, chipped porcelain stamped with the New York Times front page from the day after the Giants won the World Series in 1954—he pondered the age old question of man: How can I drive more traffic to my blog?
Ok, so maybe that was a bit dramatic. But it got your attention, didn’t it? As content writers, we mustn’t forget our storytelling roots. It’s easy to get lazy with our “Top 10 Lists” and our “Ultimate Guides,” but what exactly sets your content apart from the slew of competitors doing the exact same thing?
Brand storytelling marketing is the key to shareable content. While you may have great tips in those "Top 10" lists, readers will quickly lose interest if you don't offer them anything new or exciting. Remember when we were in grade school and the teacher would tell us to create a captivating first sentence? That still pertains. With all our research on how to optimize content, we've forgotten the most important part—we need to make it interesting.
Let’s Stroll Down Marketing Memory Lane and Into the Future
For most of us, our knowledge of the golden age of marketing comes from Netflix binge-a-thons of Mad Men. But aside from the misogyny and extramarital philandering, there is actually something of value that we can learn from Don Draper: how to create a feeling.
In the 1950s and 60s, this kind of marketing was at its peak. You'd see an advertisement of the happiest, most beautiful woman alive laughing and drinking a Coca-Cola and you'd think, "Jeepers! I've got a hankerin' for a Coca-Cola." You wanted her story. You were buying that feeling of carefree happiness. Unfortunately, marketing today isn't quite that easy. With the advent of the internet came a massive power shift between the marketer and the consumer.
In the old days, a business with poor customer service or a lousy product might receive an angry letter or phone call from a disgruntled customer, and that was about it. Aside from their limited word-of-mouth and empty threats of “I’m never spending another dime here again, sonny!” there wasn’t too much to lose sleep over. But now we have Yelp. And Facebook. And Twitter. And suddenly, those disappointed customers seem a whole lot louder. So, with the global soapbox that is the internet, the customer now calls the shots.
While Don-Draper-era marketing was about telling people how to feel, today's content marketing requires you to develop content based on your target audience's existing interests and behaviors. Storytelling marketing is no longer about the brand—it's about the customers.
Using storytelling in your content marketing plan will help you create content that resonates with your target audience and gets them on your side. It’s how you solidify your brand feel. It will make you more likable, more trustworthy, and more successful. All you have to do is find the right story to tell.
Using Storytelling to Create and Promote Your Brand Feel
When coming up with a content marketing plan, the first thing you have to do is take a hard look at your target audience. Sometimes, this can be a lot like buying gifts. You go to the store, and you find all this great stuff that you personally would love to have. But, would your mom really enjoy a motorized mini bike? (That, by the way, is a true story from my father's childhood).
Just telling a story you like isn’t enough. It has to be a story that your consumers will identify with. Take Blue Apron, for example.
The Blue Apron Story
Blue Apron is a meal service that delivers boxes of recipes along with the corresponding ingredients to customers' homes, and then they make the meals themselves. (Full disclosure, I've ordered a few boxes and loved it). So how did something as simple as essentially delivering groceries become a $2 billion business? Simple—they sold the right story.
Let’s think about the buyer persona of a typical Blue Apron customer. Obviously, they’re interested in cooking. However, they’re probably more on the novice side rather than a serious chef. It’s also highly likely that they have a very busy schedule, and would prefer to spend a little extra cash to have groceries delivered to their front door rather than have to make time for a trip to the store. With that information in mind, the marketers at Blue Apron created the perfect story and brand feel that they knew their target audience would love to be a part of.
The content on the Blue Apron site doesn’t just blatantly sell a product. Instead, they tell a story of how they came to be and their mission to solve a common pain point of a typical, busy American: It’s too difficult to plan healthy meals, and I don’t have the time.
So, Blue Apron sold a story that resonated with their target audience:
“Our food system—the way in which food is grown and distributed—is complicated, and making good choices for your family can be difficult [...] This will be a decades-long effort, but with each Blue Apron home chef, together we can build a better food system."
Suddenly, you’re not just a lazy cook. You’re revolutionizing the food system. You’re giving income to American farmers. You’re practically a superhero! It’s an empowering feeling of accomplishment. Somehow, simply by buying this product, it’s easy to be an overachieving do-gooder and make healthy homemade meals for your family. This backstory transcends into their blog as well, where they frequently tell customer stories that prove how Blue Apron helps improve their quality of life.
Just look at this lady—saving the world one pound of food at a time.
The Amy’s Kitchen Story
Another brand that tells stories remarkably well is Amy’s Kitchen—an organic frozen food company founded in Petaluma, California. The Amy's Kitchen story is a humble one that many customers find endearing. They make a point of noting how the company's first headquarters was in the family barn and how they just happened to stumble, unwittingly, into massive success.
Their content invokes a strong sense of homey, small-town values. (Think Stars Hollow of Gilmore Girls without the absurdities). Similar to Blue Apron content, Amy’s Kitchen attracts many Americans who want an easy way to eat healthy—with an added appeal for those who appreciate wholesome, family values.
The success of Amy’s Kitchen can be attributed to their perfect blend of convenience and family vibes. When you buy one of their products, you’re not just getting some hunk of frozen mystery gunk. It’s a home cooked, nutritious meal that will help you become a healthier, better version of yourself. And all you have to do is stick it in the microwave for a few minutes.
They’ve almost got me fooled that Amy is making my pizza in the farmhouse kitchen right now.
You Don’t Need an “Inspirational” Product or Service to Tell an Inspiring Story
Ok, so I realize that not all of us have the good fortune of selling feel-good, homemade meals. But even if you think your product or service isn't necessarily considered inspiring by the general public, there's still a niche market that will beg to differ.
Let’s take Imperva as an example. Imperva is a data and applications security solutions company that specializes in protecting businesses from DDoS attacks. Now, unless you’re in the tech industry, you may have just let out a Tim Allen grunt upon reading that sentence. But, there are also a lot of people whose ears perked up.
Cyber security is incredibly important for large tech companies who house highly sensitive information. Imperva does a sensational job of highlighting the potential risks of cyber attacks in order to inspire people to take action. Let’s have a look at their site content:
Imperva's storytelling is all about the consumer's concerns about cyber attacks, and they paint themselves as the much-needed bodyguard. In the example above, they use a powerful statistic to demonstrate the serious probability of DDoS attacks. If you were the decision maker in a tech company, you'd probably be picking up the phone or submitting their request form right now.
At first glance, this example may seem more about the product than the consumer. However, it's actually the opposite; it's all about the danger the customer is currently facing, and it offers a free, valuable report to help them learn more. Look again, and you'll see that Imperva's products and services weren't mentioned a single time.
Let’s look at some more of their site content:
Notice the compelling language that draws you in, such as, “What keeps you up at night?” This content focuses on highlighting the high risks of cyber attacks complimented by a reassuring affirmation that Imperva can keep you protected.
Don’t Forget About Visual Storytelling in Marketing
Remember our Coca Cola example? While blogs and site content are a great place to start your brand storytelling marketing, don’t forget about the other lucrative content marketing elements—photos, videos, and infographics are also incredible storytelling methods that help solidify your brand feel and focus.
One excellent way to leverage video storytelling is to develop client testimonials. For example, Imperva has several videos from clients that they’ve helped. This is a powerful example of how you can prove to leads that you are capable of making the impact you’re promising them.
Now that you have a better understanding of the importance of storytelling in marketing, you can start refining your own content so that it better reflects your brand’s target audience. Remember, so long as you make it interesting and valuable to consumers, you’ll start to see improvement in no time.
For more information about brand storytelling marketing or for help in creating powerful content that converts, contact the SevenAtoms content marketing team today.