Aug 25, 2023

Brand Storytelling in the Digital Age

Written by Dan Hughes

Today’s tech-savvy consumers are turning away from a one-size-fits-all content approach. If you want to engage and grow your customer base, you need to speak to your audience on a personal level (using great content) and doing that properly means using storytelling.

With many channels and platforms to share your brand story, values, and company culture, there are endless opportunities to create a valuable and meaningful narrative with your audience.

Here, we’ll explore the key digital channels for brand storytelling, and look at examples for insight and inspiration.

“Brand storytelling isn't just a regular definition of marketing. It is how we take every opportunity to do marketing in the right way to the right audience, and with the heart, not with the head.” Ekaterina Walter, Passionate Storyteller, Innovative Marketer, and DMI Author

Brand Storytelling Techniques

Any creative digital marketer appreciates the virtues of brand storytelling. To begin, here are three techniques that will be valuable to your storytelling efforts - the 3 Cs.

Craft, Create, Conjure.

Craft a storytelling strategy

Like your content strategy, before you craft your narrative, you should consider the message you want to convey. Ask yourself why you are creating this message and decide on the platforms that will present it most effectively.

Once you’ve put a micro-strategy in place, much like a piece of flash or short fiction, carve out a beginning, middle, and end. Then humanize the main protagonist of your content, whether it be a person or a product.

The strongest stories use emotion to connect with people on a personal level, so never forget who you’re speaking to, and always add a human element to your brand story.

Create evergreen content

When you’re trying to reach out and touch your audience with a meaningful brand story, it’s important to create content that will remain powerful and relevant in years to come - in other words, evergreen content.

To do this make sure the content isn’t event or time-specific, and you should produce a narrative that doesn’t rely on particular dates or minor current events. (Theme-related content can be successful but it does date quickly). 

Several evergreen formats can be used as part of your storytelling strategy such as: 

  • Listicles
  • Tips
  • How-to content
  • Product Reviews
  • Videos

Conjure data-driven messages

When it comes to creating relevant content, data is your friend. You should watch your data analytics to see what topics, messages or images resonated with your audience as that will help inform future content. 

For example, let’s say you created a series of how-to videos relating to a range of products that drove traffic to your site and generated leads. Use this insight to look at what other how-to material you could create that would not only drive engagement but educate people about your brand and products/services.  

Fenty Beauty drives engagement on YouTube with its tutorial videos that show people how to use their products to achieve different looks or solve common problems.

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It’s worth looking across data from different channels to get a better picture of what’s working. Social media metrics will not show the big picture so also look at website traffic, leads, paid campaigns, and email to get better insights. 

These 3 C’s will help you build a great foundation for your storytelling but there are also channels and technologies you can tap into to enhance your communications.  

1. Trend-Driven Storytelling

Take Google Trends for example. It’s an invaluable source of information to help you find out what’s trending across various locations and languages by analyzing the popularity of top search queries.

You can treat it as a data source to inform your content marketing and tap into what people care about to drive interest and engagement. You can explore the platform by category and search type (image search or YouTube search) and also choose a timeframe. 

Screenshot from Google Trends showing search results
Screenshot from Google Trends showing search results

Google Trends also analyzes traffic for websites and can help inform your SEO strategy so you use keywords in content and on your website that are relevant to your audience and so found more easily in searches. 

You can also use trending features on social media such as YouTubeTrending topics, Instagram trends by searching for hashtags, and Pinterest Trends. Platforms such as SEMRush can be useful to look at competitors and Ahrefs for keyword ranking.

2. Virtual Reality (VR) and Brand Storytelling

By 2026 revenue from the consumer and enterprise VR market is forecast to exceed $28 billion, according to Statista data. 

That just shows the investment by companies in virtual reality as a tool to engage customers, especially with the focus by Meta on immersive technology through the metaverse.  

Over the past few years, many companies have invested heavily in creating VR technology such as Sony, Google, Samsung and particularly Apple with their Vision Pro. This is because virtual reality has enormous potential for immersive storytelling to deliver messages, news and vital information across industries.

VR can be particularly useful for industries such as healthcare and automotive as it can allow brands to showcase their products and allow people to see how their product or service works. 

Take Osso VR, a technology developed for surgical teams to enable virtual training and assessment. It is being used by medical device companies to train thousands of surgeons on the latest surgical techniques around the world.

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It can also be used by the non-profit sector to educate people on a particular issue or immerse people in an experience. The Counter Extremism Project partnered with ‘Nobody's Listening’, an exhibition using VR to commemorate the Yazidi Genocide and inspire action to help communities across Iraq. It is the first time that VR has been used

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As VR technology continues to evolve and become an effective way for marketers to tell a story, we expect to see a host of innovative VR storytelling experiences in the near future.

“Your brand is your actions, stories the community has created around your mission, the extraordinary, the personalized customer service that you provide to every single person when they have an issue or a problem.” Ekaterina Walter

3. Social Media Storytelling

With so many active social media platforms available, there’s lots of opportunity when it comes to telling your brand’s story to a highly-engaged audience.

DataReportal’s 2023 April Global Statshot report found that 60 percent of the world uses social media and spends an average of 2 hours and 24 minutes on it every day. The four most popular channels are Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Instagram. 

The point is that people love to connect, conduct research, share their opinions, and consume content via social media. So if you use it to tell your story in a creative and inspirational way, you stand to yield great results.

For example, accommodation innovator Airbnb has grown its social media following exponentially in recent years, with its Facebook page boasting over 16 million followers and its Instagram posts enjoying an average of 3.8k likes on its posts.

Screenshot of AirBNB Instagram profile
Screenshot of AirBNB Instagram profile

In addition to using strong visuals to convey its brand message, Airbnb crafts compelling copy to encourage engagement and expand its social reach. The brand also uses a unique tone to tell a story that not only sparks engagement but compels people to invest in the brand.

Social media is also the perfect platform for user-generated content which is priceless as word-of-mouth promotion. The beauty of UGC is that the content is created by someone else, an advocate, a customer, an employee, or a social media follower, rather than the brand itself.

Types of UGC are

  • Social posts or sharing
  • Customer reviews
  • Case studies
  • Referrals 
  • Community forums
  • Webinars or podcasts
  • Conferences
  • Testimonials

There’s also the option to use influencers in your social media storytelling. The key is to pick ones that can embrace your brand story and engage users. 

It’s not about the number of followers in this case (unless you have a huge budget), it’s about the influencer/s you pick that have inroads to the audience you want to attract and influence.   

3. Dark Social Storytelling

It may sound ominous, but dark social is a valuable storytelling medium that is often overlooked. Dark social refers to a form of social sharing that isn’t possible to track accurately as interactions aren’t documented by analytics platforms. 

The number of consumers sharing links or resources through private messaging apps such as WhatsApp, in addition to traditional platforms such as email or SMS, is on the rise. And while these transactions are difficult to quantify, by tapping into dark social platforms, you can expand your reach and boost brand awareness exponentially.

Research by SparkToro found that a large portion of traffic marked as ‘direct’ in analytics was likely sent by dark traffic networks. This has consequences for marketers who rely on analytics to report accurately and make data-driven insights. 

The best ways to measure dark social are: 

  • Customize and format your URLs - Create trackable and short URLs (known as UTMs) to allow for more accurate tracking. 
  • Use social listening - This can help you to track hashtags, keywords and brand mentions that you could miss out on.
  • Make sharing easy - Include trackable sharing buttons for your social networks across your website pages including blogs. 
  • Use GA4 - Use the Conversion Path report and click on the advertising tab to get a snapshot. Then underneath ‘Attribution’ you can click conversion paths to see all the touchpoints for website conversions.
  • Think about mobile - The majority of dark social shares come from mobile, so make content that’s mobile-friendly and easy to share.
  • Use dark social tools - There are a few tools out there to help you track dark social traffic such as ShareThis and Getsocial.
  • Use lead generation forms - To find out how people found you, include a ‘How did you hear about us?’ question on your lead gen forms. 

Understanding where your traffic comes from, especially on dark social will help you understand more about your customer and leverage channels you may be underusing or neglecting. 

Brand Storytelling - Conclusion

Storytelling is important because it helps a brand make a connection with customers and prospects. It’s not about pushing a product or service, but giving people a reason for needing that product or service. 

The most successful storytelling looks to start a conversation and build trust and loyalty. Ultimately, it’s about fostering a relationship with an individual or community that makes them think of your brand name when they’re looking for a solution that you cater to. 

It’s also about creating brand advocates that talk about you on social media or dark social so others are compelled to check you out.  By thinking about the customer and creating a story around their needs you will build your customer base and drive the performance of your marketing activities.  


Updated 2023

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Dan Hughes
Dan Hughes

Dan is a content writer specializing in digital marketing, emerging tech, music and looking after a toddler. You can find out more about him and his work by visiting his Catchy Space.

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