Jun 26, 2018

Brand Storytelling in the Digital Age

Written by Dan Hughes

The digital age is here and as technology continues to evolve, so does the behavior of consumers.

As you will be aware, today’s tech-savvy digital consumer is immune to the plasticity of banner advertising or one-size-fits-all content offerings. If you want to grow your audience meaningfully, in a way that yields sustainable long-term results, speaking to your audience on a personal level is a must.

In the modern world, people will invest in a brand that they believe in, both personally and financially. And one of the most powerful means of conveying your message in the digital sphere is by telling your brand story.

In an age of social media and SVOD platforms such as Netflix, the average person is far more likely to respond to a narrative than a sales slogan. Recent research suggests that short fiction makes a significant impact on eBay listings. In fact, eBay listings that include a strong narrative attract an average of 64% higher bids. Moreover, 64% of consumers cite shared values as the main reason they maintain a relationship with a brand. It’s no secret: detailed tales connect with consumers.

With a multitude of channels and platforms on which to share your stories, values and company culture, there's a seemingly endless level of scope when it comes to presenting a creative, valuable and meaningful narrative with your audience.

Here, we will explore the key outlets for brand storytelling in the digital age, and examine real-life examples for insight and inspiration.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.” Seth Godin, author of ‘All Marketers Tell Stories’

Brand Storytelling Techniques

As a creative digital marketer, we know you appreciate the virtues of brand storytelling. To begin, here are three definitive techniques that will prove valuable to your storytelling efforts, the three Cs, if you will.

Craft a storytelling strategy:

Much like your content strategy, before you start to craft your narrative, you should first consider the particular message your story is looking to convey. Ask yourself why the narrative at hand is going to exist and decide the platforms you feel 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, and humanize the main protagonist of your content, whether it be a person or a product.

The most potent stories use emotion to connect with people on a human level, so never forget who you’re speaking to, and never forget to 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, creating content that will remain powerful and relevant in years to come is important.

If the content you're crafting isn’t event or time-specific, always attempt to produce a narrative that doesn’t lean too much on particular dates or minor current events. To ensure your story stands the test of time, attracting consumers for years to come, you should aim to make it evergreen.

Conjure data-driven messages:

By 2019, content marketing services are expected to generate over $313 billion (€253 billion). By crafting meaningful narratives with the power of digital data, you could help your company generate a sizable share of that revenue.

Leveraging the enormous amounts of digital data available at your fingertips will help you to craft highly-targeted stories which resonate with your audience on a truly personal level. Digital data will help to dictate the flow of your narrative, leaving you the time and space to be as creative as possible.

Data-Driven Brand Storytelling

Take Google Trends for example. As a primary component of its Lookback campaign, Google Trends gathered its most relevant digital search data from the previous 12 months and used the insights to create a visually engaging video and add a deeper dimension to its narrative

This analytical storytelling initiative has earned millions of views, and by arranging its most striking insights into a gripping narrative, Google has cemented itself as a socially conscious brand with an astute ability to empower the planet with information.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Brand Storytelling

Forbes suggests that 75% of the planet’s most valuable brands have created some form of VR or augmented reality (AR) experience to inspire and engage with their customers.

Although VR and AR as brand experiences are in their infancy, there is enormous potential for immersive storytelling in the digital age. This hugely engaging storytelling medium has the power to become one of the world’s most poignant content marketing tools, delivering messages, news, vital information and inspiring tales both in the past tense and real-time.

Following the undeniable success of Pokemon Go – the AR gaming application that earned 65 million downloads in the US in 2017 alone – it is clear that today’s consumers crave immersive experiences.

Stepping into the realm of immersive VR and AR-based storytelling, British news outlet The Guardian launched its 6×9: Solitary VR in 2016.

In a bid to place its readers into the shoes of a human being subjected to the tyranny of solitary confinement, The Guardian created an interactive 360-degree experience that simulates the experience of being held in a six by nine-foot room

Brought to life with narration from real-life inmates, this immersive video offers a gritty, emotional and eye-opening glimpse of life in solitary confinement, giving readers a taste of the world through fresh eyes. Not only did this immersive storytelling experience gain notable media attention, it also sparked meaningful dialogue between those who viewed the video, boosting The Guardian’s brand awareness in the process.

As VR technology continues to evolve and continues to become a major part of our everyday lives, we expect to see a host of innovative VR storytelling experiences in the near future.

Social Media Storytelling

With so many active social media platforms in today’s world, there is a wealth of opportunity when it comes to telling your brand’s story to a highly-engaged audience.

Some 81% of millennials glimpse at Twitter at least once per day.  On an average day, Snapchat reaches 41% of 18 to 34-year-olds in the US alone. LinkedIn boasts in excess of 530 million user profiles.

The point is that people love to connect, conduct research, share their opinions and consume content via social media. If you tell your story in a creative, 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 primary Facebook page boasting over 11 million followers and its Instagram posts enjoying an average of 20,000 engagements.

In addition to leaning on strong visuals to convey its brand message, Airbnb crafts compelling copy for many of its major posts to encourage engagements and expand its social reach. Often, Airbnb crafts a miniature narrative to accompany its images, sharing its unique tone with its audience, telling a story that not only sparks engagement but compels people to invest in the brand, both personally and financially.

The brand’s social media storytelling also ties neatly into its dedicated Stories platform. As this blog committed to publishing high-quality user-generated content consisting of travel tips, inspirational tales and guides produced through personal experience, and cross-promoting the platform via its social channels, Airbnb has become a global phenomenon.

Brand engagement increases around 28% when people are exposed to a mix of user-created product videos and professional content. With a total valuation of $31 billion (€25 billion), Airbnb is a prime example of the potency of engaging user-generated content coupled with strong social storytelling.

The Untapped Power of Dark Social

It may sound ominous, but dark social is an enormously valuable storytelling medium that is often overlooked by today’s digital marketers.

Dark social refers to a form of social sharing that isn’t possible to track accurately: interactions that aren’t documented by web analytics platforms.

Theoretically, if a user clicks a link to your site from an open social platform such as Facebook or LinkedIn, an analytical platform will be able to inform you the exact source of your referral.

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 stand to expand your reach and boost brand awareness exponentially.

Globally, 70% of all online referrals now come from dark social. This figure is just impossible to ignore. To give its classic Desert boot a modern revival, footwear brand Clarks, understanding that at the time of its campaign WhatsApp had over 600 million users, tapped into the power of dark social with ‘From Rats to Rudeboys’

As a means of telling the amazing journey behind the Desert boot, which spans over three iconic cultural movements, users were personally invited to chat with legendary historian Steve Barrows, reggae icon Major Stitch and photographer Bruno Barbey.

By doing so, Clarks fans were able to ask direct questions to these pivotal characters and enjoy a dialogue that told the Desert boot narrative in the most personal, innovative way imaginable.

By using its heritage on a contemporary platform, Clarks has not only helped to pave the way in dark social storytelling, but its initiatives like this that have helped the brand remain relevant and revered in an ever-evolving digital world.

Over 90% of consumers want brands or businesses to make adverts that feel like a story. In essence, brand storytelling is a marketing competency that drives emotional engagement, resulting in improved business performance – and if you want to thrive in today’s and indeed tomorrow’s marketing world, harnessing the power of the narrative is critical.

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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