Jan 17, 2017

How to Use Storytelling for Brand Marketing Success

by Digital Marketing Institute

Hoover. Velcro. Q-tips. Chapstick. These are all brands whose names are so synonymous with the products they sell, they’ve become generic terms used in daily conversation. This is the epitome of brand marketing success. 45% of a brand’s image can be attributed to what it says and how it says it. This is why storytelling is an integral aspect of any successful brand marketing strategy. Of course, not every organization will be able to achieve such a high level of brand awareness, but there are easy actions that you can take to enhance the effectiveness of your brand marketing.

Below, we’ve outlined some of these actions, and included some best practice examples from which you can take inspiration!

Create a cohesive brand narrative

In order to convey the value of your brand, and the benefits you can bring to potential customers, you need to be able to succinctly summarize it all in a brand narrative. A brand narrative is a strategic statement, a tool that you can leverage to communicate with your target audience. Your brand narrative will tell both potential and existing customers who you are, what your values are, and what makes you special.

Whether you’re circulating a press release or submitting a guest blog, the first step to creating a lasting impression is being able to share a compelling origin story that will set you apart from your competitors.

Take the time to consider what makes your brand unique. Regardless of the products you sell or the industries in which you operate, every organization has at least one USP. Use this as your starting point from which you can build out a bigger, all-encompassing, aspirational picture.

Aim to create a narrative that is between 300-500 words in length. This may seem extensive, but this will be a central document that will inform and influence everything from your social posting to your paid advertising campaigns, to the copy on your website. Break your narrative down into sections – this will make it easier to lift relevant quotes as and when you need them. Be sure to cover your brand’s history, how it has evolved, its goals for the future, key product or service offerings, its values and beliefs.

Nike is an example of an organization who have solidified their appeal with a strong brand narrative. In the 90s, when Michael Jordan was their spokesperson, they ran a television ad during which the basketball star outlined how his repetitive failures have helped him to succeed. From the inspirational “Just Do It’ strapline, to their assertion that “if you have a body, you ARE an athlete”, the Nike brand is rooted in inspiration, innovation and inclusion, and this brand message has been consistent since its inception.

Identify your target audience

Once you’ve defined your brand positioning with a cohesive narrative, you should look to define your target audience, and segment them into fully-fleshed personas. If you can adopt a streamlined and targeted approach, you’ll be able to harness the full power of your brand marketing. Clearly defined personas will help you to make the most of your storytelling capabilities, as you’ll be able to tell the right story to the right people at the right time, and achieve your overall objectives in the process.

Start by conducting a thorough analysis of your existing audience, and those of your main competitors. This will involve utilizing social listening tools, to gather data such as brand mentions (a valuable way to measure sentiment), the type of content which best convinces and converts these audiences and industry influencers who you could potentially recruit as brand champions. You can use tools such as Google Analytics to find out more about visitors to your website – where they’re located, the devices they use, the landing pages they prefer.

You can supplement this information with personas that encompass your ideal customers – target segments that you aspire to engage but haven’t yet. Include details such as their age, income level, location, interests, and any potential challenges. Once you’ve taken the time to achieve this level of persona definition, you’ll find it infinitely easier to create clear, compelling brand stories.

Leverage the virality of video

85% of brands who employ a comprehensive video marketing strategy experience success. This isn’t surprising when you consider that one video is worth 1.8million words. Video is a format that can promote brand awareness, extend your reach (with video, there always exists the potential to go viral!) and tell your brand’s story in an accessible, entertaining way. By using video as part of your brand marketing mix, you can significantly increase audience engagement rates and create a lasting impression.

The value of video lies in its ability to convey a lot, succinctly, which is important in a digital age where the human attention span is approximately 8 seconds. In order to maximize its impact, all you have to do is ensure your video content is sufficiently interesting and tailored to your target audience’s needs and interests.

So, what kind of video content should you create? If you want to promote your brand’s credibility, you may want to consider customer testimonials. Customer testimonials are considered the most effective content marketing tactics, identified by 89% of B2B marketers. They have the ability to humanize your brand, creating an emotional appeal that can only be cultivated by word-of—mouth and peer-to-peer recommendations. In short, customer testimonials are powerful because they tell your brand’s story for you.

Brand videos can also be leveraged to tell your story from your own perspective. Amazon is a brand is that particularly adept at telling its own story through thoughtfully-created video content. In ads created to promote their Prime service, they showcase the unifying power of gift giving. One video in particular shows a priest and an imam, two old friends meeting for a cup of tea, before sending each other the same gift using the service. Not only do Amazon manage highlight the benefits of unlimited fast delivery, recognizing that a large proportion of their customers make purchases intended for others, they simultaneously promote the importance of selflessness, and thinking of others.

Consider User-Generated Content

The key advantage of User-Generated Content isn’t too dissimilar to that of using customer testimonials – it can foster a very personal, emotional investment in your brand. Giving your customers the opportunity to play a vital role in your brand building efforts can make them feel like a valued component of your business. With UGC, your brand can demonstrate in interest in your customers’ opinions and gain their trust.

Another benefit of UGC is that it significantly reduces the requirement for you to produce a large volume of content yourself, which frees up both you and your marketing budget to focus on additional, complementary brand building activities.

The success of UGC has even been acknowledged and adopted by the mass media – in 2005, the BBC set up a User Generated Content team, with 3 staff, changing the way the broadcasting service reported news. In July 2005, suicide bombers targeted London’s transport network during rush hour, killing 52 people. The BBC initially reported the police line that there had been power surges on the underground. But for the UGC team, the emails and texts they received told a different story. Soon, the BBC was able to ascertain what had really happened and knew the locations of all four devices just over an hour after the first bombs went off.

UGC can be produced in various formats, but, as previously mentioned, video is one of the most compelling types of content that that you can use to share your brand’s stories in an authentic, emotive manner.

Coca-Cola are a brand known for their skilful use of UGC. Their “Happiness is Movement” campaign serves as a perfect example. The idea behind the campaign is to exhibit how movement, and an active lifestyle, can be responsible for some of our happiest moments in life, and that their brand is aligned with this sentiment. Coca-Cola accumulated a series of videos created by their followers that show how they move to have fun.

Create a Cross-Channel Marketing Campaign

The only step more important than creating a compelling brand story is ensuring that it’s properly distributed for maximum impact. The best way to guarantee that your brand voice is heard by your target audience is to create and implement a cross-channel brand marketing campaign. As users are adopting an increasing amount of digital technologies, and are active on a growing number of devices, it’s important that brand communications acknowledge and adapt to this. The most successful organizations are those that can pull together social media, email, search and offline marketing activities into one cohesive strategy that gives their brand an extra visibility to the individuals that matter most.

Innocent Smoothies are a company that have benefited greatly from cross-channel marketing. Their strategy is centred upon emotive messaging on a variety of channels, with a strong emphasis on their charity work (10% of profits are donated to charity).

This includes offline marketing activities that the brand promotes using online channels. The Big Knit, for example, is a programme that gets people across the UK to knit tiny hats for Innocent’s drinks bottles. For every drink sold, 25p is donated to Age UK. It also runs Innocent Unplugged, a festival where people can leave their mobile devices at home for the weekend in order to destress. All of Innocent’s marketing, across various channels, is underpinned by the same brand story - their desire to help people live well and do good.

According to Innocent’s brand activation manager, “Over the last 10 years we have moved away from communicating our brand identity or brand positioning as just a TV advert or a piece of broadcast creative. I think these days you can bring what you stand for as a brand to life in many different ways and engaging ways, and that is effectively what we use our brand properties for.

“As a brand we like to help people live well and that is in the things that we make and also the things that we do…what our brand properties give us is a way of bringing the brand to life in a way that gets people talking, gets us noticed more and engages our drinkers more than a 30 second TV ad.”

Innocent Smoothies are a company that have benefited greatly from cross-channel marketing.

Do you have any tips on how to build a brand through strategic storytelling? What are your favourite examples of effective branded content? Let us know in the comments section below!

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