6 Storytelling Trends Marketing Leaders Should Know About

Today's consumers and business decision makers are becoming less and less susceptible to sales promises and banner advertising. Now more than ever, people strive to invest in a brand's narrative or story. In fact, a recent study suggests that by telling their brand story well, companies have the power to increase the value of a product or service by over 20 times.

To be able to do that, companies need clear leadership with a vision that is both innovative and intuitive. Customer needs change all the time and their behaviors shift meaning that leaders and their teams need to be aware of the marketplace, adaptable and agile in their approach to marketing their brand to consumers.

From video to VR, social media and beyond, there is a host of mediums through which a brand can tell their story - and many ways to do so. In this article, we will explore how leaders can help ensure their teams are telling a compelling brand story that helps engage and influence customers.

1) Data-driven storytelling

By 2020, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second, for each person on earth. Leveraging the colossal amounts of digital data available to create highly visual, engaging and targeted stories will prove incredibly potent from brands and companies in 2018 and beyond. 

The average human processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and by using data to create visually stunning stories, brands will be able to grab attention, provide detailed solutions to problems and cut through the raft of noise online. An exemplary example of a visually striking data-driven storytelling comes from Google Trends. 

During its Lookback campaign, Google Trends collated its most valuable search data from the previous year and used it to create a video as an additional layer to its narrative. As a result of this analytical approach, the brand delivered on its promise of offering marketers a means of understanding how to tap into the zeitgeist to launch more effective ad campaigns.

With 15,298,283 views and counting, Google Trends grabbed the attention of a vast demographic and told a story that engaged consumers on a global scale.

Data is key to developing good content and ultimately telling a story that resonates. It’s not always necessary to rely on words to tell a story and leaders that can help direct their teams derive insight from data can help to tell a unique story as the demand for interactive content gains ground. 

2) Mini-ads

With traditional advertising struggling in today's digital landscape, companies need to consider fresh, inventive ways to connect with consumers and deliver their message as part of their digital strategy.

A visual medium that yields great results, video continues to grow amongst marketing teams as a way to tell the tale of a brand or product. So much so that companies actively using video benefit from 41% more web traffic than non-users.

However, as people become content weary, attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Having understood this new wave of behavior, Facebook announced its intention to launch six-second ads that will allow brands and businesses to tell a condensed story to their target audience - the Mini-Ad. Jumping on this trend, YouTube recently launched its 'Six-Second Story Challenge', an initiative that spawned a host of incredibly inventive results:

These new ads not only have the power to bring a brand's story to life but this snappy six-second format will tap into a content overwhelmed audience which in turn, will drive engagement.

The key to leadership is knowing the latest trends and encouraging experimentation in a team to trial new formats that may add to the business. What’s key to remember is that not every trend with have relevance to your audience, so choose wisely and empower staff to make decisions based on knowledge and research.  

3) Customer-led storytelling

As our world becomes increasingly well-connected, consumers have many platforms to share their thoughts and opinions. With 92% of people admitting to trusting their peers over a traditional advert, those charged with leading a team need to ensure your brand is providing customers or a client's customers with an opportunity to tell their stories.

This user-generated storytelling will help to increase engagement, build trust and hugely expand your reach. It can be done simply by your team hosting a social media takeover day, with blogger outreach or by inviting influential customers to write guest posts on your blog.

For inspiration, this customer-centric storytelling from Airbnb is an excellent example. As a wholly customer facing company, rather than telling their version of their tale, the company harnesses the power of customer-led storytelling to give people a chance spark up narratives. The platform is called 'Stories from the Airbnb Community' and it highly-engaging with a mix of amazing stories published regularly.

Stories from the Airbnb Community

When it comes to customer-driven storytelling, strong leadership is essential to not only give your team the confidence to reach out to your business' key audiences through different outreach strategies, but offers them access to a host of digital mediums in which to do so. That said, it's essential that as a leader, learning to understand your audience through social listening and stay abreast of ever-evolving customer outreach tactics is a priority.

4) Philanthropic storytelling

In today's world, customers crave transparency and want to know more about companies, how they conduct their business, how they treat their employees, what their ethos is, how they source materials and handle their products. So, when it comes to brand storytelling in the modern age, it pays to be clear, concise and honest.

According to Adobe and Goldsmiths, 75% of marketing leaders are failing to understand shifting consumer behavior, leading to a significant impact on business performance. And by understanding what today's consumers are looking for, you'll be able to craft your message accordingly; you'll also be able to lead others on the path to brand storytelling enlightenment.

A prime example of ethical brand storytelling, the kind that resonates with a younger, more adventurous and increasingly environmentally conscious generation is Patagonia. Sporting the mission statement, 'Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis', the outdoors and adventure brand focuses on showcasing its efforts through its marketing savvy campaigns.

Through its 'Worn Wear' initiative, it hires 45 full-time repair technicians to fix Patagonia garments that are in need of a little TLC. Alongside the work power, its video campaign 'The Stories We Wear' highlights the fact that people that wear the brand to show the endurance of the product they make as well as the attachment they have to these clothes.

Not only is this smart and effective approach to storytelling incredibly relevant, but it can also be used to help steer your digital marketing campaigns in the right direction.

As a leader, it's essential to ensure your team is engaged with everything the business is doing from new developments to possible charity partnerships. By researching key company facts and remaining informed yourself, you'll be able to provide insights and details that can offer transparency during campaigns. Some of these exciting new developments and ethical improvements may even become the centerpiece.

5) Immersive storytelling

Experts suggest, over 200 million virtual reality headsets will be sold by 2020. With augmented reality becoming an increasingly viable option for businesses to connect with their audience through the medium of VR, it's fast becoming an interesting tool for brands to convey their message and get people invested.

Following the unfathomable success of Pokemon Go (an augmented reality app downloaded by 65 million users in the US last year alone), IBM is launching a new VR app in conjunction with The New York Times. This exciting new augmented reality app is inspired by the NASA themed Fox movie ‘Hidden Figures’ and will allow users to immerse themselves in a virtual museum and discover lesser-known people from history - a development that will inspire, engage and educate on a whole new level.

IBM Hidden Figures VR app

By taking an individual and immersing them in a sensory experience that forms the center of your brand's story, your business stands to forge a meaningful connection like never before. As this form of brand storytelling develops, a host of innovations are expected to come to the surface in 2018 and for digital marketing leadership, immersive storytelling medium that will not only assist in the creation of forward-thinking campaigns but give others the tools to push their skills to a whole new level.

Immersive storytelling is to an extent, is in its infancy. As a result, this brave new world of storytelling has a huge amount of scope with many new skills to master along the way. That said, as a leader you should foster a culture of learning, giving your team the time and resources to upskill themselves and gain new knowledge to make your brand's immersive storytelling as innovative, inventive and ahead of the pack.

By taking a person and immersing them in a sensory experience that forms the center of your brand's story, your company stands to drive engagement in a huge way. As this form of brand storytelling develops, a host of innovations are expected to come to the surface in 2018. 

6) Dark social

Dark Social

Despite the somewhat ominous name, dark social media isn't as sinister as you might think. 

Dark social refers to the type of social sharing that can’t be tracked accurately, for example, the data that isn’t registered up by web analytics platforms. In theory, if a person clicks a link to a site from an open social media site like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, an analytical platform will reveal precisely where that referral came from.

But, with the rise in consumers sharing links through private messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Snapchat, as well as more traditional mediums including email or SMS, there is more to measuring referral sources, traction and success than relying on Facebook or Twitter engagement.

On a global level, 70% of all online referrals now come from dark social. With so many people regularly using platforms or mediums like Slack, SMS or messaging, Google Hangouts, Snapchat, and even email to source information, share insights, and stay in touch with their peers, businesses must use these channels to share values, craft engaging narratives and connect with prospects on a personal level.

By opening up channels of communication, digital marketing leaders can increase internal engagement and give people an additional voice in which to contribute to the brand’s narrative.

By looking at new ways of understanding how people share content, data and information, you'll find whole new methods of sharing your brand story with your audience. And by encouraging your team to look beyond traditional data, you'll increase your chances of success exponentially.

At its core, brand storytelling is a business competency that drives emotional engagement, resulting in enhanced business performance. And this notion extends to the workplace.

“Brand storytelling is a great way to get your point of across, differentiate your brand, and work out new ideas. Today, if you want to succeed as an entrepreneur or leader, you also have to be a storyteller." - Richard Branson

With so many platforms and ways to share your company’s story, there has never been a better time to connect with your target audience, make your brand a thought leader and lead others to victory through an exciting, emotionally stimulating and focused brand narrative.

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