We humans excel at producing mountains of content. Everyday our social media feeds and TV screens are filled with them. And marketers certainly contribute our fair share: Our days are filled creating blog posts, email offers, videos, social media promotions, etc. Ultimately we want to catch the attention of our prospects and get them to take action—to click, download, share and of course to buy. And great content is key to doing this effectively.
But what does it take to make marketing content great? Is it jumping on the latest meme? Outstanding production values? Influential celebrity endorsements? While those things are all important, the one thing that gets lost in our rush-rush power-publishing world is the backbone of a well-told story. Because stories capture our attention, fuel our imagination, inspire sharing and re-interpretation (meme-ing), they should be at the core of our digital marketing efforts.
So how to make a “great story” part of your digital marketing efforts? We suggest starting by working through the four elements of storytelling. This framework was developed by Klaus Fog back in the early aughts, and is a very clear and practical guide for helping articulate the story behind your brand, company, product or service.
Your story should have one central message. A clearly defined message should resonate like a moral or fundamental truth. It often stems from a higher-minded purpose behind your brand or business. A clearly articulated message should establish credibility in the eyes of your prospects, while giving your brand license to engage them. Typically your message is steeped in what your brand does well, or beliefs you consistently uphold.
In brand storytelling, your brand, the competition and consumers are all key characters. But you’ll want to start with one character in pursuit of a goal. That main character is usually your brand or target customer.
Fear, change and fear-of-change are what drives conflict. And while people have a natural tendency to quash conflict and restore harmony when disrupted, conflict is also what makes a story compelling. The disruptive elements of a conflict force characters in a story to act. Great storytellers get their message across through conflict and its resolution.
The sequence of events in a story designed to have an artistic or emotional effect. Plots are the literary equivalent of a tonality or user experience. The flow of the story and its events are vital to set the appropriate tone for your brand story.
Developing Your Brand Story
To effectively develop your brand story, use the four elements of storytelling as a guide and try answering the following questions:
- What is your main character trying to achieve?
- What obstacles stop him/her from achieving them?
- Do the other characters help or do they get in the way? How?
- What does your main character need to change or do differently?
- What qualities or new abilities does s/he require?
- How does s/he succeed using these new abilities?
- What has the main character learned as a result?
Applying Your Brand Story to Your Digital Marketing
Finally, ask yourself the following in order to apply your brand story to your digital marketing efforts:
- How did your brand succeed in this story?
- What are the key traits that helped your brand overcome specific challenges?
- How can these key traits transcend the story and be applied to specific digital marketing initiatives and activities?
- How can these key traits help define a strategy for consumer engagement?