In the blink of an eye, a customer makes the decision to engage with or ignore your brand. And who can blame them? With 5.3 trillion ads shown online each year, it’s no surprise we often zone out and keep scrolling. 

In this competitive global market, to get ahead you need to stand out. Alongside techniques such as multilingual social media, website localization or branded content, storytelling strategies are commonly used by international brands in their marketing approach. To grab the attention of potential customers, marketing stories are often embellished and dramatized with the intent of stirring a specific response from the intended audience. 

The fact is, we are inherently social beings who use language and emotional responses to forge connections with the world around us. According to a UK survey, 8 out of 10 consumers showed a strong preference for storytelling brands. Incorporating their products and services into a story, companies are tirelessly working on this technique to show consumers how the advertised goods fit into their everyday lives. 

Of course, this is all easier said than done. But by analysing how famous brands have managed to create successful storytelling strategies in their marketing campaigns, we can learn a lot about our own approach to driving sales

Examples of storytelling strategies from top brands

Airbnb is ahead of the game when it comes to this technique. In this company, the product becomes the story. Airbnb don’t just sell a roof over your head, they sell an entire experience, knowing that accommodation plays an integral part in the memories made when exploring a new place. Through its review function, available to guests and hosts, users share their own unique experiences, which serve as the basis of the brand’s storytelling approach. By sharing honest accounts of previous guests’ stays, Airbnb not only inspires trust as potential users browse listings, but also awakens the traveller’s curiosity in the broad variety of beautiful locations on offer. With such a successful, low-maintenance storytelling technique, Airbnb doesn’t even need to sell itself. The customers do it for them. 

In an equally successful marketing campaign, Guinness takes a different approach to storytelling. One of its most successful adverts celebrates the more sensitive side to beer-guzzling, adrenaline-chasing men through the story of a highly competitive wheelchair basketball game. After the game reaches its finale, each player stands up from their wheelchair and walks off the court—apart from one man. This  powerful image of friendship, resilience, and bonding is a far cry from typical beer ads, which often feature a more toxic image of masculinity. Here, Guinness sets itself apart by bucking the trend and celebrating the sensitivity and generosity of these men, which is often seen as a weak point.  

The challenges of storytelling

Although storytelling can be highly effective, it’s a difficult technique to master. There are many challenges involved in designing a strong storytelling approach that represents your brand and speaks to your audience. Not only do you have to tailor your message to the medium, but you also have to create a story that will stand out and resonate with your customer base. Whether the story is a 2-minute TV advert or a 10-word Instagram caption, the impact must be strong, instant, and lasting.

How to tell your own story in the right way

To help you out, we’ve compiled some key storytelling strategies that you can incorporate into your company’s marketing campaign:

1. Identify your voice and what you stand for

It may seem obvious, but before embarking on a new marketing project, ensure that you thoroughly understand your brand, what it represents, and the purpose of your story. Once you discern your values and objectives, knowledge of your target audience—alongside effective web localization to help them find you—will inform you on the medium (or mediums) to leverage for your new campaign. Keep this in mind throughout the entire process to maintain a coherent, consistent message, and never lose focus.  

2. Make your story real to your audience

Storytelling is ineffective if your audience doesn’t believe what you’re trying to tell them. The whole point of storytelling is that it engages with customers on a personal level. If your story is unrealistic or over-the-top, the audience will quickly lose interest and fail to form a personal bond with your brand. To avoid this, adapt your advertisement from a true story. Either highlight scenarios in which ordinary people have done or achieved extraordinary things or bring to light the small miracles that exist in your target’s everyday reality. You can use creative licence to add flair, but keep the foundations realistic and believable to your intended audience. 

3. Engaging first sentence or hook

Organizations have very little time to pique the interest of their target audience. The first few seconds of your story have to be gripping and relatable, while also leaving the audience wanting more. Spend time thinking about how you’re going to captivate your audience. Questions, statistics, or incentives are often a good place to start. 

4. Indirect call to action (CTA)

Once you’ve hooked your potential customer, you need to ensure that they know what you want them to do. However, a discreet CTA is more effective when you’re using the storytelling strategy. Let the story speak for itself. You want your audience to be left feeling uplifted by a heartwarming, endearing tale, and not feel pressured by a demanding CTA. Instead, your CTA should be simple, bold, and self-explanatory. 

5. Be authentic

Above all, be authentic. Sometimes the most simple and unassuming of stories have the biggest impact. The whole point of storytelling is that your audience is able to mentally place your product or service into their everyday life. This is why you should stay true to your brand, your voice, your visions, and your values. 

With just one inspiring tale and a dose of creativity, you can turn this ancient art of communication into a powerful marketing tool. A good story will optimize your marketing campaign and bring your audience closer to your brand.

What are you waiting for? Start telling your story.