The Power of Storytelling

Why are stories so important for your brand? 

Your customers are social creatures. Stories are an effective way to transmit important information and values from one individual or community to the next. Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain and are better remembered. A tale that incorporates both data and emotions is significantly more effective at engaging a listener than data alone. Jennifer Aaker, a professor of marketing at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that people remember information when it is weaved into narratives “up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

Think in terms of a narrative, like your favorite books and movies, not just brand marketing and selling. Your story becomes the structure upon which your customers write their own. If they see themselves in your struggles and triumphs, you’ve cast them a role in the center of your brand’s story.

“Stories are a communal currency of humanity.” 

―Tahir Shah, Arabian Nights


What makes a good story? Watch these excellent examples of powerful storytelling: 


Chipotle’s Scarecrow A Better World



There are two key aspects to an effective story. Firstly, it must capture and hold our attention. Secondly, it must transport us into the characters’ world.

“Stories can affirm our own beliefs and perceptions, but more often, it challenges them.”

― Cody C. Delistraty


Google’s Paris Love Story



We watch a lot of significant life events happen in this well-developed plot, in this video Google presents, then solves a multitude of problems that many of us can identify with. One Berkeley study found that the brain produces a neurochemical called oxytocin when people watch or hear a moving story. Oxytocin creates feelings of empathy and compassion, and higher levels of the hormone are shown to engender generosity and trust.


GoPro’s Fireman Saves a Kitten



Some of the best brand storytelling doesn’t use their products as heroes or even show their product at all. They focus on how their product could be beneficial. ‘Show, don’t tell’ is shorthand for: great content is created when you demonstrate something through your story, rather than simply stating it.


We can see exactly what Johnnie Walker stands for from just these 2 videos. Careful that every aspect of the customer journey supports this vision, these are a brilliant example of consistency.

Johnnie Walker’s Dear Brother



True authenticity is hard to come by. We are invested in this story because of the element of mystery subtly superimposed on the narrative. The end is a surprise, which because of this investment, the conclusion elicits a strong, real emotional response. This advert will not be easily forgotten.


Johnnie Walker’s Keep Walking a Compelling History



A brand’s story is often tied to the founder’s original vision for their business and their story of how they got to where they are or discoveries along the way. This video effectively positions the brand as innovative yet authoritative, but history is not storytelling. If you are looking to use your business’ history as content, you have to pull out what makes your company unique. Johnnie Walker’s story isn’t about mythologizing the whisky-making process; it’s about celebrating the business acumen and ambition that made them into the biggest whisky blenders in the world. 


Bell’s’ A Literacy Story



Another whisky advert, but, in contrast to the last, it barely mentions the brand name. What does this ad say? That Bell’s is for every journey and that your journey is special just like this one. It is important to converse with your customer. Positive inspiring brand content feeds brand identity, but inspiring content is difficult. The internet is full of clumsy attempts to try and spin marketing pieces off of worthy causes. Bell’s wisely got out of the way of the story to preserve authenticity. Inspiration often comes when you speak not from a position of power, but of humility. It makes people confident that you’re being honest with them.


What is a brand? 

“A brand is so much bigger than a logo or a guideline document,” says Karlee. “Brand elicits a feeling.” She refers to Seth Godin’s definition of brand that describes it as “a set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, put together, impact a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” It is a mix of facts (the who, what, when) and feelings (the why) that tell the world what you’re about and why they should care. A good story infuses a brand’s values. A brand story can become a beacon for a growing company; that guides what a business does in addition to what it says. It can even act as the foundation of brand guidelines that keep your mission, message, and voice consistent, even as you scale. The principles of telling a captivating story are roughly the same across mediums. It’s the quality of what’s expressed, not the format, that determines whether a story resonates. The story should infuse into everything about your business.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

― Maya Angelou


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