Stories are truly powerful vehicles for ideas. From earliest childhood, we are captivated by flights of fancy, escapes into mystical and wondrous worlds, and the emotional investment we instinctively put into well-drawn characters, plot points, and settings.
Stories are truly powerful vehicles for ideas. From earliest childhood, we are captivated by flights of fancy, escapes into mystical and wondrous worlds, and the emotional investment we instinctively put into well-drawn characters, plot points, and settings. This is something which unites people from all ages, all countries, and all backgrounds; we all love an engaging story, and we all have stories of our own to share, remember, and enjoy. Stories that we can learn from, use to teach and create bonds with others.
If you aren’t using brand storytelling at your events, you’re missing out on a powerful and impactful opportunity to forge connections with attendees, prospective customers, and the general public. Storytelling, and brand storytelling particularly, is a potent force, and one which can be used to truly impressive effect. Stories connect people. Stories take people on a journey. They call to be read and listened to, shared, and understood. Stories, to put it simply, are a marketer’s dream tool, and one which - when used effectively - can bring about lasting connections and impactful results. Stories humanise your brand, make it relatable and more memorable.
There are countless reasons why stories and storytelling have been around since the beginning of human civilisation itself, and there are just as many reasons why they are essential to branding and marketing today. We’re going to be taking a closer look at the power of brand storytelling and how it can help you take your message further. At MCI Experience, we believe that a brand storytelling strategy can revolutionise how your business or brand connects to its customers… and we’re here to share our thoughts and ideas with you. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin……
What Is Brand Storytelling, and Why Is It Essential?
The very essence of brand storytelling isn’t always an easy thing to pin down, and it’s something which can mean different things for different brands, or take on different forms at different events. Brand storytelling in its purest form is communicating who you are, what you do and the value you bring to your customers - it’s an essential universal backbone of any business.
Powerful brand storytelling can achieve the following for your activation, event or experience:
Brand storytelling aims to evoke active participants rather than passive listeners. In the same way we used to finish a fantasy book as children, then go on to dream up further adventures of our own, brand storytelling inspires your audience to cast themselves as the protagonist or hero in the story you’re creating. Whether this means purchasing products or spreading your message and developing all important brand awareness, it’s a deeply effective component to any brand communication strategy.
Defines your brand mission
Brand storytelling enables you to let your audience know not just what your brand does, but how your brand feels. It communicates what you identify yourselves with or disassociate yourselves from. For instance if your brand is passionate about sustainability and wants to make an environmental statement it might commission an art stand installation, like Quiksilver did last year with our help. By weaving this core storytelling into your brand activations, you’ll be able to tap into the identities of your prospective customers, and forge common ground that leads to lasting brand loyalty.
Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of consumers around the world will buy or boycott a brand solely because of its position on a social or political issue, according to the 2018 Earned Brand study, a staggering increase of 13 points from last year. Your mission and purpose matters to your audience. Showcase your brand purpose through authentic storytelling – make it meaningful.
Engage your customers
Your role as a brand is to make people stop and engage with what you have to say, and enable them to then picture themselves as your customers or clients. There are plenty of ways of doing this, but nothing captivates the attention and imagination quite like a solid piece of storytelling, and that’s why so many companies are turning to storytelling techniques to bolster their presence and identity in the market. Today’s public want to know much more than what a company does; they want to know your origin story: your values, and what you stand for. In short, people want to understand and engage with your brand. By weaving elements of this into live experiences, you’re opening a door to something so much more compelling where they can actively participate… and event attendees will readily give you their attention in ways they simply wouldn’t otherwise. By bringing your audience into your narrative and making them the focus, you empower your audience to contribute to your brand story.
What Does Brand Storytelling Achieve for Events?
Have you ever seen somebody get up and walk out of a room in the middle of a really good story? No? Neither have we. In a way, that’s the essence of good brand storytelling, and explains neatly why it’s so appropriate for brand representation at events: it keeps people hooked and allows them to emotionally invest in a brand while seeing themselves as part of the story being told.
As such, storytelling aspects of your brand cannot be confined to the web/page, and nor should they become a basic part of your opening speech or initial presentation. They need to be seamlessly woven into the entirety of a brand’s presence at an event, in order for the most effective parts of your story to really begin resonating in the minds and imaginations of your audience.
Storytelling allows you to do three important things with relative ease.
Stories should be entertaining, right? Dull and lifeless storytelling isn’t going to get you much of a response from your target market. Ensure it’s full of life and relatable moments and keep it real in order to heighten the authenticity.
Your target audience want to learn from your branding, and to be able to take something lasting away with them from your events and activations. Your brand storytelling needs to not just tell them about your products or services, but also to educate them about the company, the individuals behind it, and the journey which brought them to the point they’re at today. Your story needs to showcase how your product or service will enhance your audiences’ lives. With live experiences you can make this tangible, immediate and emotive.
Brand storytelling should be inspirational. Most of the best examples of brand storytelling involve a problem of some sort, and lead to a resolution - a solution which ends in success and a happy ending, avoiding a negative outcome. Every story follows a similar pattern - the classic narrative arc - involving a variety of emotions: tension, excitement, suspense, elation, empathy.
By creating top-quality storytelling features for your branding, you’ll be able to draw in your audience in a truly effective way, and inspire the kind of brand associations and loyalty that keep your customers coming back for more. Make those connections, inspire action, and allow your audience to see the individuals, the ideas, and the drive behind the brand, and you’ll be able to tap into a potent source of marketing power that few other techniques can achieve.
What Forms a Strong Brand Story?
We’re often asked what are the key components to a strong brand story. Naturally it will depend on the nature of your company, and the message you’re working hard to communicate to your audience. However, most marketing experts will agree that a brand story should contain at least a few of the following:
The hero of your story can be an individual, a partnership, or a whole group of people. Either way, your audience needs to be able to identify with the protagonist (the best stories tend to cast the audience members themselves as protagonists), and needs to be able to care about their struggle and achievements.
Relatable pain points
Remember: a story is always a collaborative effort between you - the storyteller - and your audience. As such, there has to be plenty of identifiable and relatable points in your story, in order to ensure that your message resonates. These pain points can either be things your audience has actually experienced (for example, a common problem that your company has worked hard to solve), or something they can realistically imagine. Either way, it must strike the right chord and empathise with your audience in order to be successful.
It's ethical and strategic for brands to do the best they can to humanise themselves through their messaging. In the Global Empathy Index, the top 10 companies that were able to identify with their audiences, both internal and external, increased in value more than twice as much as the bottom 10 and generated 50% more earnings.
All good stories feature some kind of a struggle, a challenge to overcome, or a mountain which must be scaled. Tension draws people closer, and makes them eager to see the resolution that follows. You could even make the audience the main protagonist with the power to affect the outcome of the brand story. We worked with Oath on a hackathon, where talented programmers had to solve multiple technical challenges in a dynamic and engaging context. This co-creation experience led to Oath’s most successful talent recruitment drive as well as positive brand association.
A Trusted Advisor
Your protagonist is struggling with a pain point and is seeking guidance. Your brand story needs to position your brand at the heart, as the trusted advisor - the person who will find a solution to said pain point.
A Call to Action
Remember why you’re building a brand story - what is your primary objective? Your story needs to finish with a call to action, or some method which is going to promote your products and services, and encourage your audience to convert. Channel all that emotional build-up into a clear path: one which leads directly to your objective and inspires action. According to research done by Harvard Business School, 95% of our purchase decision making takes place subconsciously; driven by emotion rather than logic.
A Real Ending
Brand storytelling needs a resolution - a real, discernible outcome. Show how far your protagonist has come and the journey they have taken. This is your opportunity to offer a positive conclusion, one that satisfies or exceeds your audience’s expectations and leaves them full of optimism. Positive brand association builds loyalty - loyal customers are seven times as likely to test an offering, five times as likely to buy again and four times as likely to refer. In a study by Salesforce, 67% of consumers and 74% of business buyers say they’ll pay more for a great experience.
Exciting Examples of Quality Brand Storytelling
You don’t have to look very far nowadays to see top quality brand storytelling examples; it’s become a key technique in the marketer’s toolkit, and something which more and more brands are desperate to get involved with. Here are three brands which we think really hit the nail on the head.
Airbnb have been real pioneers when it comes to brand storytelling. Because Airbnb doesn’t own any of the hundreds of thousands of properties it deals with, and has positioned itself as a company invested in normal people doing extraordinary things, they made the clever decision to let their members and customers tell their stories on their behalf.
The “Stories from the Airbnb Community” webpage was a stroke of marketing genius - it was completely imbued with the kind of authentic, genuine, and organic content that today’s audiences can’t get enough of, and pushed the idea that this company is one run by the people, for the people.
Patagonia is a brand that has fully staked its entire reputation on living its purpose – from its products and company culture all the way to its support of more than 1,000 grassroots environmental organisations around the world. Their mission is championed clearly through purposeful storytelling at every touchpoint. Patagonia wants to be known for being transparent about its sustainability actions, supply chain, promotion of social justice for its workers and not least for creating durable products that are environmentally friendly. Audiences that want to make a positive impact to the world can actively do so by becoming customers and advocates of Patagonia. The brand creates a compelling story for why they exist, what they stand for, and how their audiences are helping them champion change.
It’s impossible to talk about modern brand storytelling without making some mention of Nike, and their game-changing ‘equality’ campaign that was launched in 2017 and continues to make headlines today. Despite the previous decade being marred with Nike’s association with poor labour conditions, the equality campaign - which used social media campaigns, videos, and traditional TV advertising to make powerful and impactul statements on social equality - changed the way millions saw the brand.
Brand Storytelling Strategy: Sending a Powerful Message to Your Audience
As we’ve seen, brand storytelling is a powerful technique that businesses worldwide are utilising to amazing effect, making people stop, think, and listen to brand messaging in entirely new and impactful ways. It taps into a deeply human aspect of marketing that can make a dramatic difference to a brand’s success, not least when used in conjunction with brand events, presentations, and activations, and here at MCI Experience, we can’t get enough of it.
Brand storytelling can fundamentally improve how you connect to your audiences and it’s imperative to translate this into your brand experience at every given touch-point. Whether your audience is internal or external; in new or existing markets, put them as the hero of your brand story.
We're here to help brand marketers and event planners create empathetic, authentic customer relationships and increased brand loyalty, through immersive and impactful brand experience.