Storytelling: the must-have marketing tactic for 2021

February 2, 2021

As we enter 2021 with a fresh and positive mindset, we are also entering the New Year with a brand-new set of tactics to help reach new consumers by placing brands, products and services at the forefront of desired audiences.

When it comes to brand marketing, storytelling is pivotal when trying to create relationships with consumers. By utilising emotion and taking a humanistic approach in this, brands are able to provide consumers with reasons as to why they should buy into their products, without a pushy, non-emotive hard-sell.

With that in mind, Matthew Hayes, Managing Director at brand agency Champions (UK) plc, explains why storytelling is a must-have tactic for the year ahead.

The art of storytelling

Matthew Hayes, Managing Director at brand agency Champions (UK) plc

Matthew Hayes, Managing Director at brand agency Champions (UK) plc

Now more than ever before, resonating with the audience on a personal level is key, and what better way to do that than through storytelling. Marketing doesn’t always have to be about a direct sales pitch, but rather a connection and relationship that has been built up over time. And with that, comes brand loyalty and customer retention. When done effectively, storytelling is truly an art within itself. Sales should equate to product education rather than direct instruction. And it is this that makes people subconsciously realise their need or want for a product or service.

Storytelling takes the customer on an educational journey, allowing them to understand the brand, what it stands for, what the benefits are to them, and why its products are good value for money. This then leads customers to build strong feelings of want and desire, rather than just need.

This is all part of creating a brand. Customers begin to feel something about it, which is want warrants a business or product the status of a brand. And it’s this emotional connection that differentiates you from being just a commodity seller based on price, and positions you as a recognisable ‘brand’ that people engage with on a deeper level. And research demonstrates that messages delivered as stories can be up to 22 times more memorable and effective than facts, which is why brand storytelling is a must-have tactic for 2021.

How to tell a story

Creating a compelling narrative requires a carefully devised long-term strategy. But, while this is an important element, what is perhaps the defining factor in commercial success is its ability to resonate with us, as humans.

Storytelling should be powerful and filled with emotion, in whatever capacity that may be. From laughter and happiness to sadness and grief, emotion can come in a plethora of varieties. Emotion is what captures the consumer and when a story is both personable and relatable, it builds brand love and deepens the connection between the brand and the consumer. Not only that, but emotion also impacts the purchasing decisions of consumers and without it, businesses are much less likely to make that all-important sale. And if brands combine emotion with consumer needs, then they have the recipe for success.

With the rapid onset of digitisation across all industry sectors fuelled by the COVID-19 crisis, the way in which a brand tells their story is having to change in order to keep up with the times and meet the newfound needs of consumers and channels.

With the plethora of channels and shortening attention span of the consumers, video content is the best way to evoke emotion. Put simply, videos are more engaging and because of that, will continue to play an increasingly important role in the marketing mix throughout 2021. They are easy to understand, digest, and share and typically create a deeper connection between the brand and consumer, meaning that people will resonate with it much more.

Storytelling done right

No one is better at brand storytelling and investing in emotions than the world-famous Disney. From its theme parks and hotels to its films, merchandise and staff, the entire brand has been built from the ability to tell a story, and consistency of delivery.

For consumers to truly connect with a brand, they must implement consistency across their strategy, messaging and storytelling. And while there may be creativity in the way these messages are conveyed, the underlying messages and ethos must remain to be consistent. The Disney experience plays a pivotal role in the brand’s story. Its narrative and essence completely come to life when consumers interact with its offerings, taking on a role within the storyline. In doing so, deeper emotional bonds are created, bringing the brand to the forefront of both people’s minds and memories.

Similarly, gym-wear brand Sweaty Betty have also become well recognised thanks to its ability to tell a story. What began as a normal brand selling high-quality gym-wear that sat outside of the norm, became known worldwide for changing its narrative by becoming so much more than just a provider of gym-wear. Sweaty Betty is not only a brand for women, created by women, but a brand that listens to its consumers. Its messaging such as ‘respect your sweat’ and ‘empowering women through fitness and beyond’ is reflective of inclusivity, body positivity, and raises awareness of diversity – using its brand, products, and people to continue to tell that very story.

A must-have tactic for 2021

In order to keep up and remain at the forefront of consumers’ minds, brands need to focus their strategies on telling a story. Storytelling is as old as mankind, dating back to cave paintings and the bible. And modern-day storytelling allows brands to use the full extent of multi-channel media, applying to all of the five senses. It allows the brand to educate, taking the consumer on an educational journey rather than advertising, which can only convey one message at a time.

It can build in sub plots, ethos, ethics and values, bringing the full personality of the brand as well as the people behind these brands to life, while also highlighting how these ‘personality traits’ mirror those of the consumer. It is through this ‘bonding’ that the consumer can feel for the brand, rather than simply seeing or knowing about it. Feeling is a pivotal part of branding, and without it, the brand and its products, are just a commodity, based on nothing more than consumer needs and cost.

Brands are consumed based on a want or desire, with price being far less prevalent. Therefore, brands offer businesses far greater profit margins and a more loyal consumer base – the holy grail. And when executed effectively, the story helps build brand love through evoking a deeper, more authentic connection with its consumers. As a result, brand storytelling is priceless, and quite simply a must-have tactic for 2021 and beyond.

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