I have a habit of curating things I enjoy reading. And one post I recently re-discovered was a short one written by Seth Godin — the marketing guru himself — back in 2012. Here’s the thing about his posts — Seth Godin writes timeless pieces. And this particular post that I happened to revisit reminded of something that I had forgotten myself.
In this post, Seth makes one very compelling statement — Marketing is Storytelling.
Think about it. Isn’t marketing precisely that?
One can think of a ‘brand’ as a set of qualities, while marketing is simply an act of selling those qualities through a well-penned story. It’s so much more than just talking about features, advantages and benefits of the brand. If you think about it, marketing has always been about appealing to the limbic brain that recognizes feelings and emotions. Because, if it doesn’t trigger any feelings, it doesn’t inspire action.
Reading this post made me appraise the present state of marketing. It’s a blatant truth that all marketing today is directed at gaining a percentage share in the market. It’s largely transactional, very short-lived, and appealing to the logical side. It may inspire reaction, but are marketing efforts of the present day successful at rendering long lasting impressions? I am not so sure.
As a marketing professional myself, this does get me thinking. I am associated with the digital domain, and most of the time, my work involves developing content strategy for brands. And quite often (than I would like to admit to) the strategies are reactive in nature. There is always that talk of building customer engagement but the one factor at which it all boils down to is that of connection — how do we ‘connect’ with the audiences and how do we get them to make us a part of their lives.
Now that I think of it, the solution is pretty straightforward — tell them your brand’s story!
Let me give you an example.
Why do so many people across the world prefer buying Apple products? Is it simply because of the technological innovation? Not quite. It’s because they connect with the brand’s story — which is that of improving one’s way of life. Apple doesn’t sell phones; it sells an experience of connecting with your loved ones anytime, anywhere with great ease. In fact, I will re-iterate the words of Simon Sinek which he remarked in one of his famous TED Talks — People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.
I have taken these words to heart, quite literally, because they make sense to me not just as a marketer but as a customer too. And just in case you were not convinced enough, there are number of studies which can validate the claim I am trying to push. These studies essentially establish that when people read cold hard facts only the reasoning and language parts of the brain get stimulated. But when they read a story, all those parts of the brain get activated that are responsible for processing an actual experience — language and reason included. This means that one is more likely to remember a story because the experience of it is felt throughout the brain and not just in one corner.
From Apple to Coca- Cola, IBM to Nike; many top brands across the world have embraced this science. These brands are actively working towards developing really memorable customer experiences by telling their brand’s story in truly creative ways.
Here are my suggestions on how you can get started with storytelling, especially when you are trying to develop some great customer facing content:
1. Focus on mindshare, not market share
Far too many marketers develop their strategies around gaining market share and not mindshare. By ‘mindshare’ I mean a desirable position in the minds of a significant number of customers. In a purchase situation, if a customer is able to recollect your brand and is inspired enough by its story to actually choose that brand, that’s your marketing success right there.
Focus on creating a brand narrative that highlights your brand’s personality, its point of view and its purpose. Your customers do not care for campaigns; they crave a good story.
2. Talk about how your brand can improve lives
IBM does not just tell you they are working towards building a smarter planet. They go on to show you how their solutions have helped create a smart weather prediction and emergency response system in Rio.
They validate their claim. And this bit is important.
It’s important for brands to live up to the story they tell. People, at the end of the day, care for how a product will make their lives better. If you can provide them with the evidence of that, your story becomes a lot more believable and your brand, credible.
3. Talk about everything else that lends itself to the creation of the brand
A brand is an outcome of many small things that come together fittingly. A brand is ‘part-people’ who have helped create it, ‘part-customers’ who will buy it, ‘part-technology’ that has helped give it form, ‘part-company’ that takes the onus of parenting it, and ‘part-community’ — the place where it (hopes to) belong to.
So when you tell your brand’s story, talk about everything that lends a hand in nurturing the said brand. Not only does it strengthen the brand, it also goes on to show that you care enough to recognize and applaud everyone that has (and continues to be) a part of the brand’s journey. This is one way to tell a really good story.
So, all in all, here’s why storytelling is such a compelling marketing force:
So next time you plan a marketing campaign, try going the storytelling way. Pen your brand’s story, its personality and point of view. Leverage it across media channels in creative ways, and the results thereof may just surprise you (and in a good way too).
Meeta Sharma is an independent writing and editing professional from digital marketing domain. Loves marketing and everything about it.
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