6 Tips to Help You Tell a Story with Your Content Like Ridley Scott

What is more motivating – reason or emotion? Marketing pro, Bill McKendry answers this question perfectly with a quote from Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood or assign them tasks. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

Think about it. What is the end result of all your marketing efforts? Action. You want customers to act, whether it’s to sign up for an email newsletter or make a purchase. That means, at its core, marketing exists to motivate.

Persuasive blogs, informational videos, and thought-provoking infographics are all published to convince consumers to become leads, and then paying customers, and then retained customers. But the thread that binds your strategy together is the brand story within your marketing campaigns. This is what actually impels consumers to act. Storytelling is the ‘pixie dust’ of marketers. It is what makes what you do resonate.

Weave storytelling into your marketing and you can connect with your audience on a personal level and pull heart strings. This is where we form the bridge between the consumer and the company and explain on a deeper level why one needs the other.

The Story of Storytelling

The power of the story to move and mold society is nothing new. In fact, it is as ingrained in our psyches as anything can be, with the original storytellers being the main influencers and leaders of tribal society. Thousands of years ago, it was the shamans’ stories that preserved – and shaped – the beliefs, values, and shared history of a culture.

Today, it may be more important than ever for marketers, as using advertising to send a message to consumers is becoming increasingly challenging. Scott Donaton, chief content officer with Digitas Studios, points to two factors that are both weakening ads and empowering good storytelling at the same time.

  • The increasing ability to skip ads. It’s not just the remote control anymore. It is ad blockers and video streaming services, TiVo and the iPod. Consumers are becoming unreachable.
  • Your audience is becoming more sophisticated. They expect, want, and demand more from brands. The list is long, from personalization to value-driven, informative content, but it all boils down to wanting to connect.

To answer both of these shifts, a greater focus on storytelling has become the welcome solution in marketing. Tell a good story, no one can resist it. Tell a good story, and you bring us all together. Consumers may be tired of ads, but human beings have loved storytelling for millennia.

Donaton points to director and producer Ridley Scott as an example. He gave us Alien and The Martian, and the famous Apple commercial, 1984. If all commercials were like Scott’s, I’m willing to bet no one would be looking away.

Advertising would essentially undergo a paradigm shift. From a foundation of selling through dishing out information, to one of connecting, through engaging with information, creating a participatory experience between company and consumer.

Improve Your Brand Storytelling

So, as a marketer, someone who already wears many hats ranging from data analyst to strategic planner, can you excel as a storyteller as well? Can you weave the story of your brand, clearly and cohesively through social media campaigns, web content, and video?

Here are the techniques that will help you intrigue, inspire, motivate, and compel your audience to take the next step down your sales funnel.

Use Characters

One of the most effective ways to create an emotional connection is through the use of characters. This can be done in a number of ways.

  • Brand mascots like the Geico Gecko, Mr. Clean, and the Pillsbury Doughboy
  • Through the point-of-view of a buyer persona
  • Through an employee’s point-of-view
  • Not always possible, but in some cases you can storytell with the product’s point-of-view

Use a Plot

Another important concept to keep in mind is plot. (Feel like you are back in your freshman year creative writing course at college? Good, those are the lessons you should be recalling right now!)

  1. Start with a strong beginning that places your character in a setting
  2. Follow the character through the middle as they face their conflict
  3. Come to a final resolution at the end

With a good plot – it doesn’t have to be complex, in fact simple is better in most marketing campaigns – your audience will stay interested whether you are publishing a promotional video on one of your social media channels or are following a character through a series of posts.

Be Digitally Creative

This is where it can be really fun to be a marketing professional today. In the world of content marketing, there are so many mediums you can use, from downloadable apps for your brand to live streaming, and email newsletters. You can go as simple as a video series on Facebook to help drive brand awareness, to being more dynamic, getting the audience involved in your character’s journey through social media interaction.

Be Authentic

This is marketing in the 21st century. Your audience is demanding, sophisticated, and has the option to tune you out and turn their attention instead to a thousand other media channels. If your storytelling doesn’t align seamlessly with your brand, it may feel like it is coming out of left field. This not only will take away from the enjoyment of good brand storytelling, it will also turn off your audience. Use the values, tone, and character of your brand to craft your campaigns.

Create for Your Audience

Sure, telling a good story is about using your imagination and being creative with the content and your format, but it’s also about being tuned into your audience. Keep your main buyer personas in mind as you work on your brand storytelling. What would they think of your messaging? You can also use A/B testing to help get a feel for their response to your ideas.

Learn from the Pros

And finally, to master brand storytelling, learn from the masters. Read, watch, and analyze the great stories that have come before. They can help to fuel and inspire the marketing masterpieces you are about to create.


Image credit: pixabay

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.