Stories are all about the emotional connection they build. From an infancy spent toddling about, until the day we die, our hearts rise and fall with the heroes in our favorite stories.
That’s why stories are such power-packed marketing tools when properly deployed. When your brand uses storytelling to convey a message, it bypasses the head and goes straight into the heart.
In Marketing as in Movies, the Best Story Wins
When two products are equal, the win goes to the one which appeals most to your emotions. In other words, the one with the best story.
Don’t believe us?
Look at the perennial Coke vs. Pepsi duel. Coke still reigns as cola queen, by quite a margin, enjoying a market share of 17.8% to Pepsi’s 8.4%. In fact, Pepsi’s market share has dropped in recent years–in no small part due to the heartstring-pulling ads run by Coca Cola.
From Coke’s early ’70s peace-and-love “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”, to their Ramadan ad featuring a Coke shared with a thirsty woman just as the sun sets on the fast, Coke has scored major points with their customers.
Contrast that approach with last year’s Pepsi ad that featured Kendall Jenner offering a drink to an officer policing a line of protesters—an ad which was accused of ham-fisted over simplification of a serious issue.
What we have here is a case of woke versus tone-deaf.
Good stories connect diverse groups of people to a brand. From many, one–E Pluribus Unum. At least from a marketing perspective.
Even Sticklers for the Facts Need Stories
Furthermore, even within the most rational, fact-based decisions lie an emotional core—the pain point.
Take, for example, the buyer which neuromarketer Roger Dooley calls “the tightwad.” Though certainly someone who pinches pennies even when they reach affluence will read statistics, reviews, and case studies the reason behind such scrutiny is a bare emotion—the fear of loss.
When a brand’s story shows how their product saved a family (or a company, for that matter) from financial disaster, even tightwads get on board, providing you furnish enough facts along with the story to let the penny-pinchers know that you’re not just pulling on their heartstrings with empty, and yet emotive, content.
And, if your product or service does the same for them, you can bet that they’ll retell the story of how your brand saved them money to their equally thrifty friends, as Rob Danna points out in his Forbes article, “How Emotional Connections Create Champions for Your Brand.”
This is the best thing about great brand stories. Just like campfire tales, they spread. Word-of-mouth advertising by your own customers—and it doesn’t cost you a penny.
As Danna shows, telling customers the kinds of stories they need to hear to spur them to a decision doesn’t just result in a purchase. In many cases, it creates new brand evangelists, loyal and eager to spread the word through testimonials, glowing reviews, and even over coffee with a friend.
Statistics show, according to Danna, that loyal customers spend ten times the money with a company than those without a connection. Tell the stories that reach your customers at their pain point; recreate those success stories for them–and repeat.
Tailor Your Stories to Your Buyer Personas
The “Shop ‘Til You Drop” Customer’s Hidden Pain Point
- Find their pain point: What works for a thrifty tightwad won’t work for the spendthrift, whose fear of missing out (FOMO) drives them to buy. A story tailored to a cautious customer’s needs won’t cut it with the “shop ‘til you drop” customer.
- Use their pain point: With more profligate customers, exploit this pain point (and yes, FOMO is a pain point) in stories that let them know that if they don’t buy your product now, they might lost the chance forever. Case in point: American holiday season shopping. Every year, a toy captivates the hearts of kids all over the country. Parents line up for hours in the dark waiting for even a chance to grab this trendy plaything—at a price that will make them wince a year from now.
- Tell stories that present your product as the cure for their pain: Stories that get the point across that your product will be available for only a limited time have a great chance of making a sale with a spendthrift customer. One thing drives them: the desire for more—before someone else grabs the gold. Soothe that desire.
The “Do-Gooder” Customer
Helping others—and Mother Earth—is second nature for the do-gooder customer. Righting social injustices brings him or her out on weekends to fill the streets to demonstrate for higher wages, lower environmental impact, or improve education.
Stories that tell how your company has helped save energy, provide a decent living for low-income people, or has started a scholarship fund for underprivileged children will bring these customers into the fold.
Just make sure your actions match your words.
The “Patriot” Customer
Her heart leaps at the sound of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Pride swells in his chest the moment the opening notes of “Oh, Canada” blast out of the speakers.
Connect with patriotic customers like these by channeling some of that loyalty your way. Stories that tell how 95 percent of your products and raw materials are Canadian-produced will shift a Canadian company’s patriotic customer base into your hands. If you operate a U.S. company, try stories that show how your company has boosted your local economy by refusing to outsource your labor to foreign shores.
Again, your stories must match the reality on the ground.
Create Customer Personas before You Start Spinning Yarns
Telling the right stories to the right customers requires that you find out who your target consumers are. Do research; conduct surveys; use data from social media, website visitors, and on those who purchase your products and services.
After you have that information, tell the kinds of stories that will tug at your customers’ heartstrings. Map your stories to their buyer’s journey.
In times past, you would have had to spend a fortune to tailor marketing messages—your brand stories—to all the segments of your target customer pool. Today, with the availability of YouTube, blog posts, and other low-cost, high-impact marketing messages at an all-time high, you can create personalized content–stories that speak to every single customer in your market.
Stories have power. Make sure you tell a good one.