Content Marketing
How to Use Storytelling to Engage and Persuade Consumers

How to Use Storytelling to Engage and Persuade Consumers

June 14, 2016
4 min read

Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of persuasion. Going back to biblical times, the entire point of fables was to persuade the population to do the right thing. Nowadays, storytelling is used to sell us everything from cars to vacations. As you may have noticed by all those new cars on the streets, it’s very effective.

Storytelling can be used in every form of media. Social media, radio ads, blog posts and of course television. When you put storytelling to use for your business, it will help you persuade consumers to make a purchase or sign up for an email list.

Here are the fundamentals that will help you tell a successful story.

Story Structure

Every story has a structure. In its most basic form, there’s a beginning, middle and end. However, the real juicy part happens in the middle: The climax. In the most effective stories, the climax is where the real drama happens. You don’t want your story to be anti-climactic! (Pun intended!)

When telling a story, you want to create a plot with characters and situations your audience can relate to. Once you do that, you take your plot to a climax and gently let them back down again. This is the foundation of a great story.

For example, a story about a couple buying a car isn’t that exciting. A couple worried that they can’t afford a car, only at the moment of price reveal (the climax) do they realize they actually can. This is where the persuasion comes in: you’re telling the audience you can afford more car than you think.

Continuity Across Ads

Telling a story doesn’t mean it lives and dies with one article or ad. You can tell your story across multiple ads, channels, and formats. Dos Equis created the character of the “Most Interesting Man in the World” and were able to tell that story in multiple television ads, online, and in-store materials. When you create a story, make sure there’s continuity across all formats and platforms.

Make Story Relatable

As you’ve read on Marketing Insider Group before, you need to make your story relatable. If your audience can’t relate to the story, they won’t care about it. Try to tell stories that fit into their lives.

For example, a story about life on the farm may not be all that relatable to an audience that consists of city dwellers. Or a story about having children wouldn’t be relatable if your audience is mostly teenagers or single adults. Make your story relate to their lives for the biggest impact. If they can see themselves in the scenario, they’ll be more connected to it.

Be Emotional

Much like making the story relatable it’s all about allowing your audience to connect emotionally to the story you are telling. If they care about the characters and what happens to them, or your story makes them think about their own lives, you’ll be able to control how they feel about your brand.

A great example is how sports brands use this technique on a regular basis with popular athletes. You already care about the character (or the team the athlete plays for), and that character cares about and uses the brand. Have you ever seen a person more emotional at a random event that a sports fan? A story about car crashes and showing a toddler being thrown about will resonate with mothers. Get emotional.

Use Local Stories

The more local the story, the more you can relate to people and their emotions. Try to find stories in your local community, state or country. People feel really connected to those in their community. The more you can pull them into a local story, the more you’ll be able to persuade them to care and take action.

One way of doing this is talking about how your product or service impacts the local community. Tell the story of how your product and service makes the lives of residents better. For example, your sports store can tell stories of how they have helped to create memorable moments for hundreds of local kids.

Feature Your Product

It’s easy to forget that you’re supposed to be talking about your product or service when you’re telling a great story. Make sure your goal is front and center.

A great example is Blendtec’s “will it blend” campaign. All they did was tell a story that asked a simple question – what will in fact blend. From iPhones to Golf Balls, it was all about blending things. People were invested in the story. Who doesn’t want to know if golf balls will blend?

Blendtec is also a great example of a climax. And you care about the result. Most importantly, it’s all about the blender. That’s the main tool used. Feature your product or service. Here are more brand storytelling examples to help you.

Leave Them Wanting More

Just like Blendtec left you wanting to see more stuff blended, make sure your story leaves the audience wanting more. This is what makes a hit TV show or comic book so valuable – people want to see or read the next one.

Even with Dos Equis, there was always more to the story. The tagline was always the same, but the audience never knew what interesting endeavor he would get up to first.

Be Authentic

Don’t try to be anything other than what you are. Consumers are savvy, and you’ll lose all your ability to persuade them if they think you’re not being authentic. Do your best to tell a genuine story they can relate to.

Think about annoying commercials and pop-up ads. These commercials are usually not very authentic. The story they tell is fake, and you’re not buying it. Compare this to the story you see when watching an Old Spice commercial. It engages you and seems more authentic. It makes a big difference. Ask yourself – are you creating a story or a commercial? That’s the difference. There are plenty of writing tools that can help you.

Stories of Possibilities

It’s always good to have the story tell the audience how their lives will be improved by your product or service. Much like the car crash example above, this is the story of how Volvo makes your child safer. If the audience can envision that possibility, you’ve just persuaded them.

Telling stories is a great way to get attention, hook them in, and help persuade them to purchase a product or service. Just make sure you connect with them. The story alone won’t do it – it needs to be a good story. Get creative.

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Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula", and Founder of Marketing Insider Group. Recognized as a Top Content Marketing expert and Digital Marketing Leader, Michael leverages his experience from roles in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as his leadership in leading teams and driving growth for thriving startups. Today, Michael delivers empowering keynotes on marketing and leadership, and facilitates actionable workshops on content marketing strategy. Connect with Michael today.