Great guest by Bryan Adams, from Ph.Creative. See more by Bryan here.

How have stories shaped the world? When we think of iconic leaders like Winston Churchill and JFK, they’re often remembered for the power and sentiment of their words. That’s because humans feel first and think second!

By developing an understanding of storytelling and starting to implement it as a strategy, you’ll be able to shape your brand into something with substance. The message you stand for will become firmly rooted by a meaning your audience relate to and trust.

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Traditional storytelling isn’t worlds apart from brand storytelling. Crafting and utilising a story can set your brand apart from the rest of the noise. It’s the difference between becoming memorable and remaining forgettable. It’s the distinction between leading world-wide companies such as Apple, and those which will never catch up.

The benefits of storytelling

Enticing the audience

A traditionally captivating story plays on empathy and provokes emotion. The greatest books and TV shows keep the audience hooked on both the plot and characters, waiting in anticipation for more. Just like traditional storytelling, weaving a story around a brand has the potential to leave the audience waiting for the next piece of content or the next product they can get their hands on.

We only have to take a look at the calibre of adverts from companies like Air New Zealand and Nike to see how effective stories can be, but what’s the secret to success?

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Ultimately, successful companies know what makes a story resonate and they’ve invested time in understanding their audience. Before you can successfully create a story for your brand, persona mapping is a stepping stone you need to cross! Once you’ve developed a sense of who your customers are and identified what they’re looking for, the rest will begin to fall into place.

Creating substance

Are you holding your audience’s full attention? In the world we live in, digital content is being thrown at us from every angle; audiences are exposed to masses of media messages every single day. If what you’re selling isn’t the most exciting product in the world, developing a strategy can be a frustrating process. That’s where storytelling comes in to save the day! It gives substance to the brand or product you’re trying to push.

When we become invested in a new TV series, it feels as though the story is unique. Suspense is built up and we’re provoked to feel a range of emotions. It’s easy to become so captivated by a story that we don’t question why. A successful story distracts the audience from the marketing, yet manages to build an emotional connection.

How to start telling your story

1. Follow a structure

Luckily, starting to implement stories isn’t as complex as it sounds! The structuring behind a great story is a tale as old as time; stories have been reworked over and over again.  As Christopher Booker points out in The Seven Basic Plots, engaging stories are created from the same fundamental ingredients.

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For example, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws bears a close similarity to epic Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf. So let’s take a look at the structure followed by both…

  • Each story begins with a calm setting
  • The balance is disrupted by the introductionof aa vicious creature
  • Audience suspense is built, through ups and downs along the way
  • We see brave intervention from a likeable, everyday hero
  • Empathy for the hero is developed gradually, building levels of emotion
  •  Finally, audiences are given a sense of relief through the hero’s victory

The precise details of the stories may differ, but the structuring certainly doesn’t. It’s the same compartments we’ve seen time and time again: ones that we can use ourselves to craft our own stories.

2. Take a risk

Storytelling allows us to become more creative with our marketing. Recently, I was lucky enough to gain some insight from the godfather of story himself, Robert Mckee. With over thirty years behind him mentoring screenwriters, he’s an expert on turning story into a strategy. Robert Mckee believes that holding the attention of an audience is still possible, despite the overwhelming quantity of distractions.

However, he’s identified a key to success: taking a risk! As far as Robert Mckee is concerned, television shows are leading the way. Although they’re using the same age-old story tactics, they’re also taking the big risks, while Hollywood is falling behind.

3. Use time wisely

It’s all about building up the emotional connection from an audience (and some shock factor is always helpful too!). Robert Mckee’s gone as far to say that Walter White from Breaking Bad is a more complex character than Shakespeare’s Hamlet – it’s bold, but there’s an undeniable level of truth there. The advantage of television (and business) is the time available to maintain and build attention from the audience.

The flexibility of brand stories allows characters to grow and shift. The time between each piece of content is an opportunity to maintain and increase attention, whether that’s through unexpected revelations or well-balanced ups and downs.

4. Become the hero

There’s undeniably some inspiration to take from ground-breaking Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer. It’s what everyone’s been talking about over the last month, and from a storytelling perspective, rightly so!

So how has this documentary managed to keep people on their toes? Vanity Fair have hit the nail on the head! The series is built like a classic hero’s journey, with challenges and victories along the way. People won’t buy into a narrative but they’ll buy into a story, especially one which includes the twists and turns of everyday life. That’s exactly what brands need to get to grips with.

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Why should your audience believe in you? One of the most effective ways to create an emotional audience connection is by making the corporation the hero of the story.

“The key is not to brag, not to promise, but to portray the corporation as a company that is struggling against powerful forces, trying to make the world a better place” – Robert Mckee

Just like Anglo-Saxon poems, classic fairy tales and our favourite TV shows, corporations need to make the audience feel as though they’re fighting for something good. That’s what people connect with!

As Robert Mckee put it, executives with successful companies tend to assume that the common person identifies with success – but it’s not realistic. A widespread audience doesn’t identify with one executive’s journey.

“The common person identifies with those who are struggling for success” – Robert Mckee

In order to connect with a large audience on a personal level, it’s essential to strip a story back to the realities of everyday life, including the ups, downs and imperfections.

So, are you ready to start storytelling?

At Ph.Creative storytelling underpins our approach to digital marketing. We know how to identify personas with absolute precision and successfully weave stories around our client’s brands.

Our goal is to ensure your customers can trust and relate to the message of your brand in order to create lasting engagement.  Whether it’s content, copywriting, or an interactive workshop, we offer a variety of digital services to complement and enhance your current strategy. We’d love to hear how we can help with the next chapter of your story, so don’t hesitate to let us know!

Want to hear more from Robert Mckee? Click here to listen to her on Getting Goosebumps: The Power of Storytelling…


If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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