Do you agree that storytelling can make or break your marketing campaign?
“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds, and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.” – Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge
Marvel has mastered the art of storytelling and building on anticipation. This has resulted in them having the most anticipated movie release of the year- Avengers Endgame- that is also among the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Avengers Endgame is a sequel of infinity war that left many in tears, anger, and a general sense incompleteness. These emotions are what increased the anticipation of the movie release. The official trailers built on this and led to many predictions and debates on Television, online on social media, and in societal groups not discriminating age or gender. Many people were emotionally invested.
If you needed proof of the power of storytelling to a marketing campaign, THIS IS IT.
During the inaugural Content Israel conference – the largest content marketing conference in Israel- that focused on storytelling for marketers, Rafi Mendelsohn, the Director of Public Relations and Social Media at My Heritage, said,
“ The point of storytelling is that we want to be immersed in good stories even if we know what’s going to happen, we want to be taken on a journey of emotions.”
In order to have a deeper engagement with your prospective and current clients, you need to move them and inspire action using compelling stories. Now more than ever, storytelling has an essential role in having a successful marketing campaign. This can single-handedly make the difference between a success and a flop. It is simply put, the peanut butter to your jelly and as such cannot be ignored or half-assed.
There are two essential things to keep in mind when telling a story;
- Who are you telling the story to?
- Where are they hearing this story?
These make the difference in how your story is received and ultimately affects its success rate.
Although storytelling is common to B2C companies, it is just as relevant to B2B companies. And to prove it, here are examples of well done B2B stories as covered by Rafi Mendelsohn;
1. Complete Washroom Solutions (CWS)
CWS is known for its now-infamous commercial ‘say no to dirt’ that featured humor and drugs. Two things that you wouldn’t expect from a conservative company. This made it a huge success and although it was done years ago, people still talk about and resonate with it. This is because they were able to tell the story of their new toilets in a way that captured people’s imagination and excitement.
Humor is a powerful marketing tool. The reason it works so well is;
- It helps bring down walls thus catching people off guard and open to listening,
- It makes your brand personable which resonates well with the larger majority of people,
- It promotes brand awareness since people love sharing a joke to those around them especially one with a good punchline.
However, you’ll need to tread carefully with humor since it can easily go wary and provide you with negative attention. Things to note while considering using humor in your campaigns include;
- You need to understand your target audience. What is funny to one demographic may be insulting to another.
- Avoid controversial topics. There’s no winning with these topics.
- Make your jokes relatable. If you have to use smart jokes, set it up in such a way that even an informed person gets informed enough to understand the punchline.
Have you heard of the Ting Ting and Yang Guang panda story?
If you haven’t yet, just go ahead and Google it right now and in the top searches you’ll find Fed Ex. Ting Ting and Yang Guang are the first pandas to live in the UK in over 20 years. They were transferred from a zoo in China to one in Edinburg Scotland in 2011. If you googled or you were familiar with the story, you know they were transported in a plane dubbed The FedEx Panda Express that has since had 7 panda trips.
FedEx ‘hijacked’ this story and used it as a marketing campaign. Since the transfer was generating a lot of interest, they used this opportunity to create content surrounding pandas including their first-class experience. The notion behind this was, if they can safely transport pandas, then they can safely ship and deliver their customer’s packages.
Let’s take a look at why this worked so well for FedEx;
- This was a long-awaited event that was five years in the making. People were therefore anxious and excited to see the pandas arrive. They were emotionally invested.
- This was a quirky delivery so generally it was bound to create exposure and interest due to its state.
- They created a lot of amazing content about Pandas. Anything you wanted to know you would get on their website from what they eat, what they need in order to survive and so on. This content attracted many people to the site since they provided information. It also made them appear authorities on the matter and there was no doubt that they would safely deliver the pandas from China to Scotland.
- They branded the airplane FedEx Panda Express. This was a genius idea since anyone who spoke or reported about this mentioned FedEx. They generated a lot of publicity with this.
- They had customer-driven conversations like their preparation plans and the food that was on the menu during the flight.
- It was also a great help the fact that Ting Ting’s name translated to Sweetie and Yang Guang’s name translated to Sunlight. This tugged strings to people’s hearts and ultimately translated to how people viewed FedEx.
Although you may not have pandas that you are transporting, you can still use some of the lessons from this story to turbocharge your marketing campaign.
3. International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) and Honeywell Aerospace
There are two types of employee storytelling; External and Internal. Just as the names suggest, external storytelling involves the stories told by employees meant for those outside the organization(marketing stories), whereas, internal storytelling are the stories employees share amongst themselves when management isn’t around. Both types of stories can make or break your company.
Many companies would rather not use external employee storytelling as part of their marketing strategy since it’s like opening a can of worms that you have little or no control over. However, employee storytelling has been found to be extremely effective for the following reasons;
- It humanizes the company since people can relate to it,
- Stories are a reflection of the company’s values and culture. They show people what a company is really about and create a sense of community,
- Employees have more credibility than the brand and its executives since people trust people more than they do companies or organizations.
There are different ways companies can approach employee storytelling. One approach is by handing over the reins and allowing them to provide content about what they do, how they do it and the impact it has. Letting them tell their story with minimal or no management interference. A company that successfully did this is IBM in 2015 when it shocked the business community by having over 1000 of its employees becoming their brand advocates on social media. The company provided training and infrastructure to those involved in the exercise and it turned out to be a huge success. Here’s a case study showing how IBM did it which is useful if you plan to embrace this opportunity.
Another approach to employee storytelling is showing the employees that work for the company without necessarily touching on what the company does. Honeywell Aviation has perfected this approach and even has a series on YouTube dubbed We are Honeywell that focuses on an individual employee, what they like and what makes them tick. This has been amazing at helping humanize the company and making the general public relate more with the company since they are relating with the people in it.
The secret ingredient to employee storytelling working is authenticity and integrity.
A story is told of penguins and elephants. Both sets of animals move in packs however when a penguin get injured or something happens to them making them weaker, the other penguins rally against the weaker penguin since they do not carry dead weight with them. Penguins are not nurturing and that defines their culture and community. Meanwhile, whenever an elephant in a herd is injured, the entire herd is affected. They nurture the sick elephant until they can all move at a consistent pace again.
Employees need to work as the herd of elephants i.e, one unit in an organization, for goals to be crushed and storytelling helps with that. Internal storytelling as you might have already guessed mainly affects the company’s culture and ultimately employee motivation and productivity.
4. PornHub Insights
Yes, you read that right.
This is a perfect extreme example of a company that uses data-led stories right.
Data storytelling as the name suggests is the art of using data visualization to tell brand stories. When using data to tell stories it is important to start with the intent followed by the data. This makes the story concise and gives it meaning without you cramming up every single data you think might be important.
Data led stories are amazing since;
- Data is readily available, Lots of data is collected each day by companies.
- Data can be analyzed to tell a story. This adds credibility to the story and helps explain your point effectively.
Due to the data big bang, companies have access to loads of data that can be used. However, for this data to be usable there needs to be a system in place that allows easy and quick analysis of the data to be able to get insights from it.
PornHub has perfected the art of storytelling using data focussing on key events and news. They use these stories for their content marketing which leads to attracting traffic to their site. One instance is, during Halloween, they shared the keywords that were popular and then they produced content that was in line with the data findings. This was a big hit.
A not so extreme example of a company using data-led stories is Spotify. Spotify collects data on the preference and usage of its users. They then use this to recommend music they think the user might enjoy. They even went a step ahead and created content using this data about how people use the app and what they listen to while in different setups or situations.
Man vs Machine 🙂 the age-old debate. Which is better? Is it worth it to invest in a machine? Law Geex milked this debate when introducing their new AI-driven platform. They had the ultimate showdown where for 4 hours, 20 lawyers with experience reviewing contracts at companies including Goldman Sachs and Cisco, and global law firms including Alston & Bird and K&L Gates were given 5 NDA’s to review.
The LawGeex artificial intelligence flat out won this showdown as shown in these results where the AI program took an average of 26 seconds and the lawyers took an average time of 92 minutes. They argued that this was great since it frees up lawyers to do other pressing things that require their attention and presence.
This was a different way of telling a story about their product and it captivated massive audiences making their marketing campaign a success.
6. My Heritage
The main reason stories work so well is because they engage both the mind and heart. Although logic plays a major part in business, emotional engagement creates connections and loyalty.
My Heritage uses emotion to tell its stories. They tug at people’s hearts. For instance, this video that showed Irma a 99-year-old great-grandma who didn’t know her paternal side of the family until recently using DNA technology. She finally got to meet someone, her great-grandson, from that side of the family that she didn’t know much about but always had a yearning to know. I challenge you not shed a tear or two while watching it.
Some of the reasons My Heritage is successful in their storytelling is;
- The stories are customer-led.
- They use emotion
- They do pro bono work
“Tell a good story, and you’ll leave an emotional imprint on someone that’s hard to shake.” Jeff Rum
As seen from the above examples, storytelling works great for B2B companies as well and therefore needs to be part of the content marketing strategy.
Storytelling is the best marketing