Brand Storytelling Is the Oldie Newbie in Content Marketing

brand-storytelling-campfire

“Brand storytelling”, aka business or corporate storytelling, has been popping up in a lot of content marketing blogs lately.

Business writing and fiction used to be worlds apart. The conventional wisdom was that, if you’re a copywriter who also dabbles in fiction, you should keep those two versions of you separate at all times.

Well, it looks like the lines have been blurred and continue to blur.

The thing is, the current attention on storytelling in marketing circles is inevitable.

Marketing and the internet in general have been moving this way the past few years.

Greater connectedness

Social media, DIY websites as publishing platforms, the empowerment of “anyone can build a community” around blogs and YouTube channels, all of this speaks of the move toward greater personal connections.

We all want to connect, not just with the little hamlet in which we live, but with the global village that shares our interests, passions, and goals.

And no other form of communication has been used to build connections more effectively than storytelling. In all societies over centuries, stories have been used to entertain, relate experiences, and pass on collective wisdom.

Stories were how wizened elders imparted their knowledge to new generations of wide-eyed whippersnappers. The tales told around campfires built a sense of community and loyalty to the tribe.

‘Campfire stories’ still happen in the internet, although without the wood and smoke. These days, we gather around common topics in forums and favorite blogs. We tell our stories, ask others to share theirs, and soak up village wisdom.

Permission marketing

Now, imagine that someone new comes into the village square. Do we accept whatever they have to say right away?

No.

It has always been bad form in internet forums and blog comment sections to come in as a newbie and jump right into promoting your own stuff. You have to prove that you’re worth listening to. That you’re there to learn from others and contribute to the village wisdom, not just hawk your wares.

You have to gain permission by earning trust. And the best way to do that is by sharing your experiences. You guessed it, by telling your own stories (hence, the “Introductions” sub-forum).

Outside of forums, today’s audiences are bombarded with so much advertising that they automatically tune out most of it. But loyal customers are different. They love getting those emails from their favorite companies, and spending money for their favorite stuff.

As a marketer, how do you find those loyal customers?

Again, the first step is to gain their trust. Show why your product works, and how it can help them. One way to do this is by telling stories about current loyal customers, and about the cool things that are happening in your company. All of which goes under the umbrella of brand storytelling.

Now, there’s a crucial difference between person-to-person storytelling and corporate storytelling. The voice matters. So does point-of-view (and I’ll talk about these later).

For now, as a content marketer, keep in mind that brand storytelling isn’t simply a coldly mercenary tool for direct marketing. Potential buyers can smell such an approach from a mile off. Lack of authenticity will turn them away, and they’ll never come back to you if they sense you’re faking your stories.

Remember this most important thing:

The stories you tell must matter to your audience.

Even though it’s old as the hills, the rules of effective storytelling still apply, even in this new partnership with suit-and-tie business and marketing.

Brand storytelling is still plain old storytelling, but with a different set of characters and audience from those you find in fantasy novels. Just make sure you know which is which.

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