The Power of Story in the Marketing Context

In Marketing & Branding, Uncategorized by gfaherty30 Comments

Technology has changed how we consume and interact with media. Despite this or maybe because of it, stories remain as important as ever, especially for marketers. When I think of the power of story in the modern marketing context I wonder about the idea of storytelling and how that fits into a world where our audience expects to participate and be a part of the equation. When I go looking for examples of well done marketing storytelling; most are just ads or short films. Sure many are shared via social channels but they are still more of a one way monologue than a conversation. So the idea of story and customer engagement is an idea I will be exploring and investigating and I am going to be sharing my findings in a series of blog posts.

If we are going to investigate story in the modern context, we should start with what makes for a great story. So here are five fundamentals to a telling a great story, specifically from the marketing perspective.

1. True. You story must come from the DNA of your organization, the culture and values. If your story is out of sync with with who or what your organizational is, your audience will see right through you. The internet has increased the velocity of how ideas are shared and spread so you will not only be found out but it will happen fast. Be True.

I think this small film by Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey is a wonderful example of staying True.


Full disclosure I am probably the target for this ad, and it pushes all of my buttons. My distant Irish heritage is something that I have always relished with a level of pride that even I don’t really understand. I am also a whiskey lover. So I am a pushover for this piece, but that doesn’t change the fact that this is a beautifully conceived, acted, shot and produced project that is True to Tullamore Dew and their Irish heritage-which is what they are suggesting here that Tullamore Dew = Irish or True Irish. I think it works.

2. Why. Simon Sinek is not a new name to anyone who has been paying attention to marketing or business for the past five years but this bears repeating. When you talk about what you believe, why you do what you do, what drives and inspires you – you draw like minded people to you and this is the stuff that brand champions are made of. Your why should always be the core of your story.

Apple has always excelled at this, so what better example of speaking from “Why” than this classic ad


3. Insight driven. Again, not a new topic but worth restating because it isn’t easy to draw out meaningful insights that will allow you to reach your audience at their core. This is one of those areas, particularly in B2B companies where I find that internal teams have a difficult time getting to the right insights because they are too close to the action. One of the areas I have seen this is in primary research that ends up asking the wrong questions even though they seem like the rights one at the time. These usually take the form of asking customers how they choose a particular solution or what is important to them for a particular service rather than stepping back to understand what happened before their customers fully understood their problem and what kind of solutions they should be looking for. That grey area of “we don’t know what we are dealing with” is potentially rich digging territory for understanding your customers state of mind and emotional states during unsure times. Its messy and that is where the good stuff comes from.

The “Aways Like A Girl” campaign is as powerful as it gets because it comes from a very simple and powerful insight.

4. What are you offering? I don’t mean what are you selling but what are you offering? What is going to make your audience either come looking for you or take a moment from what they are doing to pay attention to whatever you have to say? Before I go on, let me be clear that I believe interruption based tactics are the way of the past and if you are continuing to rely on them you are in for a world of hurt as a marketer but more on that at another time.

What you are offering is going to take one of three forms- Entertainment, Education or Utility. Consumer marketing has long leaned predominantly on entertainment and any savvy business marketer knows the power of thought leadership to demonstrate credibility. What about Utility? I think Utility is often over looked because it can be hard to get right. You have to provide value or service to your audience and it has to be relevant to your brand. How do you weave story and utility into one thing? I don’t think that is easy at all. All good reasons why we don’t see utility at the core of a lot of marketing efforts which to me is all the more reason to try it out.

The Make Small Spaces Big campaign from Ikea is a great example of Utility that is relevant to the brand and I think part of a larger brand narrative.

As I am sure you have noticed, three of the four examples above are essentially ads.   I have already mentioned that I believe interruption based strategies and tactics are losing their strength so where does that leave us as storytellers?  How do we engage our audiences with story that isn’t just story telling?

That is something I plan to investigate in upcoming posts, so please stay tuned.

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