The Power of Storytelling in Marketing

by | Jan 25, 2023

It’s rare that we go through our day and expect content from companies to actually move us emotionally or teach us something new and important in a memorable way. There’s a crucial void of communication between sellers and customers that most businesses simply can’t feel, touch, or explain, while crying out: “If only they knew about our product/service!” Often that void can be filled through storytelling – specifically storytelling in marketing.

The Power of Storytelling in Marketing

If you want to truly teach or inspire your customers, it’s not just about hard work. In our experience at Newsletter Pro, it often takes telling a story. 

Why Is Storytelling In Marketing So Powerful?

Storytelling is part of our culture and daily lives. We watch TV shows nightly, read books or watch movies occasionally, and tell stories to our friends and family whenever we catch up. Whether we realize it or not, all of us are storytellers – and what storyteller doesn’t love a good story themselves? 

But when it comes to using storytelling in marketing, there is still the secondary goal of selling something. Yet, this tactic still works so well for so many companies. Why?

It Forms A Connection. 

As we said, storytelling is part of the human experience and how we’ve communicated since we could even talk. It allows us to show emotions through examples that the audience can relate to on a more visceral level. 

For example, take the famous Dawn commercial with the duckling covered in oil. Dawn could have simply come out with an ad that shows their dish soap cleaning a plate covered in grease, with facts about how the soap works on a molecular level. But we can’t relate to molecules, and molecules don’t experience pain, joy, or fear. 

But a duckling does. 

What is Storytelling Marketing?

In some way, we can identify with that duckling, lost and scared on a beach covered in oil. While we may not have been there ourselves, we know what it feels like to be alone and struggling. So when Dawn can help this little creature get back on its feet, we understand in an unspoken way that Dawn is a company that cares for others and prioritizes health and safety above all else. So now, when we think of the best way to wash our dishes to keep our family free of dirty plates or germy residues, Dawn is the first to come to mind. 

It Provides Value.

Powerful stories teach us something. They have strong themes such as perseverance, humility, or redemption. They’re tools to teach us lessons and provide us with information we’ll need later on, and storytelling in marketing is no different. 

Great marketers constantly try to understand the world around them and their customers. By using storytelling tactics in their marketing, brands can transmit what they learn about the world to their demographic and provide value to their lives. 

Storytelling for Marketing

Take the example of the short film “Detour,” made by Apple. This story follows a tricycle, separated from its young owner, as it makes its way back home. The entire film was shot on an iPhone 7. In subtle ways, through the film, Apple displays the new features customers can enjoy if they purchase a new iPhone, like underwater filming, time-lapse photography, and slo-mo videos. 

While the story is entertaining, it also provides valuable information about their product to their customers. 

It’s More Engaging.

Let’s say you’re a customer reading a newsletter. Imagine reading an article from a personal injury lawyer about why calling a PI firm quickly after an accident is important. The attorney lists the important facts, cites their sources, the whole nine yards. 

However, imagine the same lawyer telling you a story first: A new client of theirs was an 18-year-old woman who was driving home from basketball practice. Suddenly, a truck slams into the back of her car. She was left with traumatic neck, spinal, and brain injuries. Previously, everyone knew she was on track to be a professional athlete — now, she isn’t. When the lawyer asked when her accident occurred, she told them it happened almost two years ago.

“Almost?” the lawyer asked hopefully. 

As it turned out, if she’d called them any later, the client never would’ve been able to file her claim or receive justice for her expensive, lifelong injury. By making the call, she bought herself more time with her family, more time for her recovery, and far less worry about her health care bills in the future. 

The question is this: Would you still be interested in the statistics and facts if you didn’t hear a relevant story first? Would the knowledge still have the same impact? 

Bob Dickman, co-author of “The Elements of Persuasion” and an executive coach, says, “If you don’t feel it, you don’t remember it.” 

So, how do you tell a story so people “feel” it? 

A Story Is Best Served With Conflict.

If you told a brief story about opening a jar on the first try, there’s no thrill. Flat stories without conflict strike most people as boring. However, if you told a story about failing to open a jar, then trying to open it with every conceivable object in your home, including a crowbar, suddenly, we have a story that’s going somewhere. (Maybe a “Looney Tunes” episode …) 

We feel stories in our gut — and our gut remembers pain, and it fears pain in the future. Your business already helps people resolve pain and makes their lives so much better and/or easier. Why not harness those stories? 

A Good Story Has Context.

Context is what builds the backdrop to your brand’s story. People care more about a story and its conflict when they see exactly where it fits. 

Storytelling in Content Marketing

Let’s go back to the jar example. While reading about someone trying to pry open a lid with a million different objects can surely be entertaining, why are they even trying to open it in the first place? What’s inside the jar? What happens if the protagonist isn’t able to get the jar open? 

When these elements are missing from your story, your audience doesn’t care much to read it. Or if they do, for a quick laugh, it surely won’t stick with them long enough for them to share it with others or consider using your services. 

So now, imagine you’ve received an email newsletter from a company that makes food storage containers that open with the press of a button. In their email, they tell the story of a young father responsible for watching his toddler while his spouse is on a business trip. The toddler throws a tantrum as the father nervously shuffles around the kitchen looking for a snack to appease the tiny terror. He holds up a jar of candy, and the infant stops crying. Thinking he’s found a solution, he sighs in relief and tries to twist the lid off — but it won’t budge. Nervously, he tries again but still can’t get the jar open. The toddler becomes more agitated, and the house quickly devolves into chaos. The diligent dad tries every item in the cutlery drawers to pry the lid off, but nothing works! A splatter of uneaten spaghetti hits the wall next to him; things are becoming violent. 

The Importance of Storytelling in Marketing

The story continues this way, with the toddler terrorizing the household and the nervous father hilariously trying to open that candy jar. Maybe he even resorts to using a saw, or maybe he just decides to drive to the store and buy a new bag of candy. Whatever he decides, the story now has context that explains the conflict and why the food storage brand is choosing to tell it. By using storytelling in marketing, they’re able to create a real-life scenario that applies to a niche audience, showing why their product is so much better than a traditional jar. 

You Need A Hero. 

Well, we all do, really. Humans love a good story where a hero defeats the villain and justice prevails. Stories have proceeded this way for as long as we can remember, with long-ago heroes such as Gilgamesh, Etana, and Odysseus. 

While humanity has evolved quite a bit since 675 BCE, we still crave a story that follows a hero’s pursuit to make things right. 

When you’re employing storytelling in marketing, you’re not just telling a tale for fun. Ultimately, the story is a mechanism to move prospects down your sales pipeline, and the best way to do that is to appeal to people’s desire to see a conflict resolved the right way by someone fighting the good fight. 

And what better way to do that than by making your customers the hero in your story? 

Examples of Storytelling in Marketing

For many businesses, the inclination is to position their brand as the hero immediately. Ziploc saves the day by creating a bag that won’t leak! The problem here is that your audience can’t relate to that. They think it’s nice that Ziploc created a product that helps people, sure, but they certainly don’t admire them or want to be like them. 

But what about a story about someone using a Ziploc bag to do something good? A story that follows someone using Ziploc bags to pack holiday meals for patients in a hospital provides us with a hero we admire and would like to see ourselves become. 

Position your brand as the tool a hero (your customers) can use to resolve a conflict. This way, your product or service becomes much more appealing, and the story being told resonates more with your audience.           

Stories in Marketing

Our business owners have many ways that they like to tell stories about and for their business. Of course, stories can be “about” your business. That often means interviewing the business owner for industry-related topics, but sometimes it means interviewing our clients’ customers or experts within the business. 

However, stories can also be “for” your business. A business owner might feel inclined to share a new family tradition that’s meaningful for them or the lessons that participating in a marathon taught them. We hear incredible, touching stories all the time, whether they’re about grief, personal victories, or hilarious mistakes. Telling stories for your business, even if it doesn’t seem directly related at first, can heighten the value of your business to your customers. People are more likely to trust people who are good storytellers. As Harvard University psychologist Howard Gardner says, “Every great leader is a great storyteller.” Stories make your brand more human, which is crucial in 2023 — even if the stories aren’t “by” humans, like the adorable articles we write from the point of view of pets in the case of some of our veterinary clients! 

Margaret Atwood once said, “You’re never going to kill storytelling because it’s built into the human plan. We come with it.” Many marketers agree, so if you’re ready to commit to using great storytelling in marketing, don’t hesitate to give your expert team at Newsletter Pro a call.

To learn more about the power of storytelling (and how to do so easily through your content), you can fill out the form below to download our free Content Marketing Guide.

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