One thing people can’t get enough of in life is great narratives. Throughout time, humans have always been storytellers considering the oldest known written story dates back all the way to 2500 BC. And today we aren’t any different, as the top 15 most watched TV shows in 2023 feature scripted narratives with great characters you can get invested in, such as The Last of Us and Wednesday, for example.
Our brains are literally wired to enjoy stories. When we hear a compelling one, the neurons in our brain are firing on all cylinders and establishing connections throughout the anticipation of the story’s resolution. When we experience an emotionally moving event, dopamine is released, leading to us remembering elements with greater accuracy. So as marketers, how can we incorporate effective storytelling throughout our campaigns and customer experiences to ensure that our audience remembers and prefers our products and services over the competition’?
In this article, we’ll look at what makes a story impactful and how incorporating exceptional stories in your marketing can help you build stronger connections with your audience.
What Does Compelling Storytelling Look Like?
Great stories that hook people and maintain their attention often:
- Relate to the human condition
- Feature characters you want to root for
- Highlight challenges and how to overcome them
- Appeal to your audiences’ emotions
1. Relate to the Human Condition
All memorable stories, no matter if they're set within our modern day, are a sci-fi epic, or post-apocalyptic, they all feature situations that are universal human experiences. Throughout our lives, we experience birth, growth, conflict, loss, and other life events. Stories that take a piece of these human experiences and convey unique situations from them are relatable, draw people in, and imbues audiences with specific emotions.
Take HBO’s hit show, The Last of Us. While set in an alternative post-apocalyptic era, it’s a simple story about two people forming a familiar bond throughout a touch, bitter world. We see themes of survival, loneliness, and loss, which are something we all experience at least once throughout our lives. These themes help us relate their experiences to the stories we are witnessing and help them further bond with the characters because we see elements of us within them.
2. Feature Characters You Want to Root For
People want to see unexpected heroes, against all odds, battle adversity and achieve success. Continual growth is what we, as humans, strive for.
A great example of this is the TV show Ted Lasso. The appeal of this show is watching the soccer players become better people on and off the field. Seeing these characters grow into better people by overcoming their insecurities and struggles helps us, the viewers, see that we can overcome our own challenges that we are facing in our lives.
3. Highlights Challenges and How to Over Come Them
Challenges create an inherent structure within a story as they pave the path for a character to journey down. Grounded, real-life stories may make their audience feel vulnerable, but it can also provide us hope; Hope that we can dig ourselves out of our problems as there are others out there who have experienced the same thing.
As marketers, we are always creating campaigns that speak to our audiences’ problems and communicate how we can help them overcome their challenges. Doing this successfully brings people together and builds stronger connections with our audiences. But to communicate successfully, we must understand how to meet our audience where they are emotionally.
4. Appeals to Our Emotions
Great stories tap into our emotions to inspire and drive action. Understanding how to pull out certain emotional responses from your audience is critical when crafting your own brand’s narrative and is a skill that is developed by analyzing and appreciating how different works have caused great emotional responses within you. Connecting certain situations with specific emotional responses can empower you to hone the emotions you want to generate from your own campaigns.
No matter what, authenticity is king. Stories that aren’t authentically told may drive the wrong emotional responses. But what makes you authentic is going to look different within every brand since it depends on your audiences’ understanding of your brand, your position in the market, and what you are looking to accomplish.
Generally, focusing on telling grounded stories that clearly demonstrate your values and speak directly to your audiences’ life and struggles can empower you to build stronger connections with your customers and, over time, increase loyalty. As with every TV show or movie out there, it’s important to show rather than tell to inspire your audience to become better individuals and professionals. As marketers, we’re here to help connect them to the right products and services that encourage them to take the next step on their journey.
Let's Get Practical: What Does Successful Storytelling Look Like Within Marketing?
At the center of our marketing is our audience; they are the characters we want to root for throughout all our brand stories. No matter the challenges they have, your messaging should demonstrate how your products and services can transform their lives and assist them in overcoming any obstacle in their way.
We’re all human. Sometimes we struggle to find the motivation to accomplish our goals, face rejection, and find ourselves having to pick ourselves up. And the fact is that telling great stories can remind our audiences that they are not alone in the problems they are facing, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Your stories should lead them towards an action, whether that’s contacting you, downloading an eBook, or attending a webinar. As marketers, we play a part in their story, connecting them with the resources needed to help overcome their greatest challenges and accomplish their goals.
Looking for more ways to tell more authentic stories throughout your marketing operations? Read our blog, “Appealing to the Emotions of B2C Consumers,” to discover how investing in video and starting to personalize the customer experience - no matter how small it may be – can help you better connect with your customers.