The importance of storytelling in content marketing

The importance of storytelling in content marketing

832 551 Breathe Marketing

I recently attended a seminar where there were no visual aids, no group work and no notes – just a guy talking. But what felt like a five-minute talk actually lasted over one and a half hours.

The presentation topic was definitely of interest to me. It was about bringing up teenagers (I have a 14-year-old son, thankfully showing no major teenage behaviour traits . . . yet, other than a propensity to leave everything to the last minute, which he’s had all his life!). But I couldn’t believe how fast the time went or how captivated I was by the speaker’s fantastic storytelling ability.  And for someone who doesn’t always remember things without writing them down, I really believe his stories will stick with me.

It made me think about the role of storytelling in marketing. Today’s digital marketing channels are completely overloaded with stories; Instagram and Facebook have completely adopted this concept with “Facebook Stories” and “Instagram Stories”.

Stories resonate with people and are something we typically respond well to, because everyone likes a good story – and in fact, we are actually hardwired to listen and pay attention to stories. Individual ads, emails or promotions are great for short-term action, but stories can reinforce your brand and resonate more over a longer period of time.

As a marketer, I urge clients to create stories and write engaging content all the time. But every company is trying to tell a story and get customers to pay attention to their websites, their email campaigns, text messages and Google ads.  I’m doing it now with this article!  There’s endless competition. Apparently, people now see between 6,000 to 10,000 ads every single day . . . and that’s just ads.

So how do we cut through all the noise, get people to stop scrolling and hear us? Do our stories need to be more shocking?  Media outlets and tabloids have tried this for years with ‘propaganda’ headlines and ‘fake news’, etc., but especially after COVID, we’re all really tired of shouty headlines designed to reel you in when there’s really no substance behind the magic curtain.

We want good stories.

Here are three things that engaging stories provide:

  1. Emotion

“Shock” may grab people for a few seconds, but much more often, people want to feel something real, such as inspiration, hope, fear, excitement, comfort or joy. Using genuine emotion in your marketing gives you a way to connect with customers on a meaningful level. In the best cases, it boosts engagements AND leads to improved sales and customer loyalty. For example, Budweiser beer is known for making people laugh or pulling on their heartstrings through the use of animal stories in its TV ads.  Almost every year for the Super Bowl football game in the U.S., the company releases an ad that viewers vote for as one of the best.  One of my favourites was from 2014 – what’s not to love about horses making friends with puppies, to get across the ‘Best Buds’ tagline?More recently, the company has switched over to human subjects in their ads but has continued to tell stories that people could connect with, while successfully promoting their brand. The ads make people feel good, and customers (consciously or unconsciously) connect that feeling with Budweiser.

2. Information or instruction

Marketing software giant Hubspot recently conducted a survey to find out why people read the blog posts that they do. The top answer? “To learn something new.” This was especially true during COVID (with people searching for help with things like, “How do I cook my favourite Asian dish while that restaurant is closed?” “My pipe is broken in lockdown! How can I fix it?”), but video and written tutorials will always remain popular. Whether it’s watching a video showing them how to plant and care for the perennials they bought at your gardening shop or tips from an accounting firm on how to better prepare for tax time, customers like to be provided with solid information that helps them and offers value.

  1.  Relevance and/or personalisation

One of the great benefits of storytelling is that it helps humanise your brand. When customers can recognise where they fit into or connect with the story, you’ve got a winner. When you send a personalised email message that shares a story relevant to that person, instead of a generic message to the whole world, you’re much more likely to grab attention. And with all the clever marketing automation software around at the moment to help you tailor your messages, it should be even easier to make a connection.

Need help creating your stories and cutting through the noise? Contact Breathe Marketing today.



Anna Nixon-Smith

All stories by: Anna Nixon-Smith