How to effectively tell your brand story

Head of Social

Maud Olieslagers

19 Dec 2019

Everyone loves a great story, whether it’s a good book, a beautiful movie or a funny anecdote told by one of your friends. Smart brands know this and use stories to create impact and connect with their target audience. Have you ever wondered what makes storytelling so effective and what does it take to make a story stick?

There is a scientific explanation behind our love for stories. In short, when we hear a list of facts, a certain part of the brain is activated – scientists call this the ‘Broca area’. This is the part of the brain where we decode words into meaning. While that’s a very impressive functionality of the human brain, that’s also where it stops. Nothing else happens. Just think of a boring presentation with many figures. No matter how enthusiastically this is presented, the story in our head doesn’t resonate with the data. When the presenter tells the same facts within the context of a story, something else happens in the brain. A good story can lead your brain to release ‘cortisol’ (the stress hormones) or ‘oxytocin’ (the feel-good hormones). These are the hormones explaining why you feel anxious while watching a horror movie, or happy when the lovers finally come together at the end of a book.

The above doesn’t mean that every story does something to us. So how do you ensure that your story triggers something within your audience? Read ahead to discover five key elements for effective storytelling.

Target audience

You have something to say, but why should your target audience listen? It’s simple: know what is going on in their circles and what they find important. During her talk on The Next Web 2019, Melanie Deziel (former Branded Content Editor at The New York Times) repeatedly asked: “Why does your audience care?”. This may seem obvious, but it is often forgotten. Ask yourself this question constantly while working on your next story.

Personal

You can tell stories in many different ways, but, ultimately, we are most touched by personal stories. Linking a face to your message is an effective way of ensuring a campaign lingers and touches people. Just think of the gripping “Ik ben inmiddels overleden” campaign by the ALS foundation, in which real ALS patients were featured to raise awareness for the illness.

Emotion

A strong brand story is all about stimulating emotion and empathy. It’s not just about what you do, but also about how you influence people. If you can activate the right emotion within the first paragraph of a blog article or within the first few seconds of a video, you have the recipient’s attention. A smart way to do this? Start with a conflict, which causes stress that people instinctively want to resolve. Then end your story with a solution to this stress or a “happy ending”. A good example of a successful, emotional campaign is the “Dream Crazier” video from Nike.

Authentic

Authenticity is extremely important with storytelling. Make sure the story suits your brand and remains true to your brand values. Above all, do not make false promises or paint a pretty picture that does not reflect reality (who still remembers the disastrous Rabobank campaign?). A good, authentic brand story is what sets you apart from your competitors. It’s exactly the thing you need to make a difference.

Simplicity

Less is more. One of the most common mistakes when telling stories is trying to say too much. It is much better to tell a simple story and to maximize the emotional aspect within this story, than to flood people with different messages.

Everyone can push a video with an advertising budget, but reach is not worth much if it doesn’t evolve into something more. Make an impact, connect with your audience and see how an effective campaign comes to life. Need some help with this? Just get in touch!

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