Why do so many people laugh at the suggestion that storytelling matters in a digital age?

When I read this sentence in a blog post by Erick Vermeulen, it was like someone had read my mind. It’s not just me who believes that entrepreneurs and marketers dismiss storytelling as a nice-to-have or not as important as product development and sales.

At a time when it is a huge challenge to get people to pay attention for more than eight seconds, every company needs to leverage storytelling as an integral part of their growth engines. In other words, storytelling is more important than ever.

storytellingStorytelling makes marketing and sales more powerful because it engages target audiences, who frenetically jump around the digital landscape: reading, posting, sharing, liking and commenting. It is a huge challenge to have them focus on a brand, product or idea.

Large brands such as Apple, Salesforce, and Ford have large marketing budgets to make themselves difficult to avoid but that’s just brute force. Most brands need to be agile, savvy and opportunistic to position themselves for success.

This is where storytelling comes into play.

Fueled by creativity, ideas and a willingness to take risks, brands can tell stories that engage, educate and entertain. They can differentiate themselves from competitors and establish a distinct brand personality.

Storytelling is a powerful weapon but many brands don’t do it well or, as Ron Ploof says, they tell the wrong stories.

The biggest mistake is that brands tell the stories they want to tell rather than stories consumers want to hear. Their stories reflect the things that interest product developers and salespeople. Unfortunately, consumers have different needs and interests. And they want to see themselves and their experiences in a brand’s stories.

This disconnect is why good brand storytelling is so elusive and unattainable. The more brands tell their stories, the more their stories fail to resonate.

So, how does good storytelling happen?

While it seems obvious, it starts with the audience. Think about the things that people would find captivating, intriguing, informative or exciting. What are their interests? What are their pains or dreams? What do they want to know? How can you make them more confident or informed?

By determining the stories the audience wants to hear, creating and telling stories is easy (well, it’s easier!). Suddenly, connections are established. The audience wants to hear your stories and, as important, they will share your stories. When that happens, you’re a storytelling superstar!

Another key ingredient is creativity. It’s a willingness to take chances with new ideas, platforms, and media. Look at what Chipotle did with  “The Scarecrow”, which involved a short documentary and app. The concept was definitely out there but it was effective and an award-winning campaign.

It is a challenge to think out of the box but what’s the alternative? If brands use the same tools and techniques, they’re doomed. Their marketing blends into the competitive background. It’s fine but it doesn’t stand out.

Storytelling, on the other hand, is marketing on steroids. When done well, it breaks through the noise and blows away the competition.

And here’s the thing, storytelling doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. Along with creativity, it takes commitment and a belief that storytelling is a game-changer.

As the world gets faster and consumers get more fickle, storytelling is how brands will survive and thrive.

I make marketing work for fast-growing companies…and companies looking to grow faster.

Through strategic and tactical services, and coaching, I create marketing that drives brand awareness, customer engagement and sales growth. My approach to marketing is underpinned by storytelling, creativity, and proven frameworks.

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