From bedtime stories to a friend’s crazy weekend story to the greatest novels of all time, people love to hear stories. They want to connect to others and experience new or even familiar emotions through characters.
This is what brand storytelling is all about, making emotional connections with your consumers. These don’t always have to be sappy or heartfelt connections. Think back to the Snickers/Betty White Super Bowl ad of 2010. When you’re tired and hungry, a Snickers bar will take you from feeling like a 90-year-old woman to playing like a Super Bowl champion.
So how can you successfully use brand storytelling to connect with consumers? Follow the eight steps below and you’ll be on your way to building a better relationship with your customers.
1. Determine Your Purpose
You don’t necessarily have to take a sabbatical in order to define your brand’s true purpose, but stop for a minute and consider something. What is it, at its most fundamental level, that your brand is trying to say? To figure this out, go back over your mission statement, your goals and your company’s history.
Your purpose may be something simple; “buy our product,” for example, but your mission is probably more complicated. Ask yourself what your company believes in and what separates your product from its competition. Are you a shoe company dedicated to manufacturing shoes with a blister-free guarantee? Or perhaps you make plastic bags and trash bags that are biodegradable and will decompose along with the trash inside.
2. Narrow Down Your Audience
This is the time to really get to know your demographics. Who is going to buy your product the most? Everyone does laundry and will need to buy detergent, but moms and dads with messy kids will still be the biggest sector of consumers.
Go over everything: age, race, income level, location. Find out who your audience is and what they value. Broke college kids and retired men and woman value a good deal. Parents need a detergent that will get grass stains out. How is your product going to help them solve a problem or maintain their values?
3. Analyze Your Budget
Chances are you probably don’t have $4 million dollars lying around, so a Super Bowl commercial might not be in the works for you, but you should have enough money to pay a good team of writers and designers as well as fund any necessary raw materials.
Distribution might be free. After all, you don’t need to pay for an Instagram account, but you should look into other ways to reach consumers and decide what will work best for your demographic. This of course leads us into …
4. Decide on How You Will Reach Your Audience
Now that you know how much money can be used for this project, you can start looking for the best ways to reach your audience.
Play to your strengths. Clothes and accessory brands would probably do well with an Instagram photo spread or YouTube behind-the-scenes videos from a recent photo shoot. A company selling a new brand of boxed cake mix might want to consider doing a number of cooking segments on YouTube, showing off the many ways viewers can utilize their product.
Think social media. Think blogs. Think about how your audience is going to find your content, and make it easier for them to find it.
5. Recognize Gaps
Here is where you should look at other brand storytelling efforts from your competitors. Watch, read or listen to their storytelling, and see if you can pick out their mission and their goals. How are they motivating their audience to act in a certain way? How is their approach different from yours?
By viewing your competition, you should be able to see where you’re excelling and what still needs work. Head back to the drawing board to see if you have the same gaps in your storytelling.
6. Define What Success Looks Like
Success can be measured in a variety of ways, and it’s essential that you set attainable, realistic goals for yourself. You might consider higher profit to be the end-all, but remember, marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Profits might not really begin to show for six months, maybe even a year.
Instead, define a plan based on your storytelling strategy that will help you see if your efforts will succeed. Track the number of downloads or how many people participated in an Instagram contest. How many times was your YouTube link shared on Facebook or Twitter? You won’t get much out of your storytelling if you don’t know how to tell success from failure.
7. Get Comfortable with Failure
Sometimes even the best laid plans fall through. Even if you think you know your mission, purpose and audience like the back of your hand, some brand storytelling ideas just fall flat.
What’s really important is how you plan to recover. Go back over the whole process and try to see it with new eyes. Could the audience be redefined? You should be able to use the data you collected to determine success and failure in order to readjust your efforts and redirect them.
8. Plan ahead
Now that your message is out there, it cannot be recalled, un-posted or unseen. Every other piece of content that has your brand’s logo on it will need to reflect the values and goals that you have put forth. If you want to retain customers and build brand loyalty, then you have to continue to deliver on your brand’s mission.
You may not fully connect with your audience on the first try, but you won’t build any loyalty if you give up. If nothing else, ask yourself what speaks to you. If you can answer that, there’s hope for you yet.
About the Author
Michael Bird is Co-Founder and the Director of Digital Strategy at Social Garden, an Australian based Digital Marketing Agency specialising in social media community growth, content marketing and SEO. You can connect with Mike on Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, or click here to check out his blog.
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