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Why Storytelling Works in Marketing

No matter what is happening around us, most of us will stop and listen as soon as someone starts telling a story. That’s the power of storytelling. It works in marketing, too. People care about the details of your product’s costs, benefits, and specs, but once you start telling a story, that story has stopping power that can be more powerful than facts and figures.


Here are three tips for communicating a great story in your next direct mail or multichannel campaign.


1. Exude honesty. Buyers can quickly sniff out a gimmick, so engage them through authenticity. Be real, honest, and genuine. Think honesty only hurts you? Look at Avis. In the 1960s, the company was lauded for its campaign “We try harder,” which catapulted the #2 rental car company from 18% market share to 34%, not by acting like the market leader, but by advertising its status as an underdog that had to work harder to win its customers.


2. Showcase your brand’s personality. Does your brand have a personality? It should! Look at some of the best brand storytelling in TV commercials. They often have spokespeople with characters that buyers can relate to. We all laugh at Allstate’s “Mayhem” character but relate to him, too. Likewise, our heartstrings are pulled when the Green Mountain Roasters coffee grower from a remote mountain village in Sumatra, beaming under his floppy hat, extends his hands to show off his beans. These are characters (and stories) people identify with and remember.


3. Create characters that your audience will root for. Even characters like Mayhem are likable. You feel bad when a tree crushes Mayhem, or he is run over by a car. You root for him to be okay, just as you want your family to be. As you root for the character, you subconsciously root for (positively identify with) the brand.


What might this look like in your marketing? Create characters your audience can relate to and tell stories about them. Say you sell adventure gear. You might create the fictitious character Riley, the fearless explorer who never backs down from a new adventure. Or, if you are a makeup brand, you might create Maya, a trailblazing makeup enthusiast who embodies the spirit of self-expression and individuality. Tell how Riley’s Adventure Gear backpack saved the day during an unexpected winter storm or how your new eyeliner collection helped Maya win 10,000 new followers.


Storytelling doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be authentic. So, use direct mail, email, and mobile marketing to tell different aspects of your brand story. Then make it a great one!

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