The key point to know about storytelling: a story isn’t the best way to leave a message for consumers to remember you. It’s the only way to do that.
In today’s world of content shock, with people drowning in a sea of marketing messages, how do you make them want to listen to you? Not listen – want to listen.
Forget the data, make a personal connection instead.
Tell them a story.
Source: One Spot
Why does it work?
People retain 70% of information through stories, but only 10% from data and statistics. That’s because we use only the language part of our brains to decode data, while a story activates brain areas responsible for experiences, too. In other words, when people read a sales story, they feel as if it truly happens. It gives an emotional response and makes them emphasize as well as remember your brand.
Psychology Today makes it clear:
- When evaluating brands, consumers use emotions (personal feelings) rather than information (attributes, features, and facts).
- Emotional response has far greater influence on our intent to buy a product than does content.
- Positive emotions have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments.
Long story short: storytelling is a must for creating emotional connections with your audience.
That’s all well and good but…
How many marketing blogs that reflect the fundamentals of great storytelling do you know? And how many marketing blogs actually talk about implementing storytelling elements to your digital copy?
The art of writing captivating brand stories is a challenge. It’s because storytellers understand the critical elements of fiction writing, whereas few marketers have these skills.
Let’s cut to the chase:
What do you know about wooden personas of storytelling?
Pinocchios of storytelling
They are fiction characters brands create to tell stories. Pinocchios are abstract, and their role is to substitute real people where needed.
Henneke Duistermaat does love using Pinocchios in her articles:
Source: Enchanting Marketing
Howard and Helen are wooden personas of storytelling here. Hannah and Heather live in the blog, too. So do Hans, Harvey, and Hunter. By the way, have you noticed all of them have names started with H? That’s not a mere coincidence. Share your guesses in the comments! 🙂
Why are they wooden?
Pinocchios aren’t real. Their role is simple: to help narrators fold information into the candy wrappers of a story. Rumor has it that people don’t trust wooden personas, which does harm to your marketing goals. What resuscitates Pinocchios is their infusion into honest and transparent details about your brand.
But even the most wooden persona is better than no persona at all. Bad though it is, Pinocchio helps to write a sales story. A top class would be creating a character that enables your consumers to emotionally connect and want to follow its acts.
But how to use Pinocchios to make people care?
A hero’s journey and anthropomorphism
“Borges said there are only four stories to tell: a love story between two people, a love story between three people, the struggle for power and the voyage. All of us writers rewrite these same stories ad infinitum.”
So how many stories exist in brand storytelling?
Here’s the kicker: the critical elements of fiction writing are must-have here, as well.
You can’t simply write a story step-by-step. If believe you can, oh dear… Houston, we have a problem!
To get people hooked on your story, it should follow the principles of drama, with elements such as background, set-up, narrative arc, catastasis, and resolution. Otherwise it collapses.
It’s a classic storytelling technique known as monomyth (or, a hero’s journey), the old-as-Adam text structure that we find in folk tales, fiction books, and most Hollywood blockbusters from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings.
Declared by Joseph Campbell, a hero’s journey is a successful formula for profitable stories. Brands use it too, paraphrasing rather than plagiarizing one and the same plot: a hero (your target customer) has to leave home for a difficult journey, moves into unknown places, overcomes trials, and comes back home with a reward or wisdom.
Does this ring any bells?
The basic formula of monomyth is easier and faster to master than learning 1,462 plots by Wallace, 36 dramatic situations by Polti, seven plots by Booker, four types of stories by Borges (above-mentioned by Coelho), or even two plots by Aristotle (comedy and tragedy). Brands use this technique to bring their message alive for the audience, and it’s enough to achieve their marketing objectives.
Some struggle to stand out, applying anthropomorphism to their storytelling. In conjunction with monomyth, it works wonderfully!
It gave us MailChimp’s Freddie:
And Trello‘s Taco:
And now, for the most interesting part:
At least seven alternative ways to use monomyth in brand storytelling exist which, if used with all crucial elements in mind, allows your sales copy to stand out. And it leads your target audience to care and buy.
7 ways to use storytelling in sales copies
Let’s play a little:
Imagine two protagonists – Steve and Nick – and several supporting characters. Nick is a businessman: he sells pink elephants. Steve is a businessman, too: he has developed a system to assist entrepreneurs with sales. The benefits of this system are what we should disclose in a story.
Here’s how to deliver a sales story that captures the hearts and heads of our audience using seven storytelling techniques, other than the classic hero’s journey.
1) False start
Here you start telling a seemingly predictable story but then disrupt it suddenly and begin over again.
It’s a powerful technique to capture the audience into paying closer attention to your message.
Game of Thrones started as a solid but predictable story about Eddard Stark’s life and adventures. All plotlines led to him, and the audience got ready to watch Ned’s long way toward epic wins. And when a sword cut his head in the first season? An overwhelmed “wtf?” could be heard in 197 languages. The world went “wow,” and didn’t believe it!
Today, millions are addictive to the series.
How to use it in brand storytelling?
This technique is appropriate for telling about failures, lessons learned from that experience, and innovative ways you used to solve business problems.
Here’s the example of a false start story with our Nick as a protagonist:
2) In media res (in the middle)
Start telling a story with its catastasis (the dramatic middle). This trick allows to grab the audience and keep them craving resolution. People feel something interesting happens, and they need to be attentive to understand what it is.
As a narrator, you should be careful: don’t show all the aces at once. Let readers go deeper into the story and they won’t leave you until the end.
Nick’s “in media res” story could be as follows:
3) Nest (Frame)
Interlace several narratives into one story with your core message in the center. This lets you explain the concept by analogy and give steps on your way to the conclusion.
An example of one such stories is One Thousand and One Nights. Shahryār’s castle is a frame (nest) with Scheherazade’s tales interlacing into it.
Another “nest” is the film 12 Angry Men. Inside a frame of deliberation are personal stories of twelve men, determining their choice as part of the central concept.
How to use this technique for marketing goals? Let’s try:
Tell several stories divorced from each other, linked to one central concept. Doesn’t it remind you of a chamomile flower with many petals around one stem?
This storytelling technique works at conferences, where several speakers tell their stories united by one core topic. Use “chamomile” in your sales copy to build evidence around a single message, and demonstrate its importance and weight to the audience.
It’s also great for creating emotional impressions around your idea, or demonstrating how several scenarios relate back to it.
That’s how this storytelling technique works for Steve’s brand:
Contrast two stories here – “what is” and “what could be.” This allows a narrator to draw attention to business problems, and fuels a desire for change.
“Sparkline” is a favorite technique of advertisers because it’s visual and highly emotional. It motivates the audience to support you and inspires them to action.
Let’s use the example of two businessmen – Nick and Dan. Dan uses Steve’s system, and Nick… does not.
6) Unhappy end
This one looks like a monomyth without a happy ending, but still ends in hope. It’s a way of mapping drama to your story: a hero meets challenges, risks and fails, but his struggle isn’t in vain. The hero gains knowledge and wisdom crucial for his victory “behind the scenes.”
Use this technique to tell how your brand overcame challenges on its way to a satisfying conclusion.
This storytelling technique is similar to nest, but here you don’t frame the story with additional ones – you tell several equally important stories leading readers to a single conclusion.
Marketers use this trick to talk about partnerships, show how great minds come together, or demonstrate how their business development occurred.
The best example of this technique is the story of web developers Sergey Brin and Larry Page.
Herre’s what it would look for our wooden persona Steve:
Don’t write, tell…
So here you have seven different ways to tell one story, and it’s up to you to decide which one works best for your brand. To create irresistible content series and surround consumers with brand experiences, give them multiple ways to enjoy your hero’s journey.
A story is a language your audience speaks.
Whatever storytelling technique you choose, it works when used wisely. Remember that the core of every story is its subject matter and benefit. Find the drama, reach out to emotions, engage your audience, and you’ll move closer to achieving your brand marketing goals.
What storytelling technique do you use, if any? Do you consider wooden personas for creating a sales copy? Which variant of a hero’s journey, from above-mentioned, could work for the story of your brand?
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