By Kelly Ehlers
Brand storytelling is so much more than a buzzword: It’s the future of digital advertising. Like traditional elements of advertising and marketing, brand storytelling in the digital age requires strategy. To create engaging content, you need a strategic dispersion of posts across your channels that allow the consumer to discover and interact with your brand. Quality content requires storytelling. The good news is that we all have a story to tell.
While different demographics will find “quality content” to be subjective, the allure of storytelling is quantifiable. Storytelling does more than connect us to a product; it elevates the perceived value. According to consumer research firm Origin via Adweek, the same product accompanied by a brand story has a higher perceived value with no additional investment.
Set the Scene
Across digital media, images are the entry point. Creating a visual connection that sets your brand apart is invaluable. Consumers should be able to see one post from your brand and instantly identify it as yours. Consistent and recognizable social feeds not only perform well, but they do so organically. In this way, attention to detail regarding your brand’s visual identity can save on paid engagement.
Build a Visual Identity
Our imaginations deserve some credit; they fill in the gaps between what we know and what we want to know. Consider how we can read a novel and envision an entire storyline in our minds, then watch a movie version and see a completely different setting imagined by the film’s director. In the case of your brand, we have the opportunity to become the director and fill in the gaps of the consumer’s imagination. Establish parameters for your brand’s visual presentation: Consider signature colors and what kind of images you want to create. Maybe your brand will post a lot of flat lays with pastel colors. Maybe you will only create content with minimalist lines and neutral tones. Think of your product or service and create an imaginary setting for your target audience to interact with it. By approaching your brand’s visual presentation as a scene to set, you’re creating a digital destination for consumers to return to and engage with your brand’s ongoing story.
Write a Relatable Character
Your brand’s voice has a significant impact on whether or not your audience will connect with your message. When a trusted source tells a brand’s story, it draws a more empathetic response from the audience. This level of authenticity has contributed to the rise of influencers and brand ambassadors. Developing a loyal following begins with a strong sense of character.
Write Your Voice
The key is to stay focused and avoid turning your brand story into a game of telephone. Think of it this way: In your favorite ongoing book or TV series, the characters may grow organically, but they mostly remain delightfully predictable. We go to our favorite characters because we know what we want (high-stakes drama from one series, witty banter from another) and we trust that we’re going to consistently find those true-to-form characters. Let’s stick with the notion of your favorite characters: They have predictable catch phrases and moments where they may surprise us, but their voice never changes so much as to shock us by being out of character. In the same way, a brand can establish phrases and a word bank to guide the development of a new voice.
Scale the Model
Consider this model when developing your brand’s story: 1. Hook, 2. Engage, 3. Reward, and 4. Inspire. Let’s start small with one post: Your visual content serves as the hook. It needs to be striking and evocative. Next, the copy shifts the imagination and explains more about the post. This intersection is where brand storytelling can make or break a post. If the visual gets the audience’s attention and the copy creates a rewarding link between the image and the consumer, they will experience a satisfying connection. That experience can serve as a call to action, inspiring the consumer to express their connection through clicks, likes and other measurable data.
Consumers are looking for a connection. In today’s market, branded content isn’t about the sale; it’s about fostering a connection. Instead of pushing a hard sale, brands are presenting an experience – oftentimes a digital experience. This rise in consumer-focused advertising is transforming the brand-consumer conversation from a yes/no question to an ongoing dialogue. Brand storytelling has that ability. When brands share a story that hooks their audience, they’re transcending the B2C relationship and effectively facilitating a stronger connection and establishing lasting brand loyalty.
Kelly Ehlers is the President of Ideas That Evoke, a social media and PR agency, the 24th Fastest Growing Agency in 2016, Inc. Magazine.