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There are a lot of really great brand storytelling examples out there to inspire us but what tends to be in shorter supply, though, are insights into how to DYI brand stories, especially if you’re not a natural storyteller.

Coming up with effective brand stories over and over again is a matter of learning to listen for a good story and understanding what to add to it to help you achieve the purposes you’re creating the story for. Today, we’re talking about five things you need to add to your story to make it worth telling.


Focus

The first thing your story needs is a reason for being. What is it trying to do? Do we want to tell people about the 100% natural products in our new shampoo? Are we trying to emphasize how our fitness app helps people build healthy habits? Are we planning to improve awareness around our product lines?

Jodie and I are coming up on ten years at DANNIJO, the fashion label largely known for its #statementjewelry as much as its #sisterhood and #goodvibes. Over the course of the last decade we’ve expanded into new categories including #vintage clothing (#dannijovintage) and most recently fitness (#boxerina) and luxury experiences (#dannijotravels). Read about our latest adventures in sisterhood at link in bio. #armparty #ashearrings #silverjewelry #sisters #ootd #ExperienceEsencia #luxuryretreat #mexico photo @michaelaldenlloyd

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Sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder, owners of the jewellery brand Dannijo pour a little bit of themselves into their storytelling. Their post clearly talks about the product lines they’ve released, as well as the decade they’ve been in business but it’s doing it by using a very human wrapping paper that people can relate to – sisterhood.

Deciding on a focus in a story doesn’t imply putting it centre-stage. Regardless of how obvious it is, having a focus helps us articulate not just a goal but also what’s in it for the audience and it provides us with a great starting point when we’ll eventually begin to formulate our Calls to Action.

Star

If you take off your marketing hat and I ask you to think about your top 5 stories, most of the time you’ll think about a book, a movie, an event you or someone you know has gone through. All of these feature people and if you listen to yourself tell them in a natural setting, you’ll soon realise the narrative almost always follows the actions and reaction of a person.

“2:02:57; to many people it’s a barrier. To me, it’s slower than my personal best.” This weekend @kipchogeeliud chases the world record in Berlin. #Breakthrough

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Marketing stories are no different. They can be about Bob the employee or Bob the client, so long as they are about people. Because that’s who we identify and empathise with, people, not tall, glossy buildings with fancy sings on them.

Don’t just stick to your employees and clients, add former employees, interns, and people you just engage with into the mix, because your brand experience reaches outside the walls of your company.

Heart

Going back to your favourite stories – think about what makes them your top 5. Is it the characters, the setting, the storyline, the surprise ending? Every single one of these options has an emotional angle to it. Whether you’re inspired by the hero, bewildered by the villain, mesmorised by the environment or shocked by the event, if you distill the why’s, they’re about the emotions they stir up in us.

Well, brand stories need just as much heart in them, as people have to be emotionally invested in the chain of events and your characters for your story to keep their interest.

This really powerful campaign by eBay proves just how big of a difference adding heart into a story can make. If you strip out all the emotional elements from this story it essentially amounts to Guy has a Harley. Guy sells Harley. Guy find Harley on eBay 35 years later. It’s a narrative but a not very interesting one.

It no longer tells us about how much Ed loved his Harley, the regret he felt when he got outbid, and the happiness he felt when he finally bid what it was worth to him and he won it back. The story is worth telling because it strikes a chord. But stories don’t have to have happy endings to be effective. They don’t need to be mushy or make you nostalgic but they do need to make us feel something. Anything, and lots of it.

Impact

If focus gives us a reason for being and an objective, impact shows us what the story leads to. How is our focus bringing change into our audience’s lives? Are our services helping single parents spend more time with their children? Is our product enabling patients to better monitor their health?

Every year, Google releases a video that looks back at our top searches during that year. It’s a fantastic example of effective storytelling because it uses raw data to tell the story of what we’ve cared about the most. I’m not going to lie, this video can be a punch in the gut and that goes to show just how powerful the story is.

I could have picked any brand video with a linear narrative that goes from challenge to conquering that challenge through whatever product or service said brand is selling. Instead, I went for Google’s story of 2016 in search because it’s trickier to put together and it’s even harder to weave a story when you’re boxed in by a certain set of facts, in this case the actual data of what people have searched for.

So what’s the impact? Google holds up a mirror and shows us that we care, about each other, about people continents away. It shows us there’s love in the world, making the message, ultimately a positive one.

Hook

Event the most brilliant of stories won’t amount to much if nobody gets to read it. Hooks are how you draw people’s attention to your story. It can be a caption, a photo or a self-playing video. Whatever it is, it needs to be powerful enough to break through the constant digital noise and get your audience to pay attention.

Another episode of #Qantas underbelly. What did we name this #QantasDreamliner? Hint: Zoom in to see the registration on the wing. #regram: @mel.aviation

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You don’t have to look any further than Instagram to see the value of a good visual. Hooks are the traffic wardens of digital storytelling, stopping browsing users in their tracks and directing them towards a new experience.

Like with any marketing initiative, the strength of a story’s hook is developed in time, through repeated run-ins with the brand, where you promise to deliver something exciting to the audience and deliver on your promise once the user clicks through.

As you rinse and repeat this process, your audience will come to know there’s something really neat at the end of that link and confidently invest their time in engaging with it. Being inconsistent, however, will lead to mistrust and a corresponding lack of engagement.


The Bottom line

There are many storytelling techniques that we can use to engage and delight our audiences, however, if they lack either of these five essential elements, the story is void of either meaning, value or emotion. As such, the story becomes uninteresting and forgettable, taking your brand with it.

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