Trends in storytelling

Who doesn’t want to hear a good story ? Storytellers have shaped our societies and the way we think. With the dawn of times, came the stories of deeds, heroes, villains, and magic. Humans would gather together to hear stories, shared around a fire.  Storytelling constructed cultural and societal bonding and developed collective consciousness and culture. It is impossible to imagine a society without  a strong storytelling culture, crafted by generations of humans engaged with each other, telling stories to entertain, teach, and pass on to the younger generations old knowledge and wisdom.

Lately, storytelling  has been increasingly appropriated to the advertising industry. Various important brands have experimented with innovative storytelling marketing strategies, appropriating  great old-fashioned storytelling formats, mixing them with modern technology.  Marketing discovers nows how stories hit us at a very primal and emotional level while technology help us engage and participate.

In 2013, Marketing Week reported that the most successful brands differentiate themselves through the use of storytelling (Bacon, 2013). Reporting on a study by OnePoll, commissioned by Aesop, Marketing Week states that the top ten storytelling brands are all very big names, well recognised in the UK marketplace. In order, they are: Apple, Cadbury, Walkers, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Marks & Spencer, Kellogg’s, Heinz, Fairy and IKEA. The success of these firms evidences the importance of good storytelling by brands, but understanding how to emulate this is challenging facing businesses all over the world.

Some of the most engaging marketing experts advocate storytelling and have also used this effectively to build their own personal brand. Mentioning names like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki makes this idea easier to understand (Johnson, 2012) since these are clearly well known names in the marketing world that have achieved great successes in this area. Understanding the trends in storytelling can transform a brand, making potential customers sit up and pay attention just through the power of the words on the page. But just how is it to be done, and what are the most important trends? Among these are:

1. Engagement

The buzz word in storytelling at the current time is “engagement” and there is a good reason for that. Customers expect to be engaged by organizations. Without engaging customers businesses are likely to struggle in the current market place. This engagement with customers means understanding their wants, needs and interests to be able to create compelling stories that will really appeal to them

2. Authenticity

Customers are smart and what customers most certainly do not want is thinly veiled marketing messages dressed up as “engaging stories”. This is not engaging; it is fake. Customers will see right through it in an instant. Those brands that are really cutting edge with storytelling are able to capture a sense of the authentic. The marketing message is in there too, of course, but the authenticity of the story is the key here.

3. Revealing the unknown

Writing for Forbes, Phil Johnson (2012) explains that: “If your story does not reveal something personal and unknown about the person or brand, it’s going to be boring”. Focusing on bringing a story to life by keeping people engaged in this way is going to be necessary for businesses to draw in their customers in the longer term.

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