Harnessing the Power of Storytelling in Marketing

Everybody enjoys a good yarn or tale. Good storytelling is something that can move somebody to engage with your business or brand. To find out more about modern storytelling and marketing,I turned to one of the best storytellers I know, Earl Echivarre.

Earl is an Emergency Nurse turned Digital Marketer. Previously working as a freelance videographer and photographer, he is currently studying a masters in digital marketing at the Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School to further his knowledge.

Q. Why do you think storytelling is important in marketing?

Storytelling has always been a vital component in marketing. Everything we do is always been told through stories and we also teach through stories. Looking back in time at all the Greek myths, Roman myths and the Bible. They’re all essentially teaching people about morals through stories. Everything we’ve ever done in life and our history itself is all about storytelling. In this new digital world where you have 7 billion people on the planet and almost half are creating some sort of content, storytelling is what will make you stand out from the rest.

We as people learn from storytelling. It’s how we portray emotions, that’s why films are such a thing. That’s what TV shows are. The whole entertainment industry from musical theatre to drama, it’s all about stories. It’s about how you catch that story and how you show the story.

Stories are the OG social media platform, it’s how we all connect. Stories are a true testament against time but also against language. You don’t need to understand someone’s language, don’t need to know someone’s culture. I mean it helps but you don’t need to. A good story, you should be able to understand it. Obviously, you need translations, but there’s certain visuals that you could understand easily. A good example is the John Lewis ad, the Elton John one. You didn’t need to know English because they didn’t have any dialogue. It was all Elton John’s story, how he got that piano for Christmas and that’s what made him who he is today. The story was excellent and touched a lot of people’s hearts.

Q. Can you give an example of an Irish brand you think are doing a good job of using storytelling in their marketing?

Christmas brings a lot of themes around giving, caring, sharing and helping your fellow person. A recent Christmas ad that was made by Rothco for Woodies caught my attention. I never thought there would be a time in my life where I would cry over a metal bracket for a gate, but the story behind it was lovely. The campaign focused on a young fella helping this elderly woman in the community who had a broken gate. I don’t know if you saw it, but he fixes the woman’s gate quietly over Christmas without telling anyone. That was beautiful storytelling.

Another Irish organization that makes use of storytelling in their marketing, is Tourism Ireland. People don’t appreciate what we have in our own country and don’t realize Ireland is a beautiful f***ing place. I know we can’t go anywhere right now because of lockdown and Covid-19 but they do a great job showcasing the beauty of Ireland through stories.

Woodies Christmas advert 2020.
Failte Ireland use storytelling to market Ireland.

Q. What do you think are the most important aspects to think about for brands considering using storytelling in their marketing?

First of all, positioning is important. You need to understand who your market is and what your brand is. Storytelling is a is a vital component for brand building in the long term. Get to know the audience and then find stories they want to hear that fit with your brand.

Nike is all about the best athletes and being excellent at sports. Be the best person you could be, just do it and all those slogans. One of the interesting stories that they’ve used in recent years was that of Colin Kaepernick. The story divided a nation and people’s beliefs, that was undeniable. People looked at that and said well listen if you launch this campaign you are cutting off all of your audience who didn’t agree with the fact that he knelt for the American national anthem. Nike realised that their position as a brand allowed them to champion people being their best and they decided Kaepernick’s story was the story of someone doing the brave and correct thing. They decided that they were happy to lose followers who didn’t believe in that story.

As a brand you need to understand who your people are and what they care about. You also need to be proud of who you are and what your personal belief systems are. If you’re a small company operating within a niche market, you do have a target audience, but you might not be sure how to reach them.  Look at mobilising storytelling in your marketing efforts.

Colin Kaepernick’s story was championed by Nike, aligning the brand with bravery and justice.

Q. How can teams and companies use storytelling to create content?

There is too much saturation in this market, there is way too much “digital media” out there. It could be visually appealing and enjoyable, but what value does it bring? It’s about creating content to tell stories that add value. If you go onto any social media platform and you look at all the successful platforms, you’ll find they deliver valuable, shareable content. If you’re able to show a level of value communicated through stories, that’s how to do it. 2020 demonstrated that there’s a time and place for storytelling so pick stories that suit the circumstances your audience finds themselves in.

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