Business storytelling examples to excite your consumer base

People love few things better than a good story. Humans are hardwired to tell and listen to stories. It’s how we bond with each other, make memories, invoke emotions, share new learnings and navigate change. Many businesses use storytelling as a tool for success.

If you haven’t paid much attention to this age-old tactic, now is the time to begin. As long as you consider factors such as emotion, branding and simplicity, you can use storytelling to make consumers embrace your brand and get great results for your business.

What is business storytelling?

The goal of every business is ultimately to sell its service or product. Of the many ways to do this, storytelling is one of the most effective.

Stories are how you encourage your customers to invest in your brand and product. More importantly, it makes you memorable. Facts tell, stories sell.

Imagine a consumer shopping around, whether it be online or in a physical store. They are more likely to choose you over a competitor if they associate a positive story with your product or your as a business.

Business storytelling is a way for you to connect with your  customers. You can do this by sharing what your business is all about and making them remember you for years to come.

However, this method isn’t just for consumers. You can use it to motivate your teams, define your business’s vision and pitch an idea to your boss.

You can incorporate storytelling into your business in endless ways, either in person or through video, audio or writing. Use stories from your own life, tell a tale you heard from someone that inspired you, reach into the vaults of history to discover a thrilling story long forgotten or even make something up.

The end goal is to get your audience’s attention and keep it, so do what works for you.

The elements of business storytelling

A good starting point is trying to include the following four major elements to make your business storytelling effective:

  1. emotion
  2. simplicity
  3. authenticity
  4. meaning

You don’t need to include all four at once, and you can add more elements later on.

Emotion

Incorporate emotion no matter what else you use or skip.

Emotion is a key element. Without emotion, your audience has no reason to care. They may not be falling asleep, but you’ll fail to gain their attention, wasting an opportunity.

You’re not alone if you assume “emotion” means tugging at the heartstrings. You don’t need to reduce your audience to tears, but you need to move them.

Humor is a great way to get people’s attention. Laughter is important to humans, especially when life seems a little bleak. If everyone seems a bit low in your business meeting, introduce a story with an element of humor that will get them laughing. Even if you don’t make them laugh out loud, a few chuckles or smiles are an effective way to make your audience care and lift the mood.

Not all emotions are good for business, so be careful when using some of them. Anger is an example. You need to be cautious about using storytelling that riles up your audience. It might work initially, but it will leave them feeling negative. Once the emotions simmer down, they will associate those negative feelings with you or your business.

Fear is another example. You’ll need to understand why you want to induce this emotion. The benefits rarely last for long, even if you manage to do it right.

Imagine your business sells bottled water, and you want to increase sales. You craft a story about a family that has never purchased bottled water; they rely solely on what comes out of the tap. Then, a drought happens. The tap water dries up, and the family regrets their decision. They look forlornly out of the window at their neighbors, who were smart enough to stock up on your bottled water beforehand.

This is not the impression you want to give your consumers. You want to inspire your customers to buy your product because it makes them feel good, not fearful.

A more effective method would be to make drinking your brand’s water seem like fun. Instead of telling a bleak story, simply show a family having fun while drinking water at a cookout. You could point out that they’re staying hydrated while being outdoors. This way, you can get your message across without leaving your audience feeling lost and depressed.

Simplicity

Complicated stories are fascinating and certainly pull people in from all walks of life. Think of Greek epics like The Odyssey and more recent large-scale stories like Game of Thrones (George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire) or Frank Herbert’s Dune.

Unfortunately, as great as complicated stories can be, they are ineffective for businesses. They are simply too long to hold the listener’s attention.

If you’re doing a video, you’ll probably have seconds before your audience clicks the “skip” button, so use every second to the fullest by keeping things simple. You can let your imagination run wild while you’re in the initial planning phases, but once you begin to edit, you’ll need to dial some things back while staying true to your major theme.

Authenticity

Be honest with your audience. Tell stories that are true to you and your product.

Not all stories need to be about how perfect your company or product is. For example, you can tell your audience about any challenges you have encountered.

Audiences can tell when you’re being dishonest or fake. In this case, they won’t support your business. Be true to your brand and your audience to stand out from your competitors who are inauthentic and gain your audience’s loyalty.

Meaning

Meaning goes hand in hand with simplicity. You’ll lose your audience if your story lacks meaning.

So, while you may have a great idea that combines humor with a heart-wrenching tale and makes you swell up with pride when you tell it, you’ll have to save it for another time if it has nothing to do with your business.

Remember that you only have limited time to get your audience’s attention before you lose them, so make every second count.

Examples of strong brand storytellers

Now that we’ve covered the four main elements of storytelling, it’s time to look at the masters. Some brands are so huge that even people who have never bought one of their products know who they are. Think Apple, Disney, Dove and Old Spice.

So, what makes these brands stand apart from competitors who sell similar products? They know how to use business storytelling. Their audiences can even recite some of their commercials or articles word for word years later.

The master storytellers: Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike and Disney

These storytellers are so good at what they do that many new businesses look to them for inspiration. They stand out because their story has stayed true and strong over the years.

Apple may be known for the iconic Apple logo, but their story is about being cool compared to other computer brands.The brand may have tweaked the story slightly over time, but the idea is the same. Apple is at the forefront of tech development. They are the leaders.

Coca-Cola is well known for its Christmas commercials, which feature polar bears or Santa Claus sharing a Coke. Nike is all about motivation. And Disney has a long history of fairy tales and memorable characters like Mickey Mouse.

Making an impact: Dove, Patagonia and Burt’s Bees

These companies are less focused on telling cute stories. They put more emphasis on making an impact.

For example, Dove has really embraced body positivity and embracing natural beauty. To do this, Dove remains positive. There are no negative commercials about needing to look better. Instead, they remain upbeat in a sophisticated way and encourage their clients to feel good about themselves just as they are. They positively play to their emotions, with great results.

Patagonia uses its platform to promote environmental protection. It uses storytelling to promote taking care of forests, growing gardens and getting outdoors.

Burt’s Bees has a similar goal: to help bring people and nature together.

All of these brands tell stories with a sense of hope that leaves their employees, consumers and clients feeling more motivated to not only buy their product but focus on something bigger than themselves.

Have fun with it: Snickers, LEGO and Old Spice

You don’t need to be serious, especially if your product is more on the playful side.

Brands like Snickers, LEGO and Old Spice have made having fun with their businesses an art form.

Their commercials have a heavy dose of humor. LEGO has been so successful at this that it has actually broken into film. The brand now has some highly successful movies that attract new customers and bring back fans who thought they had outgrown LEGO.

Snickers also does an excellent job of using humor. In recent years, the chocolate business has made it a joke that people act out of character when they are hungry. The solution was to eat a Snickers bar.

Finally, Old Spice breaks down barriers by showing that everyone can use Old Spice. It uses humor very effectively for this by revealing a group of people fighting over a bottle of Old Spice. Everyone wants it because the smell is so luxurious. The brand’s story is that Old Spice is for everyone.

10 examples of storytelling campaigns

There’s no better way to learn to do something than by seeing it in action, so we’re going to take a look at some effective storytelling campaigns.

Nike: “Just Do It”

“Just Do It” has been Nike’s tagline for years. Even though it’s just three words, even people who don’t wear Nike know it. It’s relevant to everyone in any sport and at any level.

Nike’s story is that you don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy their product – you just have to get out there and do it.

Apple: “Snowball Fight”

When Apple released the iPhone 11 Pro, they shot a commercial featuring a group of kids having a snowball fight using just the new phone. The dramatic music draws viewers in, and it looks really impressive.

The story they are telling is that everyone can be a movie maker with the iPhone.

Patagonia: “Don’t Buy This Jacket”

Patagonia broke all the rules of business when they put out a campaign called “Don’t Buy This Jacket.” It makes no sense for a company to tell customers not to buy their product, but Patagonia was making a point.

Rather than buying another jacket unnecessarily, Patagonia wants its customers to use what they already have. This message fits with the company’s goal to use fewer resources. Customers will eventually need a new coat, and they’ll come to Patagonia when they do.

The story is enhancing Patagonia’s brand value that the environment is more important than having new gear. And, if you buy a Patagonia coat, the company will replace the one you have or fix it if it breaks so you don’t have to get another one.

Snickers: “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”

Betty White has been one of the most celebrated comedians in the world for many years. Her sense of comedic timing is legendary, and it was on full display when she took to the field to play with a bunch of high school football players.

She throws one quip after another until someone gives her a Snickers bar, because “you’re not you when you’re hungry”. The story they are telling is that you need Snickers in your life to help you be your best self.

Geico: “The Gecko”

Geico is completely synonymous with its famous Gecko. The tiny lizard has become the insurance company’s trademark, and anyone who sees its image immediately thinks of Geico.

While there have been many other Geico commercials over the years that don’t feature the Gecko, this is the most memorable. They have used the technique of associating a character with their brand, telling the brand story through the Gecko.

LEGO: “Inspire Imagination and Keep Building”

In this commercial, a young child uses her imagination to play with LEGOs in new and inspiring ways. She expresses her desire for independence while still showing love and respect for her parents.

The story LEGO tells over and over again is that you can find joy in your own imagination. Unlike other toys that only do one thing, LEGO is new and different every day. Only your imagination can limit it.

Hinge: “The Dating Apocalypse”

Dating is not for the fainthearted. Hinge made this very clear in a short animation where a young man is traveling through a bleak carnival, and everyone is struggling to find someone they can date. He finds someone he likes, only for them to disappear. After going through a door with a glowing “H,” he is able to leave this world of swiping left and right to find a place where he can just date and avoid the drama.

The story Hinge tells is that while the current dating world is broken, there’s another option where you will find what you really desire.

Farmers: “Clown Car Fender Bender”

Farmers Insurance released commercials based on what it called the “Hall of Claims.” A coach teaching new insurance agents begins to discuss the many accidents that have happened over the years.

One of the most memorable commercials was of a man being hit from behind by a group of clowns.

The whole commercial is a little creepy, which is an interesting storytelling device that combines fear with humor for memorability.

Dove: “Reverse Selfie”

With so many Photoshop-esque apps out there, changing your entire appearance with a few taps on your phone is exceptionally easy. Dove confronts this by showcasing a young girl who is embracing her real features by removing all the makeup and changes in the app to reveal her true self. Even though she never speaks, the moment feels very empowering.

The story Dove tells is that we are enough just the way we are.

Disneyland: “The Little Duck”

Disney really knows how to play up the emotions, and this commercial is an effective example of this.

A tiny duckling finds a magazine of Donald Duck and feels inspired to be like him. When the duckling flies south for the winter, he loses his magazine. While this is very sad, everything ends happily when the duckling gets to meet his hero in person.

This story is central to Disney’s association with dreams coming true.

How to get started with great storytelling for your business

Storytelling doesn’t have to be difficult, so believe in yourself. We all have stories, so perhaps start with what inspired you to begin your business or what made you desire to join this company.

Remember to keep it simple. Focus on your brand first when starting a new business to ensure your story is meaningful.

Finally, remember you don’t have to do this alone. If you need help creating a story that your team, customers and clients will discuss for years to come, get the Storyteller Tactics Card Deck. It’s packed with ideas to get you started on crafting a tale that will inspire your target audience.


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