Jon Mowat
Jon Mowat 8 August 2016

Why Emotional Storytelling Works for Brands

Marketing in the digital era is no easy task; the multitude of advertisers all competing for the same virtual space creates a ‘content soup’ that marketers need to cut through in order to deliver their message.

To make your content stand out from the crowd, you must think more like a publisher than an advertiser – create content that people will want to engage with, that they want to share with their friends, and to do this you’ll need to mix emotions with facts in your marketing messages. The way to do this is through storytelling.

“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story.”

  • Janet Litherland

Why does storytelling work?

Humans are hardwired to find significance in stories, from Aesop’s fables to the Brothers Grimm to today’s blockbuster movies. By seeing parts of ourselves and our lives within the characters, we identify with the story and feel an emotional reaction, a response which is key to effective advertising. By converting a simple message into a human story, advertisers can trigger a response in their audience that goes beyond the advert itself, and creates an emotional reaction that’s far more memorable than facts and figures. Whether you’re using videos, images or words to tell your story, eliciting an emotional response from your audience is key to creating effective content.

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  • Maya Angelou

What makes a great story?

Creating an emotional story that conveys your brand’s message requires three ingredients: a clear, concise message, a simple story structure and an identifiable human element. Take this example from Airbus Defence & Space:

A highly technical satellite service is converted into human terms using examples with which we’re all familiar, conveying a relatable and emotionally resonant message to the audience. The meaning is simple and clear: their products provide information that shapes our future, the structure is a straightforward progression that reinforces their message, and the story is humanised by associating the future of our world with today’s children. Let’s look closer at the different elements that make a successful story:

  1. A Clear Message

When it comes to conveying a clear message through your advert, less is most definitely more. The more complex your message becomes, the harder it is to convey while remaining emotionally relevant: you must simplify your brand’s message until it’s easily transmitted within a story. Stick to one message per piece of content, and decide on a single idea to become your ‘STAR moment’ (Something They’ll Always Remember).

  1. A Simple Structure:

Just like your English teacher taught you, every story has a beginning, middle and end. In advertising, this structure becomes ‘Emotion, Fact, Action’: you begin by establishing an emotional association (“Who’s taking care of tomorrow’s world?”), expose facts that support your message, then ask the audience to take an action (“Picture the future”). By establishing this narrative, you’re able to position your brand’s message as a story, and take advantage of the emotional engagement that it creates.

  1. A Human Element:

There are no stories without characters, and your brand’s story is no different. Creating characters with which your audience can identify humanises your message, and triggers the emotional response you’re looking for. In the Airbus example above, the human element is created by associating the world’s future with today’s infants; the merits of a multi-million pound satellite’s imaging systems may be difficult to grasp, but the concept of improving the world for the next generation is easily identifiable and emotionally engaging.

Knowing how to create effective, engaging content is crucial to modern marketers, and creating an emotional response in your audience lets you cut through the content soup with powerful, memorable and highly sharable material.

Former BBC documentary filmmaker Jon Mowat runs Hurricane Media, helping international brands tell their stories via effective video marketing campaigns.

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