4 Ways Brand Storytelling Can Revamp Your Social-First Strategy

Our Smart Social London event in early June exposed attendees to fresh and timely digital marketing content and thought-provoking nuggets like, “to build authenticity, your brand must ensure its actions match its values.” In a breakout session titled, “Tomorrow’s Customer Experience is Happening Today: What Content for Modern Consumers Looks Like,” Jessica Gioglio, digital media expert and author of The Power of Visual Storytelling, shared her take on how to produce effective digital content—a perspective we think digital marketers from every industry can learn from. The key, Gioglio said, is to focus on storytelling.

Storytelling is, of course, something that humans have always done, but the reasons why are incredibly relevant to today’s digital marketers. “Stories spark our emotions,” explained Gioglio, adding that stories are actually 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone. “Storytelling literally lights up your brain—specifically the sensory cortex in your brain, which allows you to feel, to hear, to taste, even to smell the story,” she added.

Stories are 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone.

 

All of this is great news for brands looking to connect with their audience, and Gioglio explained how to transfer the benefits of great storytelling to a business context in four steps. These steps, based on Gioglio’s presentation, follow:

1. Let Your Purpose Shine

To be a great storyteller, your brand must have a strong sense of what it stands for, and what its purpose is (beyond making money, of course). You might’ve heard this advice before (we certainly have), but it can be difficult to articulate an overarching brand purpose, especially for corporate brands.

Internal brand operations affect external brand operations, so when you’re trying to articulate what your brand stands for, you can begin with what it’s like to work at your company. How do you treat employees and customers, and what kind of culture do you want to nurture? Why does your brand exist, and what values does your brand govern itself by? For instance, what policies do you use to select suppliers?

Gioglio offered a great example of a brand that knows its purpose and truly lets it shine: General Electric. Their purpose, she explained, is around innovation and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and everything they do fits into their overarching purpose, from their Facebook posts about how they provide power stability to the English Channel, to their funding of Nexar, a company that develops dashboard cams with AI that can predict and prevent vehicle collisions.

2. Maximize Your Macro and Your Micro Storytelling Moments

“Every company has two different types of overarching stories that they tell,” explained Gioglio: the macro stories, and the micro-stories. Macro stories are at the core of your organization's DNA and highlight your company's founding myth, while micro-stories are the every-day details about your brand that are the lifeblood of your storytelling strategy.

To demonstrate how these two types of storytelling look in a consumer brand, Gioglio used Dunkin’ Donuts as an example. “Dunkin Donuts' macro story is about keeping busy, on-the-go customers running,” she explained, “and by contrast, the micro stories they put out on social are about a virtual pick-me-up.”

3. Bring Your Stories to Life by Embracing Different Mediums

The power of visual media can’t be denied: “90% percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual and visuals are actually processed 60,000 times faster than text alone,” Gioglio said. So, even if you’re sharing a story in text, it’s important to consider how different mediums can bring your story to life—a photo, video, a meme embedded into text, or an infographic for a data story can bring your content to the next level.

90% percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text alone.

 

4. Put the Customer Experience First

“Great storytellers,” said Gioglio, “put the customer experience first,” because, in the age of the empowered consumer, “your brand is not what you say it is, it's what consumers say it is.” In order to feel confident putting the customer experience first in your storytelling, your brand, of course, needs to adhere to its values and put out good products and services, as well as emphasize good customer care. If you can do these things, said Gioglio, meaningful stories will emerge.

In perhaps the best example of this we can imagine, Gioglio explained how outdoor retailer REI embodied these techniques and earned a huge win. REI has had a customer service policy for more than 75 years that states that if you’re hiking in the wilderness and your boots fail you (they aren’t the right fit, they break, etc.) REI will do what they can to get new boots as soon as possible—while you’re still on your hike. A few years ago, REI kept their promise for a regular customer hiking in the Oregon wilderness. This customer ended up writing the best-selling memoir Wild, which became a Hollywood movie starring Reese Witherspoon, and REI got free product placement in that movie because of their real-life company values.

The best marketing, concluded Gioglio, doesn’t feel like marketing at all. Storytelling is a powerful tool and will help your brand shine.

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.