Advertising depends on keeping potential customers engaged, and there’s no better way to engage them than by telling a story. When they’re told right, stories can hook people into an emotional investment. They want to know how the story turns out and what happens to the main characters. They find themselves developing a real stake in the outcome, which should also reflect the value of your product.
A brand that can tell a story in its advertising stands a much better chance of getting across its message than one that falls short of effective narrative. Think about the most famous commercials of all time such as Apple’s “1984” or Coca-Cola’s “Mean Joe Greene.” They told a story, and they drew people in.
There are six key elements to storytelling. Here’s how your agency can use them to develop more effective advertising:
1. Have a Point of View
Are you telling your holiday story from the perspective of a little girl waiting to see Santa or an enlisted soldier returning home for Christmas? You should know what your point of view is before you begin to craft the storyline. That way, the developments in the plot will be more organic, and you can incorporate your product into the story — not the other way around.
2. Find Your Voice
Your advertising should have a consistent voice, and I don’t just mean the voiceover artist. The voice is the power behind the story. If you are trying to speak to a specific geographic region, for instance, the voice should have the native accent and should reveal an understanding regional customs or traditions. The voice is what connects you to your potential customers.
3. Pull on Emotional Strings
Advertising doesn’t matter a whit if you can’t get anyone to care about what you are saying. That’s why an ad that tugs at our emotions, whether it’s touching, sad, or uplifting, stands a much better chance of standing out. In fact, some argue that unless you appeal to people’s emotional sides, you stand no chance of making a sale at all.
4. Be Authentic
People are going to catch on if you’re not being true to your brand. For example, if you are suddenly trying to appeal to the affluent market, but you built your brand as something for the everyman, your new advertising will feel inauthentic. It’s fine to refocus your goals, but make sure you maintain consistency even when you are trying something different. If that means it takes longer to come up with your advertising plan, so be it.
5. Demonstrate Expertise
Many companies these days are doing this by including videos on their websites. This is a great way to connect with people, and it also acts as a showcase where members of your company can share their expertise. Remember, storytelling is not just about spinning a great yarn. Even the best story won’t compel the consumer to buy if you don’t pitch your product somewhere in your advertising. So when you post those videos on your site, make sure they include moments that demonstrate your expertise in the field and the unique qualities your company brings to the table.
6. Be Judicious in Length
In storytelling, longer is not necessarily better, especially when it comes to online advertising. People have limited attention spans, and these have shortened with the rise of the web. You should tell your story as quickly as possible and make your relevant points as soon as you can. That way, you’re not asking people to sit through a 10-minute video or 40-page presentation. You’re presenting the facts, pulling at the heartstrings, making your pitch, and then leaving the consumer alone to process the information.
That’s how you’ll go from storytelling to sales.
Originally published Sep 26, 2014 8:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017