As we head into the holiday season, I’ve been paying extra attention to the brands that are shaping their marketing around a story that consumers will emotionally connect to. We know that consumers will pay more for a product when they feel connected to a brand, and we know that 89% of consumers are loyal to brands that share their values. Marketers today need to sell stories and solutions, not products or services. Generating trust and loyalty can be so much more impactful than generating a quick sale.
I recently listened to a Google Podcast for Agencies on the importance of creating and delivering on your brand’s promise. There were a lot of really insightful points offered that had me thinking about how, as marketers, it’s more important than ever to craft an authentic, emotionally charged brand story, and integrate it into every aspect of a marketing strategy. One statement in particular really hit home for me:
A brand isn’t always what a brand thinks it is, it’s what the customers think it is.
As marketers, and as storytellers, we often believe we’re in control of how our brand is perceived. We push the products that we need to meet sales quotas. We unleash promotions focused on product launches and seasonal retail trends. We shape our marketing campaigns, advertisements and content to put our best face forward, but is that what consumers are really taking away from our initiatives? And is it enough to drive sales and create brand loyalists? Is the brand we’re creating generating the trust and loyalty it should be? When looking at the brands who are getting it so right, we can find some really important similarities in their approaches.
- Keep it simple. The more complicated you make your story or marketing campaign, the less impactful it will be. Keep your story simple and allow it to gain the emotional momentum it deserves. Don’t get so caught up in the details, or trying to incorporate too much that you miss your opportunity to really connect.
- Set your intentions. Before beginning to conceptualize your story, know what you want it to do. You want to create an emotional connection, that’s great! But what kind of emotions do you want to spark? Nostalgia, gratitude, excitement, joyfulness, generosity… How do you want your consumers to feel? What emotions are you looking to invoke from them? Set your intentions before getting too caught up in the storytelling.
- Create a clear next step. Great stories have a beginning, middle, and end, but the end part can get tricky. You need a solid conclusion, but it can’t be so solid that consumers are left with no next steps. This is a marketing effort after all. What do you want them to do next? Make it abundantly clear what their next step should be, but don’t just tell them what to do, inspire them to do it.
- Share your story everywhere. Make sure you are integrating your brand’s story into every piece of your marketing and advertising. Online. Offline. On your owned media, earned media and paid media. Wherever your brand is being found, keep your story, messaging and voice consistent.
- Ask your consumers to become storytellers. Your story will be so much more powerful if your customers and fans are taking part. When they can pick up where your story leaves off, or add their take to it, they will be telling your story for you, and that’s so powerful. When your brand’s story becomes a part of a consumers story, and they are sharing their experiences and love for your products, you’re a step ahead.
- Don’t get stuck in your story. Consumers evolve, and brands need to, too. Your story can’t be written once and forgotten, it needs to grow with you. As consumers’ perceptions about your brand change, your marketing and branding should, too. Your story can shine a light on where you started, but needs to be a reflection and response to your current state, and maybe most importantly, how your consumers see you today.
As you look for new and more meaningful ways to connect with your customers, make sure your brand’s story is authentic and engaging enough to get the job done. Your story is about your company, but it’s goal is so much bigger than just telling people who you are. Your story can be the foundation for building more meaningful, lasting relationships with your target audience. Listen to what they want from your brand, who they think you are, and then craft the brand story, and marketing strategy that allows you to deliver on that promise.