With the rise of ecommerce, it’s never been easier to launch a successful online brand or ecommerce business. But with that comes a rise in content from numerous sources, bombarding audiences and vying for their attention.
If you don’t stand out, you could fade away into the background in a sea of online content.
What gives some brands an edge to capture audiences while others merely fade away?
The answer is storytelling.
Telling a captivating story isn’t a new practice. Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, starting with the earliest cave drawings to the bloggers and influencers sharing short anecdotes on their social media.
Storytelling is powerful. As listeners, we get wrapped in the action and conflict of the story and want to see the hero succeed or guess the monumental “twist.” Some of the greatest storytellers of all time, including Homer, Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, and Stephen King, understand the power that a story holds.
Brands have this same power. Your personal brand has a story to tell, and though it may be different than sitting around a campfire or reading a bedtime story, it still relies on the fundamentals of storytelling to compel audiences.
What Makes a Good Storyteller?
Think about the last time you heard or read a good story. Maybe it was a novel or short story, or maybe it was just a friend telling you about an interesting interaction. What was it that held your attention?
Anyone who communicates effectively has storytelling skills, whether they realize it or not. They know how to employ a well-crafted and captivating story that mesmerizes the audience.
When they’re done well, stories can tug at our emotions. We may feel fear, happiness, or anger, laugh or cry, or think a little deeper about a topic. We relate to the characters and consider how we’d act in their place, joining in the central conflict and living vicariously through their discovery.
Influential communicators understand how to balance images, gestures, words, and sounds to keep the audience engaged and get them invested in the ending.
Here are 7 ways you can use storytelling to make your personal brand stand out in the noise.
Image by donterase
1. Know Your Audience
All writing (and marketing) relies on a fundamental understanding of the audience and their wants and needs. Some brands think they understand the audience, but they get caught up in bragging about themselves and what makes them special.
The audience is asking “why should I care?” The brand story has to have an answer, and that only comes from understanding what the audience is looking for.
Even the best brand stories will fall flat with some audiences. What’s compelling to one can be downright boring to another – or even offensive. The key is finding the story that connects with your audience and tells them why they should care about what you have to say.
2. Show Authenticity
Consumers are savvier than ever. They have virtually limitless access to information and insights from the whole of the internet. They know if a brand’s actions match up with words and whether the personality it puts forward is authentic.
This wasn’t always the case, but social media led to a shift. Consumers can connect directly with brands and interact with them to see if they’re genuine. They’re not looking for a perfect brand but one that acknowledges its mistakes and makes an effort to correct them.
Showcasing the hardship or obstacles to getting a business off the ground or offering a “peek behind the curtain” with exclusive content not only humanizes your personal brand, but it helps foster trust in your audience.
3. Define the Why
Ever since Simon Sinek’s groundbreaking Ted Talk, “Start with Why,” brands have been rethinking their brand personality and how to serve the audience.
During this talk, Sinek says that “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” This is how major brands like Apple created such a loyal community of customers and brand advocates.
You don’t have to be Apple to find your own “why.” This philosophy works for small businesses and personal brands just as well. Think about your why. You want to make money, of course, but that’s not why you’re in business.
What problem are you trying to solve? What change are you trying to inspire in the world with your brand, products, or services? Questions like these help you find your why and lead your storytelling.
4. Harness Emotion
Numbers are important in marketing. People respond to facts. But that’s not the be-all, end-all for your audience. They have a million other brands to choose from, so the emotion you can evoke is where you differentiate yourself.
Whether funny, awkward, heartwarming, or controversial, harnessing emotions helps you connect with your audience and get them invested in your story. Create stories that have a strong emotional angle and inspire that in the audience.
5. Focus on Simplicity
“Keep it simple, stupid.” That time-honored phrase is used in design and asserts that designs and systems should be as simple as possible to ensure the best levels of interaction and acceptance.
This idea applies to much more than just design, however. Brand marketing and storytelling benefit from simple stories. Avoid using overly complicated language or jargon (unless that’s appropriate for your audience), and follow the classic storytelling structure with a beginning, middle, and end. If the story is too complicated, includes too many ideas, or alienates the audience with high-level terminology, it won’t be as effective.
6. Lead with the Problem
Knowing your audience means knowing your audience’s problem. Once you know that, you can lead with the pain points and build up to how your product or service solves it, which will immediately draw in anyone who struggles with this same problem.
Of course, anyone looking for a solution to their problem will be interested in possible solutions. If you start with all the benefits you have to offer without context, they may skim past you without seeing why you matter to them. Starting with the problem captures attention from the first second.
7. Use Visuals
Stories are often told with words, but that doesn’t mean images or videos can’t be just as powerful. Humans are visual learners and process visual content up to 60,000 times faster than text. Animation, video clips, images, or other visual content is much more attention-grabbing and impactful than text.
In addition, some people learn better with sound and visuals. Videos should have auditory components, such as a video clip with sound or audio speaker notes, to have a stronger impact. Keep in mind that your visuals should always be accessible with captions or transcripts.
Elevate Your Brand with Storytelling
Brands will continue to flood the market with content, so you’re not likely to see relief of the fierce competition in the near future. The power of storytelling helps you get ahead and leverage your specific strengths and struggles to make an impactful statement with your brand.
Featured Image by Tumisu.
Allison Todd is a coach and consultant with over 20 years of experience transforming small and large businesses’ operations and profitability. Whether it’s beginning, launching, or scaling a business, Allison founded her coaching and mentoring businesses with the hopes of helping clients conquer their fears and build confidence to take their business to the next level.