Storytelling: The Marketing of 2020 and Beyond
The current marketing landscape is changing at breakneck speed. 2020 might not seem that far off, but a little over seven years ago, Twitter didn’t exist, Myspace had more visitors than Facebook and digital marketing was still in its infancy. Fast-forward another seven, and we’ll most likely have a whole new arsenal of marketing tools just waiting to become the new “it” way to communicate with consumers.
But perhaps more important than the new tools we’re using to reach customers is the evolution of the messages we are sending. Influenced by a slew of recent empty slogans, uninspired logos and inauthentic print or broadcast ads, marketing and advertising are often characterized as “fluff” or even worse “manipulative.” A recent study by U.K consultancy Fournaise revealed that 80% of company leaders “are not very impressed by the work done by marketers.”
So where does this leave the art of branding, the practice of creating an identity for a company, product or service and discovering the best way to share it with consumers? How can we take a concept necessary for business to exist and mold it into an art form that not only benefits companies, but consumers as well? When you consider the best method to reach consumers in a positive way, it’s often not the catchy ad or clever slogan that wins out, but the careful communication of a rich and genuine brand story.
Storytelling is the most direct and lasting method to connect with consumers – after all, it is the most fundamental way that we communicate as a species. Stories are the way we process and share information; they create meaning, establish relevance and evoke emotional response. Stories are the way we make sense of the world around us, the way we understand how and why things work. Sharing stories is how we connect, discover commonalities and differences, and figure out ways to work together.
Square, a mobile payment company started by Jack Dorsey (of Twitter fame) has based its growth strategy entirely on storytelling. Word-of-mouth is the main method of marketing for Square; the company does not employ a single sales person, yet it is currently used by three million merchants and processes $12 billion a year in transactions.
Square’s website features compelling videos from small business owners who were able to grow their businesses exponentially by using the mobile reader, and the company hosts regular events around the world for small business owners to share their ideas and challenges, and collaborate and learn from each other.
Square’s story began in typical business fashion – by addressing a point of frustration. Using stories of how these frustrations were solved for real people in real experiences, Square is able to connect with their target audience in an authentic way and on a deeper emotional level.
As marketers, we must learn how to tell our brand stories in a compelling way. Of course it’s necessary to capture the attention of our audiences, but it’s exponentially more important to discover how to keep it. Stories give brand promises a real, tangible dimension for consumers to hold onto; they signal the delivery of a promised experience and allow consumers to draw their own conclusions about the integrity and value of a brand.
Developing and sharing these stories requires consideration from a variety of perspectives and a great attention to detail. Marketers need to look at the spaces where their target audiences live, how they operate, what problems plague them, what they value and why. A successful brand story must tap into these spaces, bring ease to these operations, solve these problems and support these values. A rich, genuine story will not only explain a brand’s identity, it will relate to consumers’ own stories and undercover opportunities where the two connect – in other words, show what you can do for them.
As we consider the next decade of marketing, the conversation is often dominated by predictions of futuristic technology and new ways of communication. While these new technologies will no doubt impact the world of marketing, when we look to what works now and will to continue work in the future, it’s not always about how we connect with consumers. It’s about what we say when we do.
About Pearse McCabe
Pearse McCabe is CEO of Dragon Rouge New York (www.dragonrouge-usa.com), the largest independent global brand, design and innovation consultancy with 9 offices and more than 350 employees worldwide. Pearse has an expertise in defining and creating brand worlds based on current and future consumer trends. He has experience across many different sectors from professional and financial services to media, retail and packaged goods on a national and global level.
About Dragon Rouge
Dragon Rouge is the largest independent global brand, design and innovation consultancy with 9 offices and over 350 employees worldwide. Dragon Rouge designs brands, develops insights that underpin future brand success, initiates the creation of new products and services, creates identities and communications – and engages people in making their organizations great.
Dragon Rouge recently published ‘Business is Beautiful – The hard art of standing apart’ which explores the hidden ‘unmeasurables’ of successful business stories. It defines the five hallmarks of beautiful businesses – integrity, curiosity, elegance, craft and prosperity and provides an antidote to the obsessive distillation and quantification of statistics in business. It contains interviews with 20 businesses, including BMWi, Rabobank and 3M. To find out more visit www.dragonrouge-usa.com or www.business-is-beautiful.info.