July 16, 2018

3 Powerful Brand Storytelling Lessons for Social Media Marketers

Carrie Kerpen

Storytelling is a critical piece of brand building, and on social media especially, a great story has the power to help your brand break through the clutter and truly connect with your customers.

On my podcast, All the Social Ladies, I’ve talked to some of the most brilliant women in digital and social media, and they’ve shared their insights around what it takes to tell great brand stories—listening to your customers, being human, and always staying authentic.

1. Take an omnichannel approach by sharing multiple chapters from the same book.

Today’s consumers are more distracted than ever. According to Keds Chief Marketing Officer Emily Culp, the average Keds’ customer looks at her phone 150 times a day! So how does a consumer-first brand like Keds reach its customer and tell a cohesive brand story when she’s constantly multi-tasking across multiple devices? The first step, says Culp, is really thinking like the consumer. Understand all the different places and ways she’s interacting with the brand. For example, Keds might start telling a bit of the story in the retail environment, but then the customer completes her journey on Instagram or on the mobile e-commerce site.

“That’s how we think about storytelling,” says Culp. “Each of the different channels is almost a chapter in a book. That way we know if she’s going to multitask and go through each chapter, she can read them in sequential order or she can pick and choose and it still makes sense.”

2. Be human. (And remember that humans are complex.)

When Organic Valley was launching its protein drink, it was new in the category and didn’t have the same budgets as its competitors, so the brand decided that the best strategy was to be different. And thus, the viral video campaign “Save the Bros” was born. After racking up millions of views and gaining great press coverage with headlines like, “Finally an organic brand is having fun,” Organic Valley learned an important lesson: It didn’t have to take itself too seriously.

But that’s just one of the brand’s approaches to storytelling. Organic Valley’s “Soul of Farming” series strikes a more sober note, helping consumers understand what it means to farm and why it’s so important, whereas the “Call Us Crazy” campaign is more mission-driven, showcasing the people behind the company. Each of the stories Organic Valley chooses to tell taps into a different type of emotion with a different tone of voice—and that’s by design.

“Our guiding principle is that we want all our stories to be human, and humans are complex,” says Mission Executive Leslie Kruempel. “We don’t feel like we need to have a uniform brand voice. We’re owned by 2,000 farm families and we love and embrace that diversity and humanness, and that’s what we want to come through in the stories.”

3. Stay relevant and relatable by sharing your customers’ stories too.

In 2009, Match.com made a major splash when it started featuring real people on dates in its advertising. The shift changed the trajectory of the business, significantly increasing registrations, and made a lasting impact on the brand’s approach to storytelling.

For Match.com, authenticity is key. By showing real couples, filmed in real environments, the brand is able to better connect with customers on their dating journeys. Says VP of Brand Marketing and Communications Alexis Ferraro Luerssen, “We not only show the authentic version of what dating is like today, but we show the aspirational end product that people can relate to when they have a significant other they’re really excited about.”

Although dating sites like Match.com face restrictions when it comes to social advertising, the brand is able to get around this hurdle by focusing on storytelling rather than being too promotional. And a customer’s story doesn’t feel like an ad, it feels like a testimonial.

“For Match, our community is what’s really important to us, and we want to showcase their success, showcase what they’re looking for,” says Luerssen. “We’re measured on how we drive registrations and subscriptions, but the reality is, we want to tell an authentic story, we want it to be relatable to someone who is in the same position in life.”

Tags: Best Practices, Content Marketing, Creative, Influencer Marketing, Trends

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