No Story, No Sale: Let Storytelling Be The Foundation of Your Marketing


Let me ask you a question:

Do you think great brands create amazing stories that make us fall in love with certain products or services, or do great stories forge obscure enterprises into big and lovable brands? 

I think it’s the later.

Since the very beginning of our existence, humans have been hungry for great stories. It’s just how we’re wired. From times of Ancient Greece, to this very day – our brains have always been starving for exciting and compelling tales that provoke us to relive those moments that are being told to us like they’re actually drawn out of our own experiences.

It’s how we relate to things. It’s how we make more complex connections with certain individuals, objects or situations.

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It doesn’t matter what you do or what you sell, if you don’t carry a good enough story with you, you’re basically invisible.

There are hundreds of studies and experiments online that prove human brains are far more engaged by stories, than hard, cold facts.

Just a few weeks ago, Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré wrote a great piece for MOZ about combining storytelling and data to produce persuasive content in which she pointed out (among other things) that if someone is telling you a story about food, your sensory cortex lights up, and if you’re being exposed to a story about motion, your motor cortex will lighten up, as if you were the one shoveling cake into your mouth or driving a race car.

Isn’t that interesting? If you understand how to paint pictures with your words, you can develop stories that trigger different parts of the brain and emotions.

In the very same article, Nichole also mentioned the “identifiable victim effect” study, conducted by Carnegie Mellon researchers, in which they’ve proven that people have donated double the money to the Save the Children program when the pamphlet featured a story about a starving girl named Rokia, instead of an exact numbers of just how many kids die of starvation every year.

I think we can learn a lot from this example. Although using data in your marketing is always important, in order to truly make it work for you, you need to fuel it up with powerful words that illustrate your intent and help your targeted audiences develop strong emotional connections with your actions and causes.

If you don’t touch your audience on a deeper level, the chance are, you’ll never turn them into your loyal customers.

This is where the art of storytelling comes to save the day. Developing great and compelling stories is important for marketing because, apart from sliding your proposal under people’s sales radar, it helps brands create memorable messages that add additional value to their products and services.

Just look at LEGO.

In 2014, LEGO and Warner Bros. made a film, titled “The LEGO Movie”, which, when you look at it without the pink sunglasses, is nothing more than a 90-minute long toy commercial. But who cares, right? The film is fun, interesting and lighthearted. It was enjoyed by all types of different audiences, kids and adults as well. I’m willing to bet that 80% of the people who saw this film in a movie theatre where singing “Everything is awesome!” on their way home.

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Grossing $257.8 million in North America, and $210.3 million internationally, for a worldwide total of $468.1 million, The LEGO Movie was definitely one of the greatest and most successful commercials ever. I can’t even imagine how many kids asked their parents for a new LEGO playset the moment they finished watching this film.

After reading the box office results, there’s no way of denying it – stories sell. They just do. But, apart from that, they also build up brand authority and help companies remain forever dominant in a certain niche, no matter how competitive it may be.

LEGO has been using storytelling in their marketing for years now. It helps them win over new and new generations of consumers. Last year, I visited Billund (Denmark), the place where the first LEGO brick was born, and I visited The LEGO Idea House, where I saw a poster of a kid wearing a hat made out of LEGO bricks, that said: “Give your brain a hand. When you build in the world, you build in the mind.

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Later that day I saw a LEGO documentary, titled: “Beyond The Brick”. These two campaigns really got me thinking about how this brand, even though it only sells one type of toy, has managed to stay relevant and dominant on the market.

Apart from a cool product, the thing that really makes LEGO so big and different in the toy world is the story that the brand tends to tell over and over again. When you really sit down and look at them, these LEGOs are nothing more than just colored plastic bricks. There are many companies out there that make the same type of toy as LEGO, which only brings us to the question:

Why is LEGO special? Why is this company so famous and successful, and its direct competitors aren’t?

Because of the story, which goes something like this: “LEGO is not a toy. It’s a creative expression and an educational tool that offers an endless number of possibilities of what people could build with them.”  

This gives the product a whole different value. It makes it so much more than it actually is. Don’t get me wrong, I love LEGOs, I’m 30 years old and I still buy them, but hey, I see what really makes them so special – the story.

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Marketing and storytelling go well together as peanut butter and jelly. If you really apply yourself and figure out what kind of story best suits your brand and how to tell it, not only will people better remember your core messages, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll make them experience your products and services on a far deeper level, and thus, become your loyal and undying brand advocates.

Here are just a couple of ways on how effective storytelling helps your business:

Stories Create Trust


Adidas is one of those companies that has been using storytelling for years now to establish trust and beat its competitors in the long run.

When thinking about Adidas as a brand, the words that immediately come to my mind are: Honest, Passionate, Innovative, Committed, and Unique. For me, these five words truly capture the essence of Adidas.

As a first genuine brand that was founded by a real athlete whose goal was to create equipment that really helps athletes become better, I think that Adidas grew into a real symbol of hard work, professionalism and dedication in the sports world. Only real “heroes” wear Adidas today, and I think that’s something that transcends sports and applies to almost everyone who has even given their 110% to achieve something great.

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Telling the right story is crucial for your brand’s future success. Take a page out of Adidas’ marketing playbook and keep in mind that in order to make this sort of thing work for you, you cannot just tell any type of story and expect your targeted audiences to convert and fall in love with your brand. No. You need to tell the right story with the right features and stick with it.

Your Story Could Inspire People


Another great example of marketing through storytelling is Apple’s journey as a company. As you probably know, the story of Apple follows the classic journey of the “hero”, where we learn about these two guys, Jobs and Wozniak, who built the foundation of their great company in a little garage.

Everyone who has ever seen a picture of these two guys, knows that Jobs and Wozniak did not wear suits and looked like polished businessman. No, in fact, they looked quite the opposite of them – like two penniless nerds. As you know, Jobs went through trials and tribulations being fired from the company he created only to have a great comeback, balancing his failure through new sources of strength and emerging as a hero and eventually leading a revolution with a cult-like following. There’s even a whole movie about it. The picture was even nominated for an Oscar in multiple categories.

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Although Apple wasn’t the first company to create and sell personal computers, it was definitely the most celebrated one. Why? – Because of the whole story surrounding the brand. As same as any other brand from their industry, Apple was, is and always will be in the business of making money. That’s their primary goal. Everything else comes second to it. But, The thing that really helped Apple become so big is Steve’s story. Why? – Well, because it’s inspiring. You have this one guy who, at one moment, had nothing, and in the other, had everything. His personality drives Apple’s story. They have given the consumers a face to respect and trust because they know Mr. Jobs fight hard to create his legacy.

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Your Story Makes You and Your Consumers Special


Data + storytelling is a sure win formula for creating a successful marketing campaign. Back in 2004, Dove conducted a global study in which they figure out that only 2% of women from around the globe consider themselves as 
beautiful. Guided by these findings, Dove created a campaign that featured pictures of real women (not models) in all shapes and sizes, without any photoshop. 

The goal of this campaign was to celebrate the difference in women’s bodies and inspire ladies from all across the world to be happy with who they are and become comfortable in their own skin.

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It’s unnecessary to say that this campaign was a huuuuuuuge success. This sort of story completely changed how people feel about Dove as a brand and gave the company a whole new level of respect among their consumers.

The Problem-Solution-Success Narrative Helps People See The Real Value In Your Products And Services


Just look at Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t invent the first ever social network. No, he didn’t have to. Why? – Well, because, from the very first day when he launched his brand, Mark knew how to beat his competition. He knew better than anyone else in the world how to get people to overshare their private data and link everyone together.

Although Facebook is now one of the biggest and most detailed marketing platforms in the world, which was the goal from day one, Zuckerberg still presents his product as something that helps people connect and stay up to date with each others lives, no matter close or far apart they live on this planet.

This is true, of course, but it still disguises Facebook’s real mission.

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I think that what Mark did here is truly genius. Almost everyone in the world has a friend who moved somewhere far away. Although you try to call every once in awhile, you’re still missing out on a lot of things. Mark saw an opportunity here, so he developed a story around his brand that actually has a slogan: “Be Connected. Be Discovered. Be on Facebook.” 

Facebook is a great example of just how important it is to understand your targeted audience’s’ pain points and figure out what they actually need from certain services and products. Anticipating, let’s call it, potential user intent, is one of the most important steps in creating a successful business. It’s the only thing that will separate you from the crowd and make your brand into a real, recognizable force within your industry.

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I hope this post helped you understand how a lot of popular brands use storytelling to their advantage. If you have anything to add here, feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section below.

That’s it for now,
See you soon again,
Goran @ AltusHost B.V.

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