Once Upon A Brand…

The timeless appeal of a story well told.

We live in the age of big data. Marketers have access to vast amounts of information about consumer wants needs, attitudes, and behaviors. The temptation, of course, is to tailor your marketing messaging to match the data. If the data says your customers favor the color green, tell them you have greener green than your competitors.

But people, visitors, users, customers are more than just data points. To create that loyal community of followers/customers, you need to tap into their emotions. To reach their target audience on a deeper level, marketers are increasingly turning to Storytelling.

People are wired to respond to stories. Ever since the first early human turned to his neighbor and asked, “How’s it going?” people have been conveying information through stories.

To get a professional view on the subject, I asked Professor Janice M. DelNegro, Ph.D., of the School of Information Studies at Domician University her thoughts about Storytelling as part of a marketing strategy,

According to Dr. DelNegro, “Storytelling is about sharing human experiences, experiences that ‘let people in’ and ultimately allow them to get to know, like, and trust you and what your brand stands for.”

Most Stories are comprised of five parts


  • Who, What, When Where. Why
  • Set the scene
  • Once upon a time…

Something happens.

Define your core message

  • There is a need, a conflict or a problem

Rising Action of the Story

  • What happened “happens.”
  • Action leads to the problem getting solved


  • The pace quickens as the problem is solved

Conclusion/Call to Action

  • “They all lived happily ever after” part of the Story
  • What do you want your target audience to do?
  • Can be more than one action
    • Make contact
    • Make a purchase
    • Join a mailing list
    • Visit a physical location
    • Attend an event
    • Share the Story

Before you get started, there are two keys to implementing a successful Storytelling strategy:

Get to Know Your Audience—The first rule of show business is also true here. As I stated in the opening, we have more information on human behavior than ever before, but it’s not enough. Get out of the office and talk to your customers face-to-face. Get out and meet your target audience, face-to-face “in real life.” It will give all that data a context

Define your message—Clarity is the hallmark of a compelling story. Know the point you want to communicate before you start. Keep it simple, focus on one major theme. When crafting your Story, begin at the end and work backward. Think of your stories as journeys for the reader/listener. The narrative is the roadmap to the conclusion. As with any journey, you don’t want to meander all over the place and end up nowhere.

Once you’ve identified your audience and core message, you need to select the type of Story you are going to tell. A good story entertains, educates, inspires, organized, memorable. The key to successful Storytelling is to share a personal experience rather than just string together a bunch of facts. There are four main types of branding stories:

Who Are You—Tell a story that features your brands genuine, struggles, failures, and successes. How, and why did you start your business. Tell us about the time you saved the day, as well as the time you blew it, and what those that taught you. What are your hopes for the future? Today’s consumer responds to brands that market themselves with authenticity.

Build a Community Around Your Brand—Tell a story that relates to your audience experiemces. Tap into familiar emotions, characters, and situations so that your customers can understand how the Story, and your brand, relate to their own lives. Encourage your customers to share your stories, and theirs, with others.

Mentors and Mentoring—Tell a story about the person, book or even a movie that taught you a valuable lesson about life or business

Call to Action—Tell a story spurs people onto a particular course of action that was successful in the past and explain how your followers could implement the same kind of change.

Humor in Story Telling

Nothing makes a story more compelling, memorable, shareable, entertaining, or universal, than humor. 

According to renowned professional storyteller Donald Davis “Humor can crack the heart.” His stories often no only leave his audiences weak with laughter but also with a  lump in their throats, overcoming emotional barriers and allowing the power of his message to get through.

If not handled correctly, however, it can turn your audience off and even alienate. Rule #1 applies more than ever—make sure you know your audience, and what THEY think it funny. A passage that one audience finds hysterical can cause a different audience to never do business with you again. Don’t go there if you’re not comfortable.

Like with any piece of content, creating your Story is only half the battle. The more places you share your Story, the more engagement you can expect from your audience.

You should share your Story with your social media network (Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) and email. Written stories can be promoted on your blog, Medium, or as guest posts on other publications. Digital stories in the form of video or PowerPoint presentations can be shared on YouTube and Vimeo. Depending on the nature of your Story, you can create a picture version for Instagram and Pinterest. While spoken stories are best conveyed in person, consider recording a live performance to repurpose several times.

Marketing guru Seth Godin has famously stated:” Marketing used to be about the products you sold, it’s now about the stories you tell.” Storytelling is not only an art, but t’s also a process worth mastering for both your business and your customers. Stories bring people together and inspire action and response.

Today’s consumer doesn’t decide to buy based on what you’re selling, but rather whether they know, like, and ultimately trust you. Storytelling can get you, and your brand where you need to be. “Sincerity is key,” Professor Del Nego said by way of summing up, “real sincerity, real stories, real truth. It’s the only way to build real trust.”

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