Think of a novel. It could be a literary classic, your favorite book of all time or the story you read last night. No matter which book you picked, it almost certainly has a narrative thread running through it. Where there’s a story, there must be a storyteller. Narrative content works for nonfiction, too, and a great narrative tells the story of your business. Brand storytelling is part of what separates the big names from their indistinguishable imitators.
A narrative about your brand involves your customer emotionally. It’s why car companies just don’t show you the car and tell you about its features. They show you an ad that starts with a designer at a drafting table, agonizing over the curve of a fender and perfecting the rakish sweep of a rear view mirror. The ad cuts to a clay model, then to a wind tunnel where the aerodynamics of the concept car are tested. The images appear quicker and quicker: the concept car’s unveiling at an auto show, the first finished vehicles rolling off the production line, the designer buckling his child into a safety seat, his look of pride as he takes a moment to reflect on the work of automotive art he’s built.
You don’t know it as you watch the ad, but you’ve just been taken on an epic hero’s journey in a 30-second ad spot.
Your brand already has a narrative; it just needs a talented content creation team to pull it out and let it shape your customers’ view of you. When thinking about how to frame your brand with content that tells a story, consider the three fundamentals of a rich narrative.
Whether he wears tights and a cape or holds the One Ring, every hero has a background story. Your brand is the hero of your narrative, so telling customers about your origins helps immerse them in the story. When you started out, were you the bold start-up with a unique vision and plenty of confidence, or were you the established firm that learned to evolve to meet the needs of a rapidly changing industry? What steered you on the path of the quest you’re about to describe to your readers? What made you care about solving your customers’ problems?
Narratives that involve origins aren’t just about your company history, though. Customers love to find out more about the origins of the products or services you offer. If you make chocolate, for example, you might have a series of blog posts about how chocolate is made or the differences between white, milk and dark chocolates. Your content team can come up with endless variations on origins and background, and they all paint a clearer picture of your brand.
Heroes are only heroic if they face some sort of challenge. While your narratives won’t have a villain, they will have plenty of obstacles to overcome. Challenge narratives present an issue at the outset and solve that issue by the article’s end. They’re ideal for focusing on your customers’ pain points and how you can solve them. However, these storytelling articles should be light on the sales pitch. If you’ve ever seen those preposterous ads in which a hapless home cook can’t flip a pancake without the magic specialty spatula, you know why.
To return to the chocolate example, your challenge narrative might solve the problem of finding the right Valentine’s Day gift or divining a chocolate’s filling without breaking its candy shell. Narrative stories about fitting chocolate into a healthy diet would be another type of overcoming-adversity tale.
The rainbow arc of a narrative usually ends with a pot of metaphorical gold for the hero. Without a reward at its end, even an epic tale isn’t satisfying. Give your readers a pay-off for following your company story, reading your blog or finishing your article. Your “About Us” page should have a triumphant feel to it at the end. You can also give content a reward theme; an article about how the theobromine in chocolate releases endorphins would be one example.
Storytelling is older than the written word, and it’s still an incredibly powerful tool. Use it to your advantage in your content marketing strategy and help your customers become fans of your story.
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