Market Well: Why Storytelling Should Be Part Of Your Marketing Framework

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Our must-read column, Market Well, explores the key marketing strategies that are essential for the growth of a wellness business.

Every month, Vicky Ellison, who is also the Director of Marketing for Equinox in the UK, examines how brands can create and maintain a marketing campaign that connects with both their intended audience and potential investors.

Providing valuable insight into the methods, services, and tools needed for both new and established businesses to drive exposure and boost brand value, this month Vicky is focusing on why storytelling is vital when it comes to marketing…..

A few years ago, whilst out running a young woman had an idea for a new product. She saw an opportunity to create a healthier nut butter, free of palm oils and more accessible for runners through a new style of packaging.

That initial spark started a journey; from selling jars at London’s Maltby Street Market to moving out of her home to live in a ‘shed’ (as she called it) to venturing into the world of crowdfunding in order to make her dream a reality.

This is, of course, the story of Pip Murray, Founder of Pip and Nut.

In January 2018, Pip and Nut’s sales were up 193% on the previous year, with the company reaching an estimated value of over £6 million.

The nut butter market grew by 17% in 2017, and Pip had created a quality product, but what she also had working to her advantage was a great brand story.

Storytelling has been around since the dawn of time — it’s a memorable way for people to connect and make sense of the world and it seems we can’t get enough — but today consumers are demanding more and more authentic insights into the stories behind the people and brands they admire.

In this two-part series, we’ll look at ways for wellness brands to approach storytelling and how the nature of our stories is shifting in this age of consumer involvement.

Why Storytelling Should Be Part Of Your Marketing Framework

Image: Pip & Nut

Why Is Storytelling Important For Brands?

Studies have shown that emotional connection is more important than customer satisfaction when it comes to revenue generation.

According to ‘The New Science of Emotions’ published by the Harvard Business Review, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable on a lifetime basis than those that are highly satisfied.

Stories help brands connect on an emotional level. ‘The best stories create a visceral connection,’ argues Mike Gunton of the BBC’s Natural History Unit.

As Executive Producer of Planet Earth Two, the most watched natural history documentary in over 15 years, Gunton understands the value of making an ‘emotional connection, not just an intellectual one’.

Stories can help your audience find reasons to engage with and spend money on your brand, they can also help to unite your workforce around a purpose.

Take Adidas’ launch of GamePlan A, a digital magazine designed with employees at its core, rather than consumers.  Opening with the line ‘Tackling work life with an athlete’s heart,’ the site contains a wealth of inspiring content that humanizes the brand.

Rather than try to create content for everyone, Adidas has shifted the focus of its efforts towards employees and likeminded people who can convert into brand advocates, telling its story in collaboration with that key group.

Before we jump ahead though, let’s first take a look at the main formats a story can take.

Types Of Stories; The Seven Archetypes

The BBC’s Science of engagement study identified that the stories most likely to be shared on social media evoke happiness, puzzlement or fear, showing that brands shouldn’t shy away from ‘negative’ emotions. But what structure should a story take?

According to Christopher Booker, author of ‘The Seven Basic Plots: Why we tell stories’, there are seven archetypes that all stories follow.

These are: Comedy, Tragedy, Voyage and Return, Rebirth, Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches and The Quest.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus on the final three archetypes, commonly seen in wellness marketing.

Overcoming The Monster

In brand terms, this usually isn’t a monster but more of an obstacle that needs to be conquered. Usually, the brand telling the story can help, and unsurprisingly, the protagonist ultimately wins.

There are many examples of this type of plotline, such as Under Armour’s ‘I Will What I Want’ campaign. This featured ballet dancer Misty Copeland talking about how she overcame rejection from ballet companies for having the wrong body type, and supermodel Gisele working out while overcoming negative online comments that flash across the screen.

Under Armour’s campaign produced 5 billion media impressions worldwide and $35 million in earned media, resulting in a 28% increase in women’s sales and a 42% increase in traffic to UA.com, demonstrating the power of effective storytelling to spread a message.

Rags To Riches

The classic rags to riches stories we’re all familiar with are Cinderella and Aladdin. Looking to examples from the wellness industry, Gatorade has used this narrative in numerous campaigns including ‘Rise Up’, ‘Greatness is Taken’ and more recently ‘The Secret to Victory’ which asserts that defeat is the secret to succeeding, sharing the hashtag #MakeDefeatYourFuel.

The Quest

Taking a look back at Pip’s story; the multiple obstacles along the way bring her journey into the Quest category.

And she’s in good company. Perhaps the most famous brand quest story of all is that of Steve Jobs bringing his dream of Apple to life — a story now immortalised in a blockbuster film.

In its 2017 Brand Storytelling Survey, creative agency Aesop listed Apple as the number 1 company, a position they’ve held since the survey began 5 years ago.

Why Storytelling Should Be Part Of Your Marketing Framework

Image: Under Armour

The Changing Face Of Storytelling

The Aesop survey highlights an interesting trend. FMCG brands have dropped down the list over the last 5 years. In 2013 Cadbury, Coca Cola, Walkers and McDonald’s were in the top 5, by 2017 they had fallen out of the top 20.

Replaced by brands such as Help for Heroes and the BBC, the list highlights the demand from consumers for authentic storytelling, as opposed to good plotlines put together to sell a product.

Looking at wellness brands specifically, this change opens up opportunity.

Often brands attach themselves to a story to create consumer desire – like car brands that sell us the idea of ‘freedom’, or alcoholic drink brands that sell us the promise of ‘friendships’ when in reality we find ourselves stuck in traffic or buying into an overpriced bottle of wine.

Wellness brands are in the covetable position of selling something that should actually deliver on their promise, something that aids their customer on a journey towards an improved life. The important part is understanding the role that the brand plays in their customers’ lives, and determining how best to share that story.

In next month’s Market Well column we’ll look at what this shift means for wellness brands and ways in which brands can approach their own storytelling to effectively connect with their audience.

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