Corporate Storytelling, key driver for brands
Table of Contents
Corporate storytelling, which is a fundamental element of the content marketing strategy nowadays, is the focus of this article. Below, we will explain what corporate storytelling is and, more generally, what storytelling is. In addition, we will show you how to do it and which channels to use and we will bring to your attention examples of effective storytelling of some famous brands. Also, we will explain which skills a storyteller should have and which books are helpful to better understand this subject.
What is storytelling
Storytelling is the art of telling stories and making a persuasive communication strategy, which is used, above all, in the political, economic and corporate fields.
Storytelling is an effective communication tool. In fact, stories have an emotional connotation because they involve people, who try to give a meaning to the acts that are described.
What is communicated, shared or learned through a story is always more effective than what is learned from a series of objective data or facts, so storytelling is the best way to transfer knowledge and experience and to persuade people.
Therefore, we can define storytelling as a way of creating contents based on narration, i.e., a way of transmitting a message through the idea, design and spread of stories.
What is corporate storytelling
Corporate storytelling is not just the story of the business, but a way to rework a whole series of stories to strike a certain audience, convince them, involve them, share experiences, promote products and services. That is why telling stories is an essential aspect of the marketing strategy.
In this regard, here is a quote on the subject by Seth Godin:
“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”
Through corporate storytelling, you can create stories and build your brand identity. In the business field, it means transmitting the values, the mission and the vision – on which your actions and market choices are based – to the customers.
You can narrate your brand identity in different ways. For example, you can focus on a visual storytelling strategy, rely on a copywriter or choose one or more channels among traditional means, blogs or social media. Each narration must be well thought because it is the only way to communicate the uniqueness of your brand to the audience.
Corporate storytelling is important to know your target and analyse their needs and desires. At a later time, you will move on to an analysis of your company to understand its personality and its tone of voice.
Just like in fairy tales, as a child, it happened to everyone to become attached to the hero of an epic adventure or to take to heart the protagonists of a story, the same happens in marketing. That is the reason why storytelling is used to sponsor brands and companies.
Companies have begun to do corporate storytelling to ensure that they are remembered by transmitting their values and, above all, their emotions to customers, telling not only the story of the company, but also of each product and the team.
“At its very core, marketing is storytelling. The best advertising campaigns take us on an emotional journey – appealing to our wants, needs and desires – while at the same time telling us about a product or service.”
With corporate storytelling, the user unconsciously associates a certain product or service with the company, becoming a real fan, not only by purchasing the product, but by talking about it, sharing the experience and involving other people to purchase. In that way, a kind of advocacy is established.
Below, you will find examples of corporate storytelling that will make clear what a company’s personality and tone of voice are.
Examples of corporate storytelling
We would like to propose three examples of companies that use the storytelling technique flawlessly:
- Nike and
Ikea has made the concept of “home” within the furniture market something that goes far beyond the mere choice of furniture. The house becomes a synonym of family. But how did Ikea manage to do this? Identifying with its buyers and perfectly capturing the characteristics of its target and their needs. In fact, Ikea catalogues don’t show perfect houses, but realistic ones, to spread the message that Ikea is suitable for everyone and the houses shown in the pictures could be yours. Therefore, it uses both emotional and ironic communication, capable of reaching both adults and children.
Nike is one of the most famous sportswear brands and over the years its communication has become increasingly present and stronger, often taking sides publicly in front of important social issues. In fact, its strategic weapon is inclusiveness, which is expressed by giving a voice to people belonging to categories that are often subjected to bullying or racism. Nike’s ultimate goal is to transform its products into allies during daily challenges and their slogan “Just do it”, in its simplicity, perfectly expresses this concept.
Apple is now one of the best-known technology brands in the world and its whole communication revolves around two values that are most important to them: trust and humanity. Each product is based on the ability to connect with other people. In that way, technology becomes human as a means of connection. Furthermore, the communication Apple creates with its customers, for example by creating huge events of presentation of its new products, generates the utmost trust. So, in this case, what makes Apple unique is the ability to bring innovation by staying close to people.
How to do corporate storytelling
Videos have become a privileged channel for corporate storytelling. In fact, if well done, they turn out to be the most effective means for online communication. But now let’s see how to do corporate storytelling and how to build the story to achieve your goals.
The way to structure your story changes according to different factors. First, you need to identify a narrative thread consistent with the image of the brand you want to offer, which must coincide – within a broader coordinated communication strategy – with the logo and design of your website and your products.
So, how to do corporate storytelling?
After defining your brand identity and your coordinated communication strategy, the next step is to ask yourselves the following questions, i.e., the famous Five Ws of journalism:
- Who: who is the protagonist?
- What: what happens in the story?
- When: when does the story take place?
- Where: where does the story take place?
- Why: why does it happen?
According to your answers, you will be able to give a basic structure to your story based on 5 acts:
- Beginning: the characters and the story are introduced.
- Context: a problem is introduced and a context – made up of facts to identify with – is created.
- Appearance of the hero: the main character becomes always more important and the spokesperson of an idea.
- Ending: it is the culmination of the story and may or may not be a happy ending.
- Moral: it is useful to reinforce the message you wanted to convey with the story.
Alternatively, you can take into consideration the actantial model with which myths are usually written and which, adapted to marketing, is structured as follows:
- Subject: the reader who has to identify with the story.
- Object: the needs and desires of the reader.
- Sender: the brand, the product or the service and the way it differs.
- Addressee: the one who takes advantage.
- Assistant: the means by which the addressee takes advantage.
- Enemy: the element that contrasts with everything else.
At this point, we can start talking about the types of stories that you can use as a model for storytelling. In this regard, James Wedmore, marketing expert and academic of human behaviour, has identified 5 types of stories that ensure high engagement:
- The personal journey
- The overcoming of an obstacle
- The fairy tale
- The inspirational story
- The warning story
Let’s see them all in detail.
The personal journey
The personal journey consists in narrating the story behind each brand, at least when we refer to corporate storytelling. For example, you can narrate the idea from which it all started, the problem you had in mind to solve with your products or, in general, what pushed you to get to where you are now.
The overcoming of an obstacle
The overcoming of an obstacle consists in becoming a source of inspiration for the reader by narrating the difficulties you have encountered along your professional career as a company and how you have overcome them, in the field of corporate storytelling. It is a highly engaging type of story because it may happen that some of your customers are facing the same difficulties and it will be particularly easy for them to empathize with your story.
The fairy tale
The fairy tale is the most classic type of story, but is always effective. It consists in narrating fictional stories with the aim of transmitting a moral, i.e., a teaching that can be an example for readers or inspire them in some way.
The inspirational story
The inspirational story, as the name suggests, consists in inspiring readers by making them believe that even what seems impossible is actually possible. Usually, to narrate this kind of story you can think of a great personality who is already fulfilled and use his/her story to give the readers the motivation to pursue their goals.
The warning story
The warning story consists in narrating the risks and consequences of certain decisions in order to inform readers. In this way, readers will feel that you are trying to help them save valuable resources, such as time and money, and a relationship of trust will be created.
Which are the channels of corporate storytelling
As we anticipated, storytelling has undergone an important evolution – especially in the last years – and is increasingly used online, taking the name of digital storytelling. This evolution is probably due to the advent of social media, which have given always more importance to the opportunity of expressing ourselves and, therefore, companies have also had to adapt to this new way of communicating.
Digital storytelling isn’t limited to written communication, but also makes use of videos, podcasts, images and infographics. Each of these formats are necessary to communicate a story in a different way and to give a different level of depth to it.
Below, there is a list of channels to do storytelling:
- traditional means
- social media
However, in this article, we want to focus more on digital storytelling and we will analyse only the blog and social media channels.
Corporate storytelling on the blog
The blog is a very useful way to create a narrative around the brand because it makes use of inbound marketing, which allows you to attract readers.
In order to make this channel effective, it is necessary to identify a narrative topic and the emotions that you want to convey. In this way, the readers will feel like they are reading a story, but you are actually giving them reasons to use a particular product or service. Also, don’t forget to complete your story using multimedia content, even better if it is content created by you.
Doing corporate storytelling on the blog is certainly not easy, but the possibilities that it gives to you are totally worth it:
- Create a strong bond with readers.
- Being able to choose the type of perception that customers will have of the brand.
- Make the brand known at 360° to result transparent and reliable.
- Reach a greater number of readers and, as a consequence, of customers too.
Corporate storytelling on social media
Speaking of storytelling, let’s immediately say that the digital one is fundamental today and social media are the protagonists. We will see how to take advantage of this channel and what results it can bring within a content marketing strategy and, specifically, in the field of corporate storytelling.
The goals that storytelling on social media allows to achieve are:
- Brand awareness
- Increase in sales and conversions
- Lead generation
- Customer loyalty
- Referral and advocacy
How can a company take advantage of corporate storytelling within the social media strategy? To do that, the following points can be considered:
- communicate the values of the brand,
- communicate the release of new products,
- narrate the production process,
- narrate the history of the brand,
- share reviews of customers.
Storytelling creates a higher level of empathy than any other marketing tool, allowing customer to get in touch with the brand in a more personal way. The process that is triggered using corporate storytelling on social media is that the brand wants to express itself and be known, but at the same time customers respond to this mechanism by telling their own stories to the brand and this also ensures that the company reaches significantly higher levels of knowledge of its target. In fact, with conversations on social media a spontaneous advocacy mechanism is also triggered and the customers become the first sponsors by recommending other people products and services. In this regard, we borrow the words of Corey Eridon:
“Marketing is about telling good stories. Social media marketing is about getting your customers to tell them for you.”
To better understand the importance of conversations on social media and the impact they have on corporate storytelling and the brand, we report a quote from Scott Cook:
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.”
The social media that are more suitable for storytelling are Facebook and Instagram:
- Facebook provides different tools for storytelling (carousels, stories, videos, etc.) and it is also possible to create a timeline by inserting historical contents concerning the brand.
- Instagram appears as a social network specifically created to do storytelling because every function fulfils this purpose. For example, you can post a picture and narrate its story in the caption, or you can express yourselves or your brand in the Stories or using other functions that allow you to upload longer videos (such as Reels or IGTV).
Qualities to do corporate storytelling
If you have ever noticed the storytelling of a particular company and you were pleasantly impressed, it means that the storyteller in question has particular qualities that make him/her very good at this job. In fact, in our opinion, the qualities that every storyteller should have are:
- Creativity: anyone who is called to create something from nothing must certainly be creative because his/her imagination and inventiveness will make the object of the work noteworthy.
- Empathy: stories must be able to arouse emotions in the reader and in order to be sure to write stories with this potential, you must be empathetic.
- Respect: a good storyteller must be able to respect the audience. Nobody likes to read a story in which they feel mocked and targeted.
- Attention to details: what makes the difference within a story are the details, those small specifics that can make the reader identify.
- Engagement skills: the more the readers feel involved in the story, the more likely they are to respond to call to actions.
- Ethics: it is important to make sure that stories are authentic, even when they are invented. Therefore, the storyteller shouldn’t make the story perceived as something with the aim of deceiving the public.
Finally, here is a quote from Leo Babauta to inspire you:
“Each of us has some kind of powerful story. Tell it.”
The best 5 corporate storytelling books
If you are looking for books to learn more about this topic, you should know that the secret behind storytelling is to read a lot about any topic because any type of story can help you find inspiration. However, there are also several more specific manuals and books on corporate storytelling. Below, we propose our list of the 5 best titles:
- Building a Story Brand, Donald Miller.
- Buyer Personas, Adele Revella.
- Storybranding: Creating stand-out brands through the power of story, Jim Signorelli.
- The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the art and discipline of business narrative, Stephen Denning.
- Wired for Story: The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence, Lisa Cron.
Let’s see them in detail.
Building a Story Brand
In this book, the author teaches to consider the customer as the protagonist of the story, i.e., the hero with a problem to solve and a battle to win. In this battle, the brand represents the helper who will lend a hand to the hero to find the tools and the confidence to succeed. To do this, Donald Miller presents 7 key points for writing a story with a message able to reach customers in a clear and precise way.
When writing a story, you must know your audience and that is precisely the purpose of this book. In fact, the author offers excellent ideas on how to conduct the studies, how to segment the audience, how to identify and describe the buyer personas and, finally, how to tell stories ad transmit messages capable of involving customers in the various phases of the customer journey.
Storybranding: Creating stand-out brands through the power of story
The author – thanks to his huge experience in the field of marketing and advertising – narrates the power of stories and how to use them to attract customers. The story is divided into 6 fundamental steps that every brand should follow to find their story, i.e., what will make the brand more attractive.
The Leader’s Guide to Storytelling: Mastering the art and discipline of business narrative
Storytelling is a very used tool even by the greatest leaders and, actually, it is a key skill for their work. In this book, the author teaches how to tell the right stories at the right time, so that everyone can be a leader in their sector and use stories to bring innovation. In addition, there are many examples of storytelling in the book.
Wired for Story: The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence
In this case, it is not a book to learn how to write, but a book to understand why our brains love and need stories so much and, therefore, how we can reach our audience using some scientific data. A quote from the book explains the author’s intent very well: “If I ask you to think about something, you can decide not to. But if I make you feel something? Now I have your attention.”
Along this article, we have specifically analysed corporate storytelling and also storytelling and digital storytelling in a more general way. We have given definitions and examples of successful corporate storytelling of some brands.
In addition, we explained how to do storytelling effectively by showing different models, which skills a good storyteller should have and which books we recommend on the subject if you want to learn more.