Storytelling is as old as time, from ancient Sumerians sharing tales of bravery to Egyptian princes entertaining the pharaohs.

Spencer Waldron - PreziThis art form has evolved over time, over content platforms, tech mediums, and the way these stories have been told. Today, the average consumers are mindful of their time and are not interested in commercial ads, long form content, or being sold to aggressively. Brands now more than ever need to have a conversation with their customers and turn them into storytellers or brand ambassadors.

Savage reached out to one of the foremost thought leaders in storytelling; Spencer Waldron, Regional Director Europe at Prezi, to identify the best practices in brand storytelling.

S: Do brands create stories or do stories create brands? Or is storytelling for brands and brand engagement simply so pervasive we can’t even begin to see the end and the beginning?
SW: I think it has a lot to do with understanding how people make decisions. All of us make all of our decisions on an emotional level, first at an unconscious level. Story is one of the best vehicles we have as marketers to make an emotional connection. To paint a picture of a future possibility that our customers want and one we can provide.

The very best companies do this at a strategic level. The story as a strategy then helps not only with marketing but what product features should be built and who you might recruit. I’m a passionate runner and Nike rarely talks to me about the shoe. They constantly tell me that I can be a better athlete. That’s what makes the connection with me. That’s their Story as a strategy.

S: Is there a secret formula to good commercial storytelling, which brands should follow? 
SW: I think it’s about ‘Trust’ more than ever these days. We are all becoming very protective of our attention and who we give it to. If a brand wastes our attention more than a handful of times, we switch them off. So I don’t think it’s a formula but more of a question you should ask yourself for all of your content – How does this value and respect the attention of my audience?

S: How much control do brands really have in the digital age and can they positively influence consumer experience through storytelling?
SW: Two different things here. First of all, as brands, we need to let go of this idea that we can control what people say about us. We can’t and we shouldn’t. We need to EMPOWER the audience to tell OUR story in the way that THEY want to. The trick is to serve the customer in such a magical way that they want to tell that story.

Marketing these days needs to be about making a connection through story and then delivering on that promise which should equate to a good reputation. That’s what’s key – a good reputation.

Storytelling can actually influence brand experience if it’s done as a strategy.

Keeping with the Nike example – Be a Better Athlete. They can do this by constantly honouring great athletes and great athletics. If you look at a Nike Store, they excel in bringing that brand promise to life. They have everything from events to experts to reinforce that story as a strategy.

S: Content is King and, while this is true, the nature of digestible content has changed a lot since the days of blogs, vlogs, and press releases. How should companies decide on which medium and channel to share content and what makes for an effective mix? 
SW: If Content is King, then these days context is the Kings best advisor. Many people spend time and resource on developing content and stories and then tell them in the exact same way on Social Media. Today we need to tell our story differently on different platforms.

Social Media is moving away from content creation to documentation and we need to respect this. Again we turn to Nike for inspiration. They launched their Equality campaign last year and they told the story differently on Instagram showing high end photography and short videos, whereas on YouTube where people want to learn or be entertained, they had the full length video and behind the scenes content. On twitter it was more about getting into 1:1 debates and conversations around the content.

S: How can companies better utilise their brand influence to create customer-driven content?
SW: I’d say that they should have a central Story-as-as-Strategy and then build out the infrastructure to empower their customers and fans to tell the story on their behalf. Our customers are now our brand managers.

S: How can storytelling help conversions and sales? 
SW: When it comes to presentations then storytelling should have a central place also. We have been seeing what we call ‘Conversational Presenting or Conversational Storytelling’ on the rise. The way people buy stuff has changed. The way we want to be sold to, has changed. The old way of presenting just doesn’t cut it anymore.

The job of presenting has changed from ‘Transferring of information’ to finding the gaps in the information. This is because when we buy something today, if marketing has done their job properly, then by the time I talk to a sales person I am already 70% of the way in my decision making process.

What I don’t need is someone to present a lot of information I already know. What I need is someone to respect my attention and ask, thanks for giving me 20 mins of your time – how can we best spend it? That way I can communicate the gaps in my information and then the sales person can present only what I need.

Don’t miss your opportunity to meet Spencer in person and join his workshop on Leadership Storytelling at  Savage Marketing 2018 Conference. Reserve your seats now!

Image source: Unsplash

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