Storytelling Marketing: How Using Empathy Strengthens Your Marketing Efforts

by Corey Philip
July 9, 2019

“The best brands are built on great stories.” – Ian Rowden

Have you ever ugly cried in front of your phone or computer after watching a tragic story about a daughter and her deaf single father only to find out in the end that it was a commercial for an investment company?

You’ll find plenty of this kind of advertisements surfacing on the Internet. The same tactic of tugging at people’s heartstrings was how “Unsung Hero”, an advertisement for Thai Life Insurance, rose to virality.

The commercial has over 47 million views on Youtube as of this writing and is arguably one of the most viral ads on social media.

Thanks to their strategic storytelling, Thai Life Insurance did not just enjoy fame in the world of social media; it also became a resounding name in the world of business with over 1.5 million members as of 2016.

So what made their commercial such a big hit? Many traditional adverts would have

the viewer reaching for the remote to switch channels, but this one had even managed to

engage its viewers.

It’s all in the power of storytelling.

What Makes Storytelling Effective for Marketing

By now, people are more aware of brands and companies’ marketing efforts. Persuasive marketing tactics used to be hidden in good visuals and copy.

Now, especially on social media, there are specific indications that say something is made or written to attract people’s attention or drive them to purchase.

With the increasing trend of conscious consumerism, it’s also harder to hack into people’s psychology to make them do something—buy or subscribe—without them realizing how they were made to do so.

Traditional marketing tips would only tell you to trigger some emotion in your customers—usually fear—but that’s prone to a few setbacks. A product or service likely targets people’s habits or lifestyle. However, when people are confronted by what they’re doing wrong and being told how they can make it better, their tendency is not to agree immediately.

People get defensive about their habits or lifestyle and would think up any excuse to prove that they don’t need help in changing it. In reality, of course, they would want to change something that makes their life harder or inconvenient.

Storytelling, on the other hand, is a way to show people the good that they’re missing out on by continuing their habits or not changing their lifestyle. Showing them the benefits or positive effect that your product or service would do, instead of the changes they need to adapt, is the best way to capture people’s desire or fear and convince them of making an action.

Storytelling puts you and the customer out of the picture. This way they are transported in an unbiased scenario that inspires them to act on their desires without you having to tell them outright.

By patronizing your product or service, their quality of life increases. It’s not your words but the story that you crafted.

The fact that you’re selling them something or wanting something out of them isn’t the first thing they think of, and by the time you get to that part, they would already be captured by your story to be fully on board.

Remember, people use their emotions to decide to make a purchase, then use logic to try and justify it. Read up any marketing book or article online and you’ll encounter terms like hitting people’s pain points, inciting fear, or hinting at their strongest desires. Using storytelling hits their emotions first and foremost.

Specific Storytelling Captures Relevant Customers

Stories are easier to remember than facts; more so when you can resonate with it. 

One mistake many companies fall victim to is using super general stories that lack details. Their point of view is that universal stories could reach out to more people. Key word: reach. They don’t engage.

General stories only touch the surface of people’s feelings; they don’t go deep into the emotions that really move people. That’s only achievable through deeply personal, specific, and captivating details.

Your product or service surely answers to the needs and desires of a certain group of people with similar struggles or wants. The way to connect with them is to create a story that directly relates to their situation or their circumstances.

Specificity has a great value when using storytelling because it tailors your story to a certain type of person that matches your target market.

Reaching many people doesn’t matter when they return a few slightly interested leads. Reaching the right people with a specific story can bring you highly-engaged customers who are genuinely in need of your service or product.

Stories Have Good Shareability

Stories live on by telling and re-telling. In a world that thrives off of sharing information, stories are the best currency.

Very few people are willing to sit in for typical adverts that are usually just a minute long, and yet story-based commercials that are double that length easily make rounds on social media from organic sharing.

It doesn’t take much to figure out how narratives could strengthen a company or brand’s reach and potential.

It’s the way that they tap into our emotions. This creative style of advertising stirs strong feelings in the viewers to make them stay and watch.

That’s just the bare minimum because this particular type of marketing drives people to act. If not to buy, sharing the story is the next best option and is easier for people to do.

This is how unstoppable storytelling is. It just moves forward until it reaches the right person.

Even though the concept of storytelling is simple, there’s a certain way of doing it that makes it the most effective marketing tool.

Storytelling is a way to transport people to a particular situation wherein they’re better versions of themselves. You use your knowledge of their pain points and desires to craft a story where the former is absent and the latter is fulfilled.

This kind of storytelling motivates people and inspires action. Instead of merely making them aware of their emotions, you’re essentially showing them what it would look and feel like when those emotions are addressed.

When used for your business, stories like these are likely to resonate with the people that belong in your target market. Until then, the story continues to ignite people’s interest and amusement.

About the author

Corey Philip

Corey Philip is a small business owner / investor with a focus on home service businesses.

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