The Value of Brand Storytelling in Digital Marketing | Aston University Online

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Storytelling is an essential part of the human experience. Stories allow people to share information, create memories, and foster emotional connections. Brand storytelling is no exception. Digital marketing allows companies to use content marketing and social media to leverage the power of storytelling to better connect with their audiences.

In a modern landscape ruled by automation and digital-first platforms, brand storytelling makes businesses more human. Humanising a brand also reflects in the ROI. A survey of UK adults found when people love a brand story, they are 55% more likely to buy the product in the future, 44% will share the story on social media, and 15% will buy the product on the spot.

Forbes confidently reports that brand storytelling is the future of marketing. Join the future of marketing and learn more about how you can personalise your business through impactful storytelling to move people, build brands, and increase revenue. 

What is Brand Storytelling?

Cultures across the world have used storytelling to convey information throughout history. The earliest evidence of storytelling dates as far back as 30,000 years ago in the form of cave drawings. Historic cave drawings depict animals, humans and other objects to present visual stories before recorded language.  

In the digital era, stories are shared through different mediums, including written content, display advertisements, video, audio recordings, and more. Companies use everything from podcasts to eBooks to transmit information to prospects, customers, and clients. 

Brand storytelling is the process of using a curated narrative to relate to customers and communicate a company’s values and mission. What does your company stand for? How does your company solve problems? Why would someone choose your company? These are all questions brands seek to answer by using classic storytelling elements. 

What Makes Great Stories?

Great stories include essential elements like setting, characters, conflict, rising action, climax, and a conclusion. The secret to great storytelling is that you pay attention to what story you’re telling and equally prioritise how you choose to tell it. 

Elements of Good Storytelling

Most stories follow a formula that makes them engaging and memorable to readers. Paul Jarvis from Inc. Magazine isolates this formula and shares the “Five Common Elements Of Good Storytelling”:

Keep it simple: The best stories are easy to understand. A simple brand story is more memorable to your readers.

Get emotional: Stories should be told with emotion, whether it’s excitement, pain, joy, humour, or hope. Emotions capture an audience and elevate a story. 

Be truthful: Authenticity is essential for brand storytelling. A company must believe in its values and mission before audiences will believe them.

Make it real: Humanise your brand by telling stories through real people. Airbnb features actual hosts who use their platform and list their homes to humanise the entire experience. Consumers want to connect with other humans and value real testimonials.   

Personalise it: Don’t tell a story to one million people; tell a story to one person. Imagine your brand message is speaking to an individual and connecting with each person to build the greatest connection.

Tools for Crafting Better Stories

The elements of storytelling are important but so are the tools used to create and distribute brand stories. Companies need data, analytics, content creation, social media, and other tools to select goals, analyse results, and measure success. The following tools enable marketers in their efforts to tell a meaningful brand story.

Big Data

The digital economy is run by Big Data. Big Data refers to mass amounts of complex data sets that carry information. Companies that harness data have a better chance of staying ahead of the competition and successfully marketing their products and services. Data can also be used to engage in better brand storytelling. Marketers can use data to create an audience persona, identify customer pain points, and tell the right story, to the right customer, at the right time.

Digital Marketing Analytics

Big Data is infinitely more beneficial when it’s paired with digital marketing analytics. Digital marketing analytics refers to the tools and process of analysing and reporting data to inform marketing decisions. A Digital Marketing Analyst reports data from email marketing campaigns, social media campaigns, online branding efforts, and more. Without analytics, large data sets are meaningless to marketers. Digital Marketing Analysts use storytelling to convey complicated statistics and figures to key decision-makers in a business.  

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the creation of online content to help build awareness of a business, product, or service. Content marketing helps businesses increase brand visibility, start a conversation, share industry trends, and speak to new audiences. The majority of brand storytelling takes place via content marketing efforts. For example, a company could use a blog article to tell a customer story or publish a press release about a recent company development.

Social Media Storytelling

Social Media is an ideal place to share brand stories. As of January 2021, the UK has 53 million active social media users with a social media penetration rate of 77.9%. Brands can reach consumers wherever they are — on their phones. The average person in the UK spends 148 minutes on a smartphone, and recent studies found that smartphones make up 40% of online traffic in the UK. 

The best way to win at brand storytelling is by designing media that can be shared across social channels and optimised for mobile. Platforms like Tiktok and Twitter can share compelling stories in as little as 60 seconds or 280 characters. 

Example of Powerful Brand Storytelling 

Powerful brand storytelling is made possible when companies understand their customer and connect with them on a human level. One multinational company that excels at brand storytelling is Square.   

Square is a financial service and digital payment platform that allows small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to accept card payments using a small Square Reader that connects directly to your device. Square has a clear mission statement: “We believe everyone should be able to participate and thrive in the economy.” The company demonstrates this mission statement through social impact paired with personalised storytelling. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the closure of SMBs and extended lockdown restrictions presented business owners and entrepreneurs with unique challenges. Square started a conversation and began telling stories about how real business owners are managing through the trials of the pandemic.

The company launched a COVID-19 campaign and shared voice messages provided by entrepreneurs, from restaurant owners to CEOs. The campaign shared stories of struggle, resilience, and hope with a call-to-action to “tell us your story” designed to continue the conversation.

This case study represents compelling and authentic brand storytelling. Square gave customers a voice, aligned with its mission, and promoted real change through awareness and outreach.

The Future of Digital Marketing in the UK

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred digital change and accelerated digital transformation that is likely to continue well into the future. According to Adobe Analytics, in the first three months alone, UK Consumers spent £28 billion online, equivalent to £217,000 being spent every minute. This spike in online spending marks a growth of 54% year-over-year. 

Adobe reports the following insights:

The pandemic increased the number of UK online shoppers by 15%

Over 79% of UK online shoppers are satisfied with their online shopping experience

44% of UK shoppers preferred using smartphones for making purchases

40% of UK consumers plan to avoid physical stores altogether

Adobe’s report signifies that the pandemic has driven even more consumers online. The decline of shopping malls and brick-and-mortar stores requires marketers to evolve and optimise the digital customer experience. 

Advance Your Understanding of Digital Marketing Analytics 

Marketing is about so much more than just selling products and services. Companies are more interested than ever in making a social impact and changing the world around them. 

Does working in an agile, digital-first environment and using data to tell impactful brand stories sound like the right career for you? Join Aston University’s MSc in Digital Marketing Analytics to gain the tools needed to understand industry trends, apply data-driven marketing skills, and tell powerful stories through campaign messaging initiatives.

Named University of the Year 2020 by The Guardian, Aston’s proven excellence in higher education provides a reputable, modern learning experience that is constantly evolving with trends and technologies. Globally recognised by top accrediting bodies and independent rankings, our suite of distance learning programmes gives working professionals convenient access to quality coursework, esteemed academics and an international network. 

Launch an exciting career in marketing and advertising with an online MSc in Digital Marketing Analytics.

7 Steps to Launch an Expert Social-Media Marketing Campaign

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Social media provides new brands with an incredible opportunity to launch a new product to a highly targeted, engaged, wallet-out audience. You have access to consumers located all over the world along with the ability to target them based on very specific parameters.

Brands today have such a massive advantage over brands that got their start just ten years ago. While this all sounds great, it’s not as simple as making a few posts on launch day and watching the sales snowball.

It takes a lot of preparation and planning, along with a great product, to have a successful launch on social media. Here are the seven steps required to expertly launch a new brand on social media, regardless of the niche.

1. Establish a clear set of goals

You need to identify your KPIs and goals before anything else. What is going to make your particular launch successful? This will be drastically different for every brand. It might be based on sales, email-list growth or just the generation of buzz that translates into long-term brand awareness.

If it’s sales- and revenue-based, be specific. How many sales? How much revenue? You need to have all of this figured out ahead of time. Determine how much money you are going to invest in the launch and be sure that whatever your goals are, you break even, at the very least. 

2. Develop a timeline

When you have your launch date set, you will need to back up and map out the timeline from the current date to the launch date. Then, break that window of time into blocks. Every step of creating a launch will require time. If you feel that your timeline is too tight, push it back.

The last thing you want to do is commit to a launch date and then a week prior have to push it back. That can be a death sentence for a brand, especially if you have already hyped up the date to a social audience that’s waiting in anticipation.

3. Select the best social-media platforms

This is where your strategy starts to play out. What social-media platforms are you going to want to focus on to reach your target audience? While you may think going super wide and launching on every platform available is the correct play, it’s the opposite.

Focus on the two to three best platforms for your launch. This allows you to put more effort into each one, which will greatly impact the return on investment. Pick the social-media platforms that best match your brand and its target audience.

Going after a younger 18- to 20-year-old demographic? TikTok is the place to be. Interested in connecting with a 32- to 45-year-old homeowning demographic? Then Facebook should be your number one platform. Don’t worry about what social platform is the most popular: Select based on where your target audience is active.

4. Map out an influencer-marketing strategy

Aligning with the right influencers to help give your launch a boost can give you momentum unobtainable elsewhere. Try to work out deals with influencers who have engaged audiences that match your target market.

From a flat fee per post to a revenue-sharing agreement, work out something that makes sense and allows you to tap into those followings. If you break even or even take a slight hit, consider the upside, which is gaining a large customer base on day one that can be marketed to down the line multiple times.

And here’s a pro tip: Let the influencer introduce and announce your brand and product to his or her audience as he or she sees fit. The response will be much better if this is done naturally and not something that feels staged and planned. Giving influencers total creative control will yield the best results.

5. Design launch-campaign assets

You’re going to need a wide variety of content assets and formats. On launch day, you will need to have several campaigns loaded up and ready to go that you will closely monitor and optimize in real time.

If one format or image is performing better, you will need to adjust. Will a meme outperform a GIF? What about a video? You need variety to collect as much data as possible. Some examples of campaign assets include high-quality product images; lifestyle images; videos, both long and short; GIFs and memes.

It’s also important to design each content asset specifically for the platform it will be used on. This includes formatting video run times for the specific social channel and making images the correct size to ensure proper display.

6. Schedule your social-media content

Once you have your social platforms identified and all of your content assets created, you now have to schedule it. You have your official launch date, but don’t forget the days leading up to it. This is a perfect time to build anticipation with teaser content.

You can schedule your entire organic campaign in one of the SaaS tools like Hootsuite, which helps you organize the launch as well as reply and engage during the launch. You are going to want to be available to answer questions and reply in real time.

Participating in the discussion will drive more sales, and the engagement boost will help further your organic reach. Even if your launch strategy revolves around paid social-media ads, you still want to have an organic campaign scheduled.

7. Launch your campaign 

If you planned for enough time to get everything mapped out and situated, you will be ready to go on launch day. Be sure to have extra hands on deck to handle customer-service issues, answer pre-sales questions and ensure everything goes smoothly.

A poorly executed launch can sink a brand before it even has a chance to thrive. Be sure to plan for every possible mishap because a launch without some hiccups is unheard of. Be prepared for the unexpected and ready to make adjustments as you go.