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.

Marketing a Web Startup: How to Use Technology to Achieve Escape Velocity | Online Sales Guide Tips

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Creating a web application is challenging enough, but the make-or-break hurdle is gaining an audience for it. How does a startup with very little money draw in an inundated and skeptical audience to use its service? The shift from agile, responsive technology delivery to a marketing promotional machine can be a jarring transition for small tech-focused teams, and an even greater challenge on the limited, the bootstrapped budget that startups often work with. Here are several lessons on how to start a business learned from companies that drew in the initial audience, and achieved enough traction to escape failure.

Friends and Family

Much like with early-stage funding for technology, one must look for humble beginnings and promote your product to any of your friends and family that will listen. The reality of marketing is that this is the group of people that will most reliably give your website a chance and visit if, if for no other reason than their relationship with you. Of that group that visits it, a fraction may find it useful, and those people may become your biggest evangelists and promoters, all free of charge. The first thousand users of your service are critical from both a success standpoint and for collecting data to find and adapt to your market. Friends and family should almost always be the first option.

Create the Content Yourself

Many of the most popular web applications rely on their user base to create the content, and thus the value of the service. These network effects create a virtuous cycle of value. However, that cycle can be quite vicious for startups, creating a chicken-and-egg problem of drawing an audience to a site with little content and value. The solution to this issue for a founding team is to create the content yourself. For example, popular content sharing service Reddit survived its initial months of life with the founding team managing hundreds, perhaps thousands of fake accounts, and posting content themselves to make the service appear far more popular than it was. In the heavily trend-oriented world of tech startups, very few people want to visit an unpopular site, so manufacturing this popularity may be the key ingredient for attracting new users.

Pull a Stunt

PR stunts are high risk, high reward proposition. They often come with some form of cash expense and have the potential to be highly misinterpreted by your market. Successfully pulling a PR maneuver takes a great deal of savvy and a significant amount of luck, but the payoff could keep a company alive. One example of such a stunt was accomplished by AirBnB, the now billion-dollar company. The founders, in response to the 2008 presidential election, created custom cereal boxes (AirBnB partly being short for bed and breakfast, after all) to commemorate both Obama’s and McCain’s respective national conventions. They sold the cereal for $ 40 a box and made enough money to lift the company out of debt while gaining national attention for their startup.

Engaging with a Niche

In addition to the approach of starting small with your audience, a critical opportunity is finding niche markets that engage with your service early on. Carefully observe the early traffic to your service and identify trends among the early adopters. If a picture of a niche market starts to emerge, one can use this information to increase engagement. Create a blog that engages with your niche, both to promote your application, but also to generally increase value with your audience. Offer guest blog posts on blogs that serve your niche. Look for feedback from this niche and incorporate changes and updates to your service to serve them. Creating a small but energized community of well-served users can be one of the biggest ways to create a tribe of evangelists and marketers with little financial outlay on your part.

Getting Early Press

Many tech startups fantasize about the feature in the prominent tech blog or website that will propel the service to viral success. While this is certainly an avenue that shouldn’t be ignored, it still carries the high risk to reward ratio that should be managed. Mitigate this risk by becoming press-friendly: create a clear, well-designed press page with graphics, media, and helpful release notes and info for the press to use. Look to be featured in lesser-known blogs and sites as well as the big players, as media is similarly trend-oriented and prone to snowball effects.

While these strategies are in no way a sure-fire formula to gain an audience, they can be a promising starting point for the tech entrepreneur that has exhausted their main capability in bringing a web application to market, and now must navigate the less familiar territory of building an audience and marketing.

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