Got a Good Story to Tell You Should If Youre a Marketer

For some, marketing about products is so five minutes ago.

Today is the day of the story for marketers. Tell good stories and people will listen. When people listen, credibility rises. When credibility rises, you may have a customer.

Storytelling's hot -- Entrepreneur Magazine deemed 2014 the year of the story.

David Aaker is a strong believer of the storytelling concept for marketers. Aaker, vice chairman of Prophet, author and branding expert, told CMSWire that marketers must realize not everyone's going to be initially attracted to a brand. 

"People sometimes are just not interested in what you're offering," Aaker said during a phone interview with CMSWire. "So you find out what they are interested in, and you get involved with that."

Marketers as Journalists

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Enter brand journalism. Aaker said marketers and organizations buying into the concept are winning. Create content relevant to your brand's audience -- even if it's not related to your brand's product offerings, he said.

A subset within brand journalism is the very popular content marketing concept, and within that is an even deeper subcategory of storytelling.

"People don't remember facts," Aaker told CMSWire. "They don't read them in the first place. But they do listen to stories, and stories get them to change their perceptions. When you hear a story, you're distracted from counter-arguing. You don't say things like, 'Well, yeah, but is this better than your competitors?'"

In a LinkedIn post, Aaker said brand journalism or branded content represented more than 35 percent of marketing budgets of large American companies.

Getting It Right

He cited GE’s Gary Sheffer, who noted, “We’re practicing what we believe to be journalism on a daily basis.” GE, Aaker reported, has hired "tons of journalists" and runs with topics like “What’s new in tech?” or “Advanced manufacturing.” It leverages its content through social media, Aaker wrote.

Hobart, an industrial kitchen equipment maker, stopped talking about its product and instead focused on the problems of its customers, Aaker told CMSWire. How do you keep your food safe? How do you hire, train and retain your employees? How do you have attractive menus?

"It had almost nothing to do with its products," Aaker said.

SAP recently rolled out a blog series titled #BrandLove which has published on its Customer Edge blog. The series aims to highlight, a SAP representative told us, how brands can use their own customers as advocates to share their message organically as opposed to traditional press releases, testimonials, etc.

Skype Success

In another LinkedIn post, Aaker told the story of Skype, which in 2012 under new CMO Elisa Steele began a campaign to unlock user success stories that brought to the forefront "everyday moments." Stanford University first told the story.

In a nutshell, Skype reached out to users to share with Skype their Skype success stories, and Skype told the stories in its blog. 

The campaign produced heart-warming stories like young children connecting with cousins on different continents, girls born without arms who shared challenges and triumphs and 11 New York City subway musicians who hooked up via Skype.

No Easy Road

But storytelling can't magically appear on your marketing dashboard. It requires talent, the ability to actually tell a story. It's something that often comes with a journalism background, which is why companies like GE, Aaker said, hire journalists.

It's a good sign for unemployed newspaper and magazine writers, many of whom can now go the B2B route.

"Not just anybody can deliver a good story," Aaker said. "You have to know the fundamentals of storytelling. And you need an organization that supports storytelling. You need someone that knows how to find stories, write up stories and leverage them. It's not something your marketing staff guys are necessarily going to be good at."

Title image by Local Studies NSW (Flickr) via a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.