Many people think the primary goal of advertising is to sell a product, but that’s not necessarily true. For example, marketing storytelling allows advertisers to engage with an audience and immerse them in what’s happening first so that the product comes second.
The benefits of advertising by telling a story are various. They include capturing people’s interest in an era of shortened attention spans, where a growing number of content types compete for the audience’s attention. Some individuals are irritated with the hard-sell type of promotion, and they tune out when exposed to it.
Marketing storytelling is different because it features a variety of techniques to support a narrative while showing a product positively. Aspects like the soundtrack, dialogue, camera angles and actors can draw individuals in and help them remember the story and brand long after seeing it. These techniques are major components of marketing-based storytelling.
Here are nine storytelling trends in marketing that industry experts should be aware of in the coming year and foreseeable future.
1. Data-Driven Storytelling
Data-driven storytelling is a trend worth exploring because it gives people context. Google Trends taps into the power of data because it shows which terms and topics users search for in different areas of the world. Brands can also include data in an anecdote to emphasize a problem in society that a product could solve. This information can illuminate the fact that a particular subject is on the public’s minds.
Data-driven narratives also work well for companies that already collect information through their business models. For example, Spotify digs into its figures to determine which songs should go on its playlists or to assess which tracks individual users like the most.
It uses its findings to provide a year-end wrap-up for each Premium subscriber. For example, a person can see which song or artist they listened to the most, or how much time they spent streaming tracks from Spotify during a whole year.
By offering those insights, Spotify can help people realize the streaming service shaped their life and made their stand-out moments even better. Plus, if a company has data at its disposal, there’s no reason to let it go to waste.
2. Stories Being Sourced Directly From Customers
Customers crave authenticity. One way brands can give it to them through marketing storytelling is to ask actual product users to propel the process. When businesses do that, they put customers in the spotlight. This approach is also called customer-led storytelling. It’s likely to become one of the story trends in marketing that proves its staying power.
Trulia provides captivating customer-led stories on its blog by focusing on realism. The process of finding a home is something almost everyone goes through at some point. Trulia takes a deep dive into what a customer experienced, then posts the details for everyone to read.
Story-based advertising typically works best when consumers can relate to it. Trulia understands that point well and uses it to shape the brand.
3. Brands Becoming Associated With Immersive Podcasts
Podcasting is an increasingly popular way for people to consume national news, comedy content and much more. Podcasts reach listeners in a wide variety of formats, but many of them tell stories. LeVar Burton even has a “LeVar Burton Reads” podcast intended for adults who want to take breaks from their busy lives and listen to a short story read by an expert.
There’s also “Carrier,” a tension-filled, serial podcast that uses both sound-based techniques and a thrilling plot to keep users listening. A new offering from iHeartRADIO called “Solve” encourages listeners to insert themselves into the scenario and determine what happened during a narrative based on a true-crime case.
How do these things relate to marketing storytelling? Statistics from Edison Research indicate 54% of consumers are more likely to consider companies they hear advertised during podcasts. It’s easy to see, then, why a brand’s decision to sponsor a story-based podcast, or even create one for listeners, could pay off by providing higher profits and increased brand recognition.
4. Companies Hiring Public Relations Teams to Tell Their Stories
The internet makes it easier than ever for organizations to exert considerable influence over the reports given about them. However, there’s an emerging trend of brands hiring public relations companies to create their narratives. Public relations professionals understand the power of words, and many of them have journalism backgrounds. Plus, they keep up with trends related to storytelling and the industry at large.
Hiring public relations companies for assistance in building or telling a narrative should be among marketing storytelling trends that take shape this year and continue for the long-term.
5. Sparklines Providing Visual Representations
Sparklines are visual representations of data, and analysts think they’ll help shape storytelling in 2021. A sparkline helps convey how a brand can help a person get from where they are to where they want to be. It can also support a call to action.
For example, Netflix shows a timeframe for potential subscribers where a person sees the length of time before they’ll receive their first bill, plus the date when Netflix will remind users their free trial is coming to an end. Seeing the real-time countdown in a graphic format shows the value of the free trial, including how long a person has to watch what Netflix offers.
6. Visual Storytelling Through Video
Visual storytelling usually focuses on driving the narrative forward via video. It can accomplish several goals, including giving a unique and compelling account of events. Visual storytelling can also establish subject-matter expertise and help individuals put a face with a brand they know and love.
Recent research shows millennials prefer video, and people from all demographics are more likely to thoroughly pay attention to video compared to other forms of marketing. Professionals who need to connect with customers should keep those findings in mind and not overlook visual storytelling this year.
Visual storytelling on social media is a technique that’s gaining ground. For example, if a company wants to boost engagement on Instagram, it might create a short video that grabs attention and supports any non-video content the company published. If a company writes a blog post about a new process it uses to save energy, a supplementary video could weave a plotline about why that change matters.
7. Marketing Storytelling Helping Customers Learn About Food Brands
Consumers have shown interest in which ingredients their foods contain for a while. In 2021, however, the story should become broader. Innova Market Insights recently published its top 10 food trends, and storytelling came out on top. As a result, sellers should expect more stories told about food production, sustainability and other aspects that go beyond how a food tastes.
8. Advertisers Telling Stories Through New “Digital Realities”
In addition to conveying anecdotes through text and videos, brand managers will increasingly investigate the possibilities associated with so-called “digital realities.” National Geographic does this by putting a person into the center of a report and using technologies like virtual reality (VR) and 360-degree videos.
Site visitors can experience what it’s like to see a lion up close or be involved in another kind of adventure. This method supports National Geographic’s branding as a compelling company that furthers exploration and makes people feel inspired.
9. Influencers Telling Stories Their Way
Marketers frequently prefer to maintain some creative control when working with influencers. Company representatives tend to think they know their branding best. They like to direct influencers regarding what tone or language to use, when to post and which features to mention when discussing a sponsored product.
However, evidence suggests the influencer era will shift towards creator-driven storytelling, whereby businesses give them increased freedom. The public has become cynical of many influencers, and they often wonder if these people are nothing but mouthpieces for the brand. Influence promoting is not over, but it must change to remain relevant.
If influencers keep more control over how they give accounts for a brand, the content should come across as authentic. Then, people could be eager to consume it and believe a seller truly loves the products or brands with which they align.
Stay Abreast of These Shifts in Narrative-Based Marketing
These are not the only ways marketing storytelling will influence the industry this year. However, advertisers should expect the trends mentioned here to spark other evolutions that relate to the work they do and create stronger connections with audiences.