Make every step on the customer’s journey an exciting experience.
It happens to millions of people every day.
A compelling headline hooks them in. The opening paragraph raises the stakes, and then they scroll down to see the rest of the page, only to see a wall of text.
Their eyes glaze over. They hit the Back button and wait for the next thing to capture their attention.
No matter how compelling your product is, selling it with words alone is an uphill battle. Video, audio, and imagery play an important role in building credibility and emotional rapport with customers.
The best marketers combine these formats to do more than simply present a product. They use all of those different formats to tell a cohesive story.
How Storytelling Works in Product Marketing
Storytelling creates an emotional connection between brands and customers. Stories are powerful tools for content memorable and relevant.
Telling a story about someone makes them approachable and relatable. That feeling of familiarity extends to the things in the story, too. Ever since human beings started communicating in language, they have been wrapping facts, opinions, and values in stories.
As a result, we’re biologically hardwired to remember stories. Studies have shown that people are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it is presented as part of a story.
For marketers, storytelling means developing a narrative to communicate a message. The goal is to make viewers feel connected to the characters in that narrative. If you succeed in getting them to care about the story, inspiring them to take action is easy.
When done right, storytelling humanizes the brand and establishes the values that it stands for.
What Makes a Great Story
As a species, we’ve been refining the art of storytelling for thousands of years. Even the earliest example of pure fictional storytelling we have available today – the Epic of Gilgamesh, dated around 3400 BC – exhibits a breathtaking degree of literary sophistication.Clearly, the Sumerian priest-scribe who carved it onto stone was not the first person in history to consider what makes a story great.
Great stories all share a few key elements in common. Whether you are looking at novels, films, or marketing campaigns and ads, you’ll find these elements are universal:
- Memorable characters. Your story’s characters are its most important asset. Great characters are relatable, with strong feelings about the things that matter to them, and realistic flaws that get in their way.
- Believable motivations. Everyone wants something. When storytelling for product marketing, that “something” does not always have to be related to the product or service you’re offering. But it must be believable, or else viewers will dismiss the story entirely.
- A compelling setting. Every story has to happen somewhere. When creating stories for marketing purposes, that “somewhere” will often tie directly into your target audience or buyer persona. Market research can indicate what kind of story you wish to tell.
- Honesty and authenticity. This is a tough one. Many professional authors and film producers get it wrong. A good story always broadcasts a value judgement of some kind to its audience. If that value is not aligned with your brand, or the audience’s culture, it will come off as insincere.
- Just enough detail. This is another tough one. Great storytellers know how to give just enough information to keep the story going. Bad storytellers fill the narrative with useless, irrelevant details, or leave out really important details. Either way, the result is confusion and dismissal.
Getting all of these things right is no easy task. Great storytelling will challenge your creativity from start to finish – but it is well worth the effort.
Visual Storytelling for Product Marketing: How It Works
Now that you understand what elements you need to create a great story, it’s time to dive into the way technology can help you tell that story.
Visual storytelling uses more than text to describe a narrative. For marketers, it is a technique for maximizing engagement with a product through the stories that it relates to.
Think about the five elements of a great story listed above. If you were a novelist, you could spend entire chapters describing a cast of characters, their motivations, and the place where they all live. As a product marketer, you have about 140 characters at your disposal.
But when you add video and images to your content, you suddenly have a much wider storytelling palette available. There is no need to describe characters – you simply show them doing things that describe who they are. Your setting is already established the moment you hit Record.
None of this is going to make your product marketing story great on its own, but it does give you the ability to focus more on the core elements that matter. It gives you the ability to focus more on the story, and less on the details.
Examples of Great Visual Storytelling for Marketers
Ultimately, great storytelling is something to be experienced, rather than described. Let’s look to some of the best examples of visual storytelling in the world of marketing and analyze the way these successful campaigns worked:
1. Guinness “Made of More” Campaign Highlights Female Rugby Heroes
In 2019, Guinness unveiled a cinematic spot detailing the trials and tribulations of Japan’s first all-female rugby team. With no coach, no doctor, and very little support, the team defied the conventions of 1989 Tokyo culture to represent the country at the Women’s World Cup.
This story captures the essence of Guinness’ “Made of More” campaign in a global way. The brand has positioned itself as a champion for people who act with extraordinary integrity and enrich the world around them.
The story itself isn’t about beer. It’s not even about Ireland. Instead, the story is a vehicle for an Irish beer company to broadcast its values to the world. It sees itself in the bold, enterprising young women who represented Japan in the 1989 Women’s World Cup, and wants you to see yourself in that story, too.
2. Barclaycard “Find Your Happy Place” Campaign Addresses Couples With Conflicting Tastes
UK-based online banking brand Barclaycard used a humorous campaign to showcase how its products help people address a common problem. In two intertwined videos, the brand shows two points of view on two different events – attended by the same couple.
The first video shows the couple at a wrestling event. The woman is clearly an intense wrestling fan. Her partner is less enthusiastic, but consoles himself with the fact that he saved on the admission price using Barclaycard. He lets his mind wander off to the large outdoor music festival he’d rather be at.
The second video shows the reverse situation. Now the man is having the time of his life at a music festival, while his partner is drifting away towards the wrestling ring – where she plays a leading role. Barclaycard is showing its customers that you don’t have to choose between two events for the sake of your spouse – with their help, you can have it all.
3. Square “For Every Kind of Dream” Chronicles American Entrepreneurship
In 2018, credit card processor Square released 12 short films showing real Square customers telling their stories. The company used these stories to showcase the value and resourcefulness of the American people – wherever they come from.
All of the stories center around the risks and challenges that its diverse cast has faced, with a special emphasis on the struggles of disadvantaged communities.
It tells the story of a former inmate who opens up a second hand retail shop to employ previously incarcerated women. It documents the story of a former Syrian refugee who moved to the United States in 2011.
The result is a bold, compelling vision of what Square stands for as a company. It’s a powerful and moving statement of American values, and how Square interprets those values. The company could easily have chosen to profile safer, less controversial local businesses – but it chose to directly address the issues it cares about most.
Start Using Digital Media to Tell Great Stories
Any of the stories mentioned above would make a great paperback novel. You could isolate the narrative from the marketing elements and be left with compelling characters, steep challenges, and inspiring outcomes. Product marketers who use visual storytelling earn the greatest results by holding their work up to the highest standards.
Start telling stories that define what your brand stands for. Use visual media to captivate audiences and show them what matters most to you. If you do this with sincerity and respect, you could earn lifelong loyalty from people who are more than just customers – they are a community.