This second installment of my new series about marketing in the digital age focuses on messaging. In upcoming posts, I will explore social media, content, big data and future media, including virtual reality.
One of the biggest marketing challenges in the digital age is figuring out which medium to use and how to use it.
Before companies can delve into that complicated world, most experts agree, they must develop a consistent and compelling message, far different from traditional, promotion-based marketing and advertising that’s all about touting your brand and bragging about your awards.
Successful marketing today – and into the future – will revolve around telling a story, one that connects with people and draws them in. It’s called “engagement,” to borrow a term from social media.
“Whether it’s sharing a mission, selling shoes or inspiring a commitment to performance, storytelling is a powerful tool that can mean the difference between extraordinary status and being just another brand,” said Al Lautenslager, a widely known marketing consultant and speaker. His comment highlighted an article he wrote on the subject for Entrepreneur magazine.
One of the leading experts on storytelling is Robert McKee, a best-selling author, screenwriter and founder of Storynomics seminars, a firm that instructs senior executives and marketing professionals how to apply storytelling to their businesses to drive revenue, margins and brand loyalty.
In an interview posted on his website, McKee says using rhetoric or a list of facts is the quickest way to turn off an audience. Instead, putting information into the form of a story “is the most effective way to lead people to do what you want them to do.”
Tom Gerace, founder and CEO ofSkyword, a leading content-marketing technology and services company that recently announced a partnership with McKee, notes that marketers cannot just tell a story “about why you are great.” Instead, stories should “connect with audiences on an emotional level and move them to act.”
Writing for Skyword’s website, Taylor Mallory Holland, a freelance writer and content marketer, says emotional storytelling can be just as powerful for brand marketing as it is for budding romances and new friendships:
“By telling your brand’s stories – not just hitting people over the head with marketing messages – you engage your audience, build relationships with them and earn their loyalty. You’re not telling them what to think or buy; your stories show them that you share the same values, that you believe what they believe or simply that you ‘get’ them.”
Five key messages, Holland says, are:
- We get you
- We know what you’re going through
- We see who you want to be
- What matters to you matters to us, and
- We can make your life easier.
She points to campaigns like Dove soap’s long-running “Real Beauty” campaign, which, rather than telling women how to look better, says, “You already look great.”
Another example, she says, is the “Doing Good” social campaign by Coca-Cola’s Minute Maid brand, which engages with self-doubting parents, telling them, “You’re doing better than you think.”
The Minute Maid message is “heartwarming and meaningful and has little to nothing to do with orange juice,” she said. “But by sharing customer stories, Minute Maid says, ‘We can empathize with you, and we’ve got your back.’”
Chris Warren, CMO of Fox Powers, a San Diego-based marketing and advertising firm, offers one more piece of advice: “Your story should be original. How you choose to market it doesn’t have to be.”