Show and sell: The art of brand storytelling through content and influencers

Allison Roy is a senior digital marketing consultant at Capgemini, Digital Customer Experience Practice. She helps brands tell impactful stories through digital media and expand their reach through influencer marketing. Allison has provided strategic content marketing advice to B2C brands like Intermix, Havaianas, Victoria’s Secret, Wilton, Radio Flyer and more.

Today’s consumers have trust issues. Wise to the tactics of marketers, they’ve become immune to most forms of digital advertising. Instead they look to peers, influencers, and online reviews to help them make purchasing decisions — and who can blame them? We don’t hop online in search of the next great advertisement; we’re looking to solve problems, explore the world, and make meaningful connections.

How can brands keep up in a digital landscape where consumers constantly swerve the companies trying to reach them? How do they make meaningful connections in a world where thirty-seven percent of consumers feel more disconnected to companies now than they did two years ago?

The answer is simple: Tell a story. Every brand needs one.

There are two reasons why. One, the marketplace is more crowded than ever before. Companies can no longer get away with telling consumers, “We’re the best. Buy our products.” Consumers expect companies to show them why they’re the best.

Two, generating traffic is not the same as generating engagement. Increasing website visitors does not automatically translate into more sales. People are looking for a reason to buy from your brand, an experience that accompanies the purchasing process, and a lifestyle to buy into.

Your story is that reason.

However, this is easier said than done. Using brand storytelling to engage customers is a subtle art that requires careful planning and a nuanced understanding of your target audience.

Tip #1: Sell through show and tell

Successful brand storytelling relies on a compelling narrative to connect your brand to customers. It should also be used to show consumers that the brand’s values align with their own.  Brand storytelling is less about promotion and more about information. Swap a content strategy that focuses on product features for one that delivers real daily value to your audience, and you will earn their trust.

One brand that does this well is Wilton, the company that pioneered DIY cake decorating and cake baking for consumers.

Visit their website and you’ll discover that Wilton puts the home baker at the center of the entire brand story. The focus of the site isn’t Wilton or its products. It’s the do-it-yourself baker looking to “bake their world happy.”

Wilton’s main emphasis is on its easy-to-create recipes. The overall brand message is that baking can be easy, accessible and fun no matter your skill level. Naturally, they feature Wilton products that make each recipe easier to create—but every decorating tip on their blog, every recipe on their site, every how-to video, every social media post, delivers value first and offers product recommendations second (if at all).

Tip #2: Write for your readers

When crafting your brand story, one of your priorities should be to establish your brand as a thought leader within its industry vertical. Customers should think of your website as the destination for all topics that relate to what you sell. For Away, it’s travel. For Glossier, it’s beauty. And for Wilton, it’s baking. These brands publish helpful content earning them credibility, trust, and loyalty from their customers.

The quickest way to earn credibility and trust – and to be found in the search engines – is to publish content that speaks to the needs and goals of your readers. Wilton has done extensive market research to understand that they serve a few distinct customer groups. One of these groups is what you might call “busy parents,” the folks balancing a busy job and family life, all while cooking at home. Another customer is the “creative caretaker,” the parent motivated to host elaborately themed parties.

These distinct customer groups have unique needs, so Wilton creates tailored content that appeals to each one – such as the blog post on Easy BBQ Desserts for Summer Pool Parties for busy parents and the recipe for the Lovely Llama Cake for the creative caretakers. At the end of the day, the goal is to make your consumers say, “This brand gets me in a way others don’t.”

Tip #3: Customise for each platform

Wilton publishes its content on five main platforms – their blog, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Wilton discovered that they can’t generate engagement and sales simply by creating a recipe and pasting it into a blog post.

Instead, Wilton creates unique content that’s specific for each platform. The images they post on Pinterest, for example, are vertically oriented to capitalize on the layout and functionality of the picture-sharing site. They also optimize their pin titles and descriptions for the search terms that are relevant to Pinterest users, such as “4th of July desserts.”

On Instagram, Wilton makes heavy use of trending hashtags and seasonal recipes. They also post videos to their Instagram feed, since videos are the preferred type of content on this platform. Lastly, they collaborate with influencers who help them reach new home bakers.

Tip #4: Amplify your brand story through influencers

Brand storytelling needs a storyteller, and some of the most effective storytellers are influencers. The best ones already love your brand, and you can find them through social listening. Look for high-quality content creators who are already using your hashtags and talking about your products on social media.

Select influencers who have a sufficient number of followers (between 5,000 and 300,000), but pay greater attention to their engagement metrics. Look for influencers who have human followers, not bots, followers who like, share, and comment on their content. Count the likes and comments per post and divide by how many followers the influencer has. Anything above 1% is ideal.

Before you reach out, make sure the influencer shares your brand values and has a tone that complements yours. Lastly, ensure your influencers’ visual content matches the brand’s overall aesthetic.  If you wouldn’t want to repost the type of images they create to your brand’s Instagram, think twice about engaging that influencer.

Your story, your future

The key thing to remember about brand storytelling is that it should inspire an emotional reaction. It should be as engaging and memorable as your consumers’ favorite news and influencer content.

Most of all, your storytelling should be authentic. Show and tell more than you sell. Write with your readers’ interests in mind. Customize your content to each platform. And amplify your story through influencers. Ultimately — create what you would want to consume. Simple.

Interested in hearing leading global brands discuss subjects like this in person?

Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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