Storytelling and storydoing are the new “it” words in marketing, advertising and pr. No longer are we focused on, catchy phrases and attention-grabbing headlines. From tech to tofu, we want more than just concepts, we want to bond over our products and the people who create and sell them. But think carefully about positioning, because with storytelling’s new marketing sibling, “storydoing,” we are being asked to live the brand we create.
With storytelling, it would seem you couldn’t dream up a better scenario for writers and artists, and it’s true, we have great stories to tell and the skill to drive them home. But, as Colin Robinson, co-founder of OR Books, pointed out somewhat kiddingly, I think, in an article for The Guardian, “if writers today are ubiquitous, readers seem an increasingly endangered species.” Robinson was alluding to book authors, but the point is the same. We have tons of content, what we need is to have an audience that cares to read it.
With marketing, that means cultivating the right audience and finding ways to get your story heard. To brand in a meaningful way, you must identify the connecting strands that run through your work, your own story, and how you want to be known in the marketplace and give your audience good reason to identify with you.
What works? Take a page from what corporations do for their brands. Look at your body of work as though you were the head of a company – what would your mission statement be?
Doing this brings your target audience into focus and informs the role you intend to play. It also provides the underpinning of your marketing communications strategy and the tone of your messaging. A corporation would then go deeper and look at what content, information, and experiences it could provide that would be consistent with the brand and voice of the company and appealing to its audience in an ongoing way.
Content can be practical – giving tips on what you know, and what consumers want to know; personal – providing an opportunity for them to get to know you better – and for you to know them; experiential – offering ways for them to connect directly with you, which could be via events, contests, or other activities; educational – video works great for that, or humorous.
Humor’s worked perfectly for Amsterdam’s Hans Brinker Budget Hotel, which figured if they couldn’t be at the top of the city’s list of hotels, they’d stake a claim for being best at the bottom with the slogan, “It Can’t Get Any Worse”. Their website proudly offers a list of amenities the hotel doesn’t offer: No Tennis, No Room Service, No Bellhop, etc. But that messaging’s proved perfect for attracting their audience of students, backpackers and others who, instead of seeing any of this as a negative, pride themselves on surviving a stay at the world’s worst hotel — and they brag about it to others.
Storydoing is about exemplifying what a company stands for and connecting over that with customers. The outdoor clothing company, Patagonia, does that by producing environmental content campaigns and materials that focus on issues of concern to the outdoor enthusiasts who buy from them. But they go beyond what other companies do by taking a long view of the commitment to the topic they and their consumers care about, and they believe this will be to long-term success.