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content in 2016

The Key to Memorable Content in 2016: How to Tell Your Best Story

“What do you mean?” he said. “Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?”

J.R.R.Tolkien, The Hobbit, Gandalf speaking

content in 2016

What is “timeless” in our mind, as humans? What stays unforgotten, down through history?

The Bible. J.R.R.Tolkien. C.S. Lewis. Leo Tolstoy. William Shakespeare. Emily Bronte.

These are familiar names that are correlated with stories. Some of the greatest stories, of all time, ever written. And you know what? Nearly 90% of us (I bet those of you reading this post) know those names.

That’s pretty incredible – they’ve stuck that well through years and years of history.

Let’s turn from the world of unforgettable authored storytelling and look at a few marketing stories. Some aren’t boring, luckily.

If you were to sit down right now and turn on the television, what would you see?

Far too many commercials. And all these commercials have one thing in common: a story.

Regardless of whether they’re advertising a drug or a new car, commercials are one of the most easily identifiable instances of storytelling in marketing today.

The best commercial is the best-told, most-shared story.

Take, for example, the Budweiser Super Bowl commercial of 2015:

At first glance, you wouldn’t think that a Clydesdale and a yellow Labrador puppy have much of anything to do with beer, but this commercial did storytelling so well that it went viral with emotional connections (some shed tears).

So what is it about these brands and, more specifically, how are they getting their consumers to relate, love and appreciate their story—and immediately gain that connection?

All with the use of a great story?

And will this grow a lot in 2016?

Let’s find out.

Storytelling & Content in 2016: Why The Brain Loves Stories

It goes without saying that storytelling in marketing wouldn’t be nearly as effective as it is if our brains weren’t ravenous for stories. It’s been estimated that we spend roughly 1/3 of our lives daydreaming, which means we’re constantly searching for an entertaining tale. What’s more, we consume upwards of 100,000 digital words on a daily basis, mostly in the form of advertisements and web copy, and the majority of us (about 92%) want to be able to internalize those words as a story.

For an example of this, consider Budweiser again. What sounds more appealing to you, personally: a list of ingredients including water, barley malt, rice, and yeast or a “best friends” tale of a little dog and a big horse who found friendship on the Budweiser farm?

The answer is obvious.

Budweiser opted for story over facts because the human brain loves stories much more than it loves lists of boring details. In fact, it’s been proven that storytelling in advertising actually activates interactive portions of the brain. For example, if a person reads a list of facts, only the language center of the brain is activated. If a person hears a story, though, the language portion of the brain lights up alongside other portions of the brain that are connected to personal experience.

In other words, experiencing a story makes us feel a personal connection. This is why storytelling in advertising is so incredibly effective: when a brand can tell a story that triggers an emotional connection in the consumer (like Budweiser did when I cried at their advertisement), that story has a higher likelihood of being remembered. This is due in large part to the fact that the brain releases dopamine during intense storytelling experiences, and this, in turn, leads to sales and conversions down the road.

Storytelling also engages the phenomena of “mirroring” in the human brain, which means that people listening to a really great story will share emotions with other viewers, but also with the person telling the story. To put this another way: if you can tell a story that fully underlines how life-changing, unique, important, and special your product, good, or service is, consumers are likely to agree with you.

5 Tips for Finding The Pot of Gold (Your Story) With Content In 2016

If you’re unfamiliar with brand storytelling or you’re simply interested in getting better at it, there are five key things that you can do to outshine your competitors and ensure that your stories are ones that customers want to engage with. These will hold strong in 2016:

1) Get real

Would the Budweiser ad have been as moving if it featured, say, an intergalactic alien duo? Probably not. The reason for this is that regardless of where you are at this exact moment in your life, you can probably relate to the cuteness of a puppy, the bond between friends, and the love of pets better than you can relate to life in outer space.

In other words, the Budweiser ad works because it is authentic.

Over the past several years, authenticity in content marketing has risen to near-epic levels of importance. This is at least partially due to the fact that there are more than 80 million millennials living in the U.S. today and 43% of them rank authenticity as more important than content in everything from news to blogs. With that in mind, it’s clear that the hokey advertising blasts of the 1950s-60s are dead and that a new wave of advertising has entered the picture. Not only does this advertising have to tell a story, but it has to be an authentic story.

For an example aside from the Budweiser ad, consider Rand Fishkin. Founder of Moz and SEO guru extraordinaire, Fishkin has built an Internet empire and is widely regarded as one of the key influencers in the industry. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact, Fishkin almost went bankrupt in the early years of his career and he talks about it openly in a 2011 blog post titled “Just Keep Going.” Now, why would a successful guy like Rand espouse on his near-catastrophic early failures? Because it happened, it is authentic, and it helps people connect with his brand in a real and personal way. When it comes to storytelling, it doesn’t get much better than that.

2) Let your personality shine

There are innumerable companies online trying to sell products, so what’s going to set you apart? It’s likely that the product you sell is also sold, in some form or another, by roughly 742,561 competitors and, in light of that, there’s virtually nothing more important than letting your personality inform your storytelling. Consider Dollar Shave Club for a moment, who is maybe one of the best examples of a company that’s done this exceedingly well.

Dollar Shave Club sells razors, which is nothing new. But the way they’ve gone about it is. In the beginning of the brand’s career, the brand raised $75 million to fend off big name competitors like Gillette. Since the 2012 launch of the company’s now-viral promotional video, starring founder and CEO Michael Dubin, the company has grown to account for 13.3 percent of all razor sales in the U.S., with a subscriber base of more than 2 million customers. Part of that success is certainly due to a great product, but a healthy portion of it is due to creative storytelling that brands the company as unique, quirky, and fresh.

3) Create characters your audience loves

In the days of old, people used to wait months to read serialized versions of novels, all because there was a character in the story that they related to on a personal level. It’s a very powerful thing for a brand to create characters their audience wants to connect with and doing this ensures not only that the brand will be remembered by consumers, but it will also be recommended by consumers.

Consider Progressive Insurance, for example, who has created Flo. Flo is portrayed by Stephanie Courtney. The character has her own Twitter and Facebook profiles and has appeared in upwards of 100 of the company’s commercials.

Flo Twitter Screenshot

While insurance companies may all blend together for consumers, it’s likely that even if people don’t remember Progressive’s name, they’re going to remember the company’s advertisements and, thanks to Flo’s quirky, relatable nature, they’re going to choose Progressive over a company with a less effective advertising persona.

To follow in Progressive’s footsteps, create characters that your target persona will relate to and root for. This enhances consumer bonds to your product and ensures that you’ll outshine your competition in 2016.

4) Give it structure

We all learned in middle school that every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This holds just as true for brand stories as it does for novels. In the beginning of a story, you should immediately establish the setting and characters. The middle should focus on the conflict that is central to the story. The end should offer a resolution. For a fantastic example of this, consider Amazon’s recent commercial advertising its “Prime” subscriber service.

The beginning of the commercial opens with the main characters (Jessie and his dog Flash). The middle of the commercial establishes the fact that Flash is in a cast and that he can’t romp with the other dogs and, frankly, that he feels a little embarrassed about his current state. The end of the commercial provides resolution when Jessie heads to Amazon Prime and orders a baby-wearing device (with free two-day shipping, of course) to tote Flash around in. The story is wrapped up in a neat little bow, the consumer is happy, and the value of Amazon Prime has been established through the structure of the advertisement.

5) Pace yourself

In storytelling as in life, it’s important to pace yourself and not give everything away at once. An effective storytelling campaign, much like an effective novel, is very careful to build and maintain a sense of tension. This keeps audiences wanting more and ensures that they’ll keep coming back to find out what happens next.

When a brand paces its storytelling effectively, it creates an environment in which the consumer is virtually embedded in the brand experiences. For a recent and timely example, consider the Christmas ads that Target has been running on television lately. The commercials are organized into Chapters (a nod to the novel) and tell the story of several children (all dressed in Target clothing) and Bullseye, the trademark Target dog, who go on an epic quest to light a huge Christmas tree for the enjoyment of the people.

 

Like the Advent calendars of yesteryear, this storytelling method provides excitement, fun, and anticipation for the consumer. After a consumer has viewed the commercial, he or she is directed to a special portion of Target’s website where the consumer can interact with a virtual storybook and access curated gift lists for kids of all ages.

 

Target Screenshot

 

In addition to promoting Target’s various products, this form of storytelling also borrows a bit from the epic adventure stories we all know and love. In this way, it makes audiences feel involved, excited, and linked to Target’s brand, while also helping people get into the Christmas spirit.

Find Your Story: Tell It

 From novels and movies to commercials and beyond, stories have always been deeply ingrained in the human experience and, when they’re good, they’ve always been one of our favorite ways to feel connection to other people.

Marketing has changed by leaps and bounds throughout the last several years and, today, the marketer who is the most likely to be successful is the one who can best establish an emotional connection with clients. One of the most sure-fire ways to do this is and has always been through brand storytelling.

While storytelling has existed as a marketing tactic for decades, storytelling in 2016 promises to be more colorful, more personal, more intriguing, and more exciting than ever. As customers move toward favoring brands that are authentic, innovative, reliable, and unique, marketers can stay ahead of the curve by following these tips on storytelling and ensuring that every piece of content your brand puts out engages your customers through effective, irresistible storytelling.

storytelling

In A Galaxy Far, Far Away: Blending Storytelling In Web Content

What do you and Tolkien have in common?

While it might be tempting to answer, “nothing,” I’d encourage you to look a little deeper.

Sure, Tolkien invented magical lands and languages and creatures few of us could concoct in our wildest dreams, but there’s still a similarity. That similarity links you and me, and all of us who work in the written word, to Tolkien, Rowling, Nabokov, and Chekov. What is it?

The similarity is a love of stories and a fondness for telling them.

Today, too many people sell “marketing” or “commercial” writing off as a pursuit devoid of creativity. They see it as nothing more than some empty pitches and a hard-sell. Lucky for them, and for us, those people are wrong.

As someone who has spent all my life creating and consuming stories, I can tell you that storytelling is central to great brand writing and that only companies who nail it right off the bat succeed with their customers down the road.

Today, we’re going to talk about storytelling: what it is, why it matters, and how you can blend it into your web content. Read on.

storytelling in web content

What is Storytelling?

No matter who you are, where you came from, or what you studied in school, you’ve probably had the experience of hearing a story that knocked your socks off.

Think about that story for a moment.

How about the opening lines of Star Wars (one of my all-time favorite cinema classics)?

star wars

Maybe you were enamored by the opening lines of Kafka’s Metamorphosis:

“When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.”

Or Nabokov’s Lolita:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee.Ta.”

Maybe it was the opening line of The Hobbit that made you sit up straight in your chair, suck in your breath, and clutch the book a little tighter at the sheer joy of the story to come:

“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

While each of these stories came from a different part of the world, different culture, and a different time, each has one thing in common: they grab you, and they won’t let go.

This is storytelling, in all its richness and beauty.

Why Stories Matter

Storytelling in copywriting is the perfect way to engage readers and claim their attention. To understand how to tell great stories, though, it’s essential first to figure out why they matter so much.

Stories are integral to human society. Stories are and have always been, a part of life. Since the excellent way ancient beings painted petroglyphs on the walls of caves, to the day when Rowling sat down to write the first few lines of her Harry Potter series, not much has changed. Stories are meant to entertain and delight, to help people pass the time and uncover deeper meaning in life.

Today, the methods by which people tell stories has changed, but the importance they hold in society hasn’t. As such, marketers who understand how important telling stories is can succeed capturing something rare and extraordinary that allows them to reach the next level of connection and emotion with their readers.

The Connection Between Copywriting and Storytelling

You don’t think copywriting and storytelling go hand in hand? It might be time to think again.

What do you think you’re doing when you write up that long product description or your latest press release? Sure, you’re providing customers with the facts, but you’re also telling a story. It might not be something from the Brothers Grimm, but it’s a story nonetheless. And this story helps delight your readers and assist them to make a connection with the product, good, or service you’re writing about.

When you tell the story the right way, you have the potential to make a new connection with your readers and help them remember you the way you want them to remember you. This is a rare opportunity afforded to only the best and bravest marketers.

How To Incorporate Storytelling In Your Web Content: 5 Epic Tips

Even if you fancy yourself more an inbound expert than a mythologist, it’s still possible to create unforgettable stories. Here are five epic rules for incorporating storytelling into your online content, starting now:

1. Keep it Relevant and Interesting

A great story teller knows who is going to read it, and tailors its voice accordingly. The same needs to go for your online writing. Relevant stories perform better with their audiences, and help perpetuate that feeling of enchantment and mystery.

Luckily for you, staying relevant doesn’t have to mean getting boring. To keep your story relevant and exciting, find ways to tie it back to your target audience consistently. As you write, ask yourself if they would appreciate, connect to, or identify with the topic of your story. If so, keep going. If not, reevaluate. The more relevant you can keep your tale, the better it will perform with your readers.

2. Do the Opposite of What GRRM Did

George R. R. Martin is known for his lengthy descriptions of banquets and the gigantic nature of his A Song of Ice and Fire novels. He is also known for taking eons to publish his books. They are amazing, there’s no doubt about it.

But if there’s one thing online creators should learn from George, it’s what not to do – and here’s why.

If you want to succeed at storytelling online, do the opposite of what George did. Instead of going into painstaking detail so extensive you lose the online reader, who has 8 seconds to keep their attention on one topic, take a large-picture approach and ensure that what you’re writing is useful and exciting, first and foremost.

Don’t write extremely long stories and don’t take forever publishing your content. While there’s some evidence to suggest that long-form content performs better online than short-form content, this isn’t a good reason to string your content along just because you can.

Remember: there’s a difference between long-form and overstuffed. Today’s successful online content needs to be more than just long: it also needs to be helpful and exciting. With this in mind, avoid cramming your content full of junk just to extend its word count or make it seem more extensive.

3. Read, Read, Read, Then Write

As Stephen King says, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.” Reading is paramount for crafting great stories. You will not be able to come up with something witty and intriguing if all you do is look at Facebook every day.

Note that when I say read, I mean things both inside and outside of copywriting. While it’s smart to read your industry papers, publications, and journals, you should also venture outside your industry into the great novels, stories, and poetry of the world. While it might seem like there’s nothing to be learned here, these storytellers can give you a master class in how to construct and deliver appealing content to the masses.

To put this another way, when you read things that will inspire your writing, you give yourself the competitive edge in a very competitive industry. Try checking out Orson Scott Card’s Ender series or Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.

If science fiction and fantasy aren’t your jam, try Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Lemony Snicket, Fyodor Dostoevsky, or Charles Bukowski. No matter who or what you love to read, reading more and writing more will both help you flex and build your storytelling muscles, and enjoy more compelling stories in no time.

Remember: you don’t have to tie yourself into a particular genre or brand, either: just find an author you love to read and go with it. It doesn’t matter if you’re hooked on presidential biographies or fantasy novels, just as long as you’re reading.

4. Treat Your Brand Like an Epic Tale

Think about fairy tales for a moment: they’re some of the most archetypal stories out there.

snow white story

Each of them has a few things in common: a separation, initiation, and return, and a series of characters that typically includes some assortment of a wise old sage, a young hero, an animal assistant, and a villain. While stories like The Little Mermaid and Bluebeard may seem very different, they share some key ingredients that make them work.

If you want to incorporate storytelling into your web content, one of the first things you’ll need to learn to do is to take a hint from these epics: treat your brand as a story for the ages, and it will become one.

When you look at it this way, your brand launch wasn’t just a launch: it was a great quest for a distant goal. Your founders aren’t just founders, they’re adventurers paving new roads. The problem you’re seeking to solve isn’t just an annoyance: it’s a foundational villain you’re out to destroy.

The more you can incorporate the storytelling structure into your content, the more successful you’ll be both in the long- and short-term.

While this doesn’t mean you need to use fantastical language or create fantastical demons to star in your product descriptions, it does mean that incorporating the structure of storytelling into your daily life can help you master the art of online copy.

5. Craft a Narrative Arc

For the stories in your online copy to be as compelling as possible, they need to follow a narrative arc that takes them from the introduction to the conflict to resolution. Not only does this keep the reader interested: it also serves to structure your story and makes it more recognizable as a story than as marketing copy.

Keep the narrative arc in mind as you write your stories, since this will provide the foundation and roadmap they need to become truly unforgettable.

If you’re having a difficult time finding the narrative arc in your story, consider having someone else read it for you. The second set of eyes will be helpful to identify storytelling structure and help you improve it accordingly.

Happy Storytelling to You!

You’ve read the tips for interweaving stories with your web content, and now it’s time to get to work integrating the age-old practice of storytelling into your daily writing and life.

Need an example of a brand that does storytelling well?

Look no further than Starbucks!

siren

starbucks

The coffee chain released a story about their siren logo and how it came to be within their brand. Are you surprised they pulled it from literature? Or that people loved its inception story so much?

Telling a story about your brand and how it came to be is a great way to garner more interest in your company, as well as establish a personal connection with customers. When you master it accordingly, your readers and your brand both stand to benefit far beyond your wildest dreams.

What’s more, telling a story is one of the only ways to hone your writing, improve your brand, and make your products, goods, and services unforgettable to your customers.

Need expert writers to help you craft high-quality stories starting today? Visit our Content Shop today to get started.

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