Storytelling is the oldest and most effective method humans have to pass along knowledge. It’s how we’ve developed cultural values and passed history from generation to generation. We are wired to remember it.
This is why learning how to tell your story is just as important as what it is you have to say. If your delivery is boring, cluttered, or disorganized people start to lose interest. Think of it as a dinner party. The people who take control of the conversation and demand the most attention are those who are the best at telling stories. They may not have the best stories at the table, but their ability to make what they’re saying interesting and entertaining is what wins over the crowd.
While there are endless outlets for your brand to tell it’s story, only one format has brought back the classic type of storytelling. Oral storytelling is an intimate and traditional relationship between the storyteller and audience. It’s been around for as long as we’ve used language to communicate. Although it is unlikely you will be speaking to your audience in close quarters, huddled tightly, it still offers an important lesson. The best way to experience the oral tradition of storytelling without interrupting your daily life is by listening to podcasts.
Podcasts have been around for a good while now, but as of recently there have emerged clear victors when it comes to storytelling. They offer lessons in effectively finding your voice, style, and feel to best reach your audience. They’re also great ways to spend long roadtrips or long days at the good ol’ 9-5. Here are some great podcasts to get you started:
Serial: If you managed to make it the past 6 months without hearing about Serial, then I’m genuinely impressed. After its release last October, Serial set a new presidence of what radio-journalism could be. It follows a reporter’s investigation of a murder from 1999. Without giving too much away, it’s a gripping series that reached the top of the charts.
Longform: A Q&A format podcast that focuses on the creative process of writers and journalists. It’s an in-depth and intimate look at a professional storyteller’s processes–both grounding and relieving (hint: everyone struggles sometimes). That being said, it’s always inspiring to hear people in love with their craft and career.
Radiolab: Taking a complex and philosophical subject matter and creating an interesting and understandable radio show is no easy task, but Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich do just that. Their series of podcasts use storytelling to explain or examine broad and sweeping subjects, such as time. Another great part of the show is the production value, which adds to their stories without being distracting.
The Truth: You can’t handle the truth! The Truth is an entertaining Fiction podcast utilizing the tagline “Movie for your ears.” Between improvised dialogue, interesting production, and captivating story lines, The Truth is definitely worth a listen. Also, I don’t apologize for the A Few Good Men reference. Worth it.
99% Invisible: One of my favorites, 99% Invisible hosted by Roman Mars focuses on art, design and architecture. Each episode examines a specific example of design, dicussing it in depth with professionals, experts, or those directly influenced by the matter at hand.
While this is just a short list, there are tons of great podcasts. Each has it’s own story, and they all tell it in an incredibly unique way. It might come in handy when telling your own story someday.
Whether you are establishing a new brand or taking a closer look at an existing brand, one key aspect to take into account is your audience. Furthermore, are you attracting the audience you want? Successful brands are able to identify and align with their audience in a way that is both natural and genuine.
The ability to identify your ideal audience allows you to establish a connection between your brand and your consumers. Having a clear understanding of the type of consumer you want gives you an advantage when it comes to the rest of your marketing efforts. Even if you’re a small business and don’t want to exclude a potential customer, identifying your target audience is crucial to branding.
Values: The values of your company should be apparent in your brand. Are you a company who values tradition and quality? Or do you value innovation and contemporary style? These types of questions should be able to be conveyed simply through your branding. That’s why luxury brands don’t waste resources by trying to reach out to every consumer. That’s also why their branding reflects the exclusive lifestyle they want to attract. They focus on being selective, high quality, and not available to the everyday consumer. By doing this they set themselves apart and attract the type of customer they want.
Social Media Engagement: What kind of audience does your brand attract on social media? Is it a younger crowd who enjoys entertaining and humorous content or is it an older crowd looking for engaging and informative content. Does it mirror the type of people you hope to attract as customers, or are you missing the mark? Social media is a great way for companies to see where they stand when it comes to branding. It gives both the consumer and the company an opportunity to give direct feedback to one another.
Be Original: It’s easy when developing a brand to look at what is working for other companies. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing to do for inspiration and ideas, it is a bad thing to do when you try and mimic another brand. To stand out from the crowd and attract the attention of people, you have to find your own image. Even though two car companies are fighting for the same customers, they tend to go about it from a different angle. They have their own story to tell, and that story is unique to them. Find your unique story and use it to build a brand that is all your own.
Don’t Over-do It: Trying too hard to appeal to your audience can come off as just that, forced. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, and don’t be something you’re not. Find the middle ground that keeps true to your company, but is also attractive to the audience you hope to gain. This middle ground will be the best opportunity for success.
Lastly, think about the long haul. Build a brand that can be adapted over time while staying relevant to your target audience. Building a brand for the now is setting it up for a complete overhaul. Keeping the long-term in mind will help you build a brand that can stand up to the test of time. You will always need to adapt because your audience won’t stay the same forever, but adapting is easier than changing.
Photo Credit: Roger Reuver
Over $46,ooo and counting for potato salad on Kickstarter. For potato salad.
Zack (Danger?) Brown decided to make some potato salad and enlisted the help of Kickstarter to raise funds. Whether it was the sheer curiosity of where it could go, or the entertaining description and goals set by Zack, or that hungry people really just wanted some potato salad, word of the Kickstarter project spread. Fast.
Of course it’s not just potato salad that has this effect on the internet and all too often, a highly popular event online sparks a number of copycats. So it brought up the debate with our team, is there a formula for viral content?
In my opinion, there is a formula for going viral. That formula is:
1. Be genuine.
2. Be in the right place at the right time.
3. Don’t TRY to go viral. Just hope.
With point number three lies the problem. How can you get something to go viral without trying? The answer is, you really shouldn’t even try. If we are talking marketing for a company, you time is much better spent doing the tried and true processes that have been proven to work.
I distinctly remember at one point last year sitting in a local coffee shop waiting for a client to arrive, enjoying my coffee, checking emails, when a group of folks came in and sat at the 4-top table near me. They ranged in age from early 20s to late 40s by my estimate. They sat down with their drinks in buzzing conversation, full of energy. They’re conversation bubbled over about a video sweeping the internet. I soon realized the group was made up of marketing professionals from a local bank and what they were discussing was how they could make they’re own Harlem Shakes video so they could go viral.
If there ever was a formula for creating viral content “me too marketing” was never part of it and never will be. All one can hope to do is start with a compelling message/product/story/introduction and then think through the best method for delivery that matches the purpose of the brand.
There’s no true equation as to what will make content go viral. I think if you look at some of the most notable things that have gone viral though, there’s an emotional element whether it be something genuine, laughable, memory invoking or just plain unexpected.
Many viral creations are like a splash in the pan though. They’re hot for a minute and then gone. And does it really help you achieve your goal? One of the viral campaigns that comes to mind is the Devil Baby’s Attack promoting the movie Devil’s Due. Promoters used a possessed animatronic baby to scare passersby on city streets. The video spread like wildfire online, but in the end, the goal was to generate interest in a movie, and unfortunately, the ticket sales weren’t there.
If you are successful with having your content go viral, the big question is what next? If you can manage to tell a story with your content then there’s a repeatable factor that can be recreated if done right and not worn out. I think of some of the successful campaigns like Old Spice and Dove who started with one campaign idea but then realized if they could capture those same elements but in a different context, then they had a winning formula.
One of my favorite examples of a piece of content gone viral is Warby Parker’s Annual Report. Why would an annual report ever go viral? Because they made a story of 365 days of the company culture and events in a visually engaging way. It’s been such a great tool that they’ve continued to invest in its development annually.
Lebron just announced about 3.5 seconds ago that he will be “coming home” to Cleveland, and the news has already gone viral around the world. I don’t believe there is a formula for anything to go viral, but we are humans, we are constantly starved for entertainment and information. Quite frankly, we can never get enough of it.
At this point, we have all seen just about anything and everything go viral and such content is helped by trending features on Twitter and Facebook that provide this information daily. There are no answers to why a hamster eating a piece of pizza goes viral, and there never will be. All we can do is sit back and enjoy it.
Photo Credit: zhouxuan12345678
In earlier posts, we’ve referred to storytelling as a key component of marketing, regardless of the distribution medium. Most companies know they have a story of some kind but it’s not always easy to tell it in clear concise terms.
We recently discovered this for ourselves in redoing our company About page. In asking everyone to write a short bio for the new page the general response was as if we have asked people to eat a bowl of boiled okra, and for those of you wondering, that’s not a good thing. To a person, everyone said they hated writing about themselves and didn’t know what to say, so we changed it up. We wrote everyone’s name on strips of paper and took turns drawing them out of a hat. So the net effect is that everyone got to tell someone else’s story. And you know what, it turned out pretty well. The profiles really captured the essence of each person and there was peace in the read more