Stop Storytelling, Start Storydoing


Long gone are the days when running a really great marketing campaign involved, in sum, brilliant graphic arts and catchy verbiage. Indeed, it used to be that a carefully crafted execution of these two elements could allow marketing executives to sit back, and enjoy the ride. This is no longer the case.

Today’s consumers want engagement, and with the emergence of social media, the Internet is an open canvas. Brands that fail to make their mark pay the price in terms of lost engagement with potential customers, and trends show that effectively doing so is increasingly a kinesthetic process -- not a static one. This means that in order to form authentic, long-term engagement with users — the kind that drives referrals, publicity, and sales — your  brand strategy must make the shift from storytelling to storydoing.

First, Define Your Story

Whether it’s actively acknowledged or not, your company has a story, and denying your marketplace of the insight into that can mean all the difference to your bottomline. As such, we encourage our clients to invest in a strategy that not only divulges what makes their brand unique, but what humanizes them in the minds of human consumers.

Beyond engagement, though, the fact of the matter is that you’d be hard pressed to find an industry that wasn’t inundating its consumers with storytelling messages, leaving the buyer to sort through the clutter of verbiage for him or herself. Sports brands tell tales of how their products help you find your inner greatness. Cosmetics brands speak of evoking the most beautiful you. Luxury good brands boast of quality and fine craftsmanship. 

In the especially gridlocked categories, the only way to truly bypass the noise is to transcend storytelling altogether, and opt for storydoing. In essence, the art of storytelling has become a more visceral, collaborative practice, and it’s up to you to build out a narrative that encompasses not only your objectives as a company, but the habits, behaviors, and social priorities of your market. 

Second, Bring That Story to Life

Building out the action around your brand — from telling to doing — allows for a shared human experience to be formed with your product at its epicenter. Collective experiences are the foundation of a strong interpersonal relationship, so it makes good sense that it would also be the best way to build a bond with a consumer too, which speaks to the core of human learning patterns. A hands on approach is nearly always preferable, and this extends to all corners of human life.

“The old way to market a business was storytelling. But in today's world, simply communicating your story in the hope that customers will listen is no longer enough. Instead, your story must be expressed through every action your organization takes. Today's most successful businesses are storydoers.”

— Ty Montague

And, in fact, these compelling moments of doing are robust opportunities for engagement not just with immediate audiences, but with consumers far and wide. Thanks to social media, these instances of storydoing are all the more potent as users’ experiences with your brand are projected onto observers at all ends of the earth through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. 

Nike’s “Run the World” events, Shell’s Eco-marathons, and Coke’s Happiness Tour are all prime examples of how brands can transition their campaigning from a story being handed down to a tangible engagement with their respective consumers. From these interactions, Nike, Shell, and Coke are able to actually be a living, breathing part of their customers’ lives like never before. What’s more, because events like Nike’s and Shell’s involve an element of achievement — athletes often train for many months to partake in said events — the brands’ potential for assimilation into peoples’ lives is even more enhanced.

Most importantly, your company mustn't boast the marketing budgets of a Nike or a Coke in order to make storydoing an excellent avenue through which your strategic and creative campaigns are run. One method through which this can be achieved is by expanding your scope beyond the consumer. By striving to make a truly palpable difference in the world at large, you temper your brand in a way that intertwines elements of human emotion and solidarity. If there’s a cause your company supports, evolve your giving practices so that there is room for your market to give along with you. Buy one, give one programs such as those currently run by TOMS or Warby Parker are popular ways that companies marry charity with consumer activity, and both have proven that a sense of global responsibility speaks volumes in the minds of increasingly conscious consumers.

Finally, Let it Grow

Our key takeaway can be reduced to three words — experience trumps instruction — and this can be rightly applied to nearly any walk of life. Take musician Ed Sheeran who spent years playing small gigs at any venue that would host him before finally making it big, and compare his story of cold, hard do-ing to that of a contestant on American Idol who is simply told they’re a star. Ed Sheeran and other entrepreneurs, artists, and visionaries who’ve risen to prominence after paying their dues can all attest to one thing: building a successful enterprise is a marathon, not a track meet. Ultimately, in order to build that long-term connection with your consumers, you must be in it for the long haul. We promise you, though, that if you stay true to your branding mission, you’ll reap what you sow in terms of engagement and loyalty from consumers for generations to come.

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