Advertising sure has changed a lot. From static one-way mass media advertising to the digital two way world. The rise of social media influencers and trend that is seeing them being replaced by what are now called mediaprenuers a lot has changed. But as the saying goes, the more things change the more they stay the same. One key to marketing campaigns that has remained important through all these changes is the art of storytelling.
Storytelling is premised on a simple principle; talk more about what you do than you who you are. There’s some sound logic behind this. Firstly Clayton Christensen’s Jobs theory states that people don’t buy products but rather solutions to problems; they buy the job your product or company does. Secondly, people tend to believe what you do over what you say, so showing that you satisfy customers is of greater value than telling people that you satisfy customers. Finally, it does get a little awkward to continually watch someone talk about themselves with little evidence to show for it, the same goes for your company.
Showing rather than telling
Using marketing messages that tell the stories of how clients, whether individuals or businesses have been impacted by working with you, is the basis of the idea. Ultimately prospects looking at your marketing messages are considering working with you and giving them a preview of the process makes the sale easier for you. Storytelling isn’t exclusively about marketing messages. It could be details of your origins, your process, your experiences, your partners, your visions or simple musings.
The democratization of media via the internet has also brought about a new desire in people to have content that relates to them. Growing up we didn’t have much content on both radio and tv that was both Zimbabwean and youth-oriented. It was truly one or the other. Now you have multiple platforms such as this one discussing a host of topics in a relatable Zimbabwean context. And that’s what storytelling is all about; relating.
The idea of the evil corporation has become entrenched in people. In Zimbabwe, it is the narrative of evil profiteering business persons.
There are likely many examples of good storytelling in Zimbabwean businesses, I’m just going to point out two I’m aware of. Firstly Fresh in a box does a daily post on its social media accounts telling stories of where the vegetables in the box customers receive on that day have come from. Some of these stories are truly inspiring and one time I even saw a person I went to crèche with.
Moto Republik also has posts telling stories behind some of the people using the coworking space and facilities there. The stories tell of the benefits of working at Moto Republik and show that spaces such as these contain people just like us. In a country that has a history steeped in segregation by race and/or financial factors, messages like this have a greater effect than meets the eye.
Ultimately storytelling benefits your bottom line, of course. But the benefits go far beyond that. What are brands if not the condensation of stories into symbols? Price and quality are very important considerations to customers, especially in Zimbabwe but in the age of social and interactive media advertising customers can be swayed by more information. People the world over have shown disdain for the profiteering business and identifying your business as one of the citizens of the place you operate goes a long way.
A few tips
A few tips to help with your storytelling efforts. Starting is always the hardest part so here are a few ideas to get you started;
The 3 Ps
Focus your storytelling on the three Ps being people, processes, product. The people you have worked with or helped and their stories as well as the people who make up your team. The processes involved in creating, realizing and actualising your idea. The product journey, whether it’s how and why your goods were made or how you arrived at your service idea.
Not always about selling
It’s not always going to be about selling your products. Consider storytelling as a way to create an understanding of your purpose. While it may add to the bottom line it’s not always the goal.
Telling your story is not a one-way thing. Done correctly it is an opportunity for two way communication and it can gain you a deeper understanding of your client base and their stories.
Storytelling is not a one-time thing, it’s a matter of strategy and a continuous effort. So think long term with it and harness the power of your story and those stories around you.