Tell Me A Story About Your Startup

After two days at the Unbound Festival filled with unlimited panel sessions, networking events and innovative startups looking to meet their next big client, one thing is clear; marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.

Ok so that’s a direct quote from one of greats, Seth Godin but in this case it applies. Storytelling was a huge topic and even those who didn’t cover it specifically, presented their topics through the art of storytelling. Engaging with the audience, taking them through a journey and making them “think, feel and do” was an overarching theme (and great advice from Globant during their session!).

So why is this the new normal and what advantage does it have for marketers, startups and everyone in between? Because as Steve Jobs said once upon a time, “don’t sell products, sell dreams”. And what is a dream if nothing but a story?

Your customers no longer want you to talk to them in length about the features your product offers. They want you to paint a picture around how easy life will become, how profitable their business could be and how much growth they can experience with your specific solution.

Get it? Here’s an example in case it’s unclear.

Scenario go to the ice cream shop and the person behind the counter asks you if you’d like a regular cone or waffle cone but lets you do all of the work in choosing your flavour. Sure, you’re happy - you get your cone and leave.

Scenario go into the shop and the person behind the counter asks you if you want a regular cone or waffle cone...but then also mentions that “Idris Elba came in the other week and ordered a vanilla soft serve with waffle cone and sprinkles, swears it’s the best he’s ever had and vows never to visit another ice cream shop again. He has decided to invest and is likely to show up from time to time to sample the other flavours.

Which scenario stood out to you more? Which one was a story that drew you in and captured your attention? And which one was a casual everyday occurrence that won’t stand out and will likely be forgotten?  

Idris Ice Cream.gif

So how does this help you market your business? More importantly, how can you tell a story that will have a lasting effect and impact?

→ Understand your audience. Are you speaking to businesses or consumers? Millennials or Gen Z? Male or Female? Knowing your audience is a vital part of storytelling - it can determine the language you use, the length of a presentation or the tone you speak in.

→ Set the Stage. The right time, the right place, the right presentation. It makes all of the difference. Take your audience on a journey with you by making them feel as though they are part of the story.

→ Test and Iterate..yes that’s startup talk. Test different approaches to really validate your content and how it’s received by your audience(s).

→ Connect.. Emotionally and Physically. The more involved you are in the story, the more you can captivate your audience. According to Campaign Live: Telling a brand story doesn’t have to mean a huge budget or a big production with endless special effects or props. Some of the best brand films have been shot overnight or in a day, using handheld cameras or very little kit. The key is to have a great story, tell it well and make the audience feel something.

→ Be Authentic and Original - Your Brand Story is Different from Every Other. Why did you create the brand you hold so near and dear? What was its purpose? American novelist/poet Herman Melville once said “it is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation” and this is exactly what your public expects. The memorable presentations you’ve watched from successful founders are never cookie cutter or boring; they help you to establish trust and set the tone for the brand.

So whether you’re AirBnB telling a story about New Years Eve travel through animated video, Huggies creating an emotional connection through hugging babies, or Coke who promote being authentic and unique with their ‘The Wonder of Us’ campaign; your brand story is the one thing that truly differentiates you from all the rest.

As the old Native American proverb goes, those who tell the stories rule the world.