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Dial Down the Noise and Gather ‘Round for Stories: Connect with Overwhelmed Audiences

As tired as the phrase “cut through the noise” might be, the current situation warrants revisiting it. Between the (re)surging COVID-19 pandemic, America’s divided response to the 2020 presidential election, and so much more, consumers have become incredibly fatigued by the overwhelming amount of messaging they’re exposed to, putting brands at risk of having their carefully crafted campaigns fall on deaf ears.

It goes without saying that already overwhelmed audiences are simply not going to connect with what the marketing world at-large has deemed “noise.” But “noise” isn’t just a nebulous buzzword—it refers to all of those communications that contribute to the fatigue that the overwhelming majority of folks have reported as of late (78% of consumers, according to one recent study).

So how do you prevent your brand from being drowned out by all of the racket? The tried-and-true method of storytelling is one way.

What is storytelling?

In the context of marketing, storytelling is the act of creating a structured narrative to connect with and communicate to constituents by establishing common ground between them and your brand.

Stories come in all shapes and sizes, whether it’s a short :30 video spot à la Google’s recent “Helping small businesses” videos, which focus on local businesses across America as they grapple with the implications of COVID-19, or a full-fledged campaign complete with longer-form content such as Corona’s Free Range Humans series (in which a brand inherently linked to beaches and nature emphasizes escapism by quite literally telling the stories of folks who “left behind a conventional life of routine to pursue a more meaningful life outside”).

Regardless of format, substantial resonation—a connection that leaves people feeling something—is the goal of storytelling.

An emphasis on structure.

Let’s circle back to one key piece of the above definition: Structure.

While there’s no “correct” way to tell a story, we can boil structure down to three major narrative elements:

  • A protagonist. Good stories generally center on a relatable protagonist. Not your brand—or its products or services—but your audience itself or a representation of your audience. Like the Google example from earlier, the intended audience of the story is small business owners, and the story’s protagonists are small business folks just like them.
  • A conflict. Your story’s hero encounters some sort of challenge that impedes upon their life—whether it’s searching for a mortgage with a buyer-friendly rate or finding a local doctor who’s capable of providing care to them and their family.
  • A resolution. As your story’s protagonist struggles with the conflict, your brand arises as a potential solution, capable of assisting the protagonist conquer the conflict in an epic resolution.

It’s a story’s structure—a concrete plotline for your audience to follow, complete with a protagonist, a conflict, and a resolution—that creates a sense of familiarity, demands attention, and elicits connection between brand and constituent. It allows you to strongly present the argument that your brand is the right choice without hard selling it.

But does it work?

It does. As much as good storytelling relies on good creative, there’s no shortage of science and data to back up its potential:

  • 44% of consumers report that they’re willing to try new brands whose communications resonate with them
  • Stories invoke biological responses within the body that encourage connection and empathy
  • Studies suggest that when people are immersed in good stories, “the experiences . . . of the characters become their own and can serve as an anecdote for their beliefs”

The list goes on. And the implication is clear: Brands—especially during such a period of overwhelming uncertainty when consumers simultaneously crave escapism and clear-cut solutions to their conflicts—can slice through the noise and communicate efficiently by leveraging the power of storytelling.

If your brand is ready to tell stories that connect it to its constituents, contact us.

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