A question all brand marketers grapple with is how much value their content creates. Industry standards for ROI on content investments are being debated—and are sorely needed. Yet there is a larger discussion to have around how we define “value” to all stakeholders in the content ecosystem, from the brand to the channel to the audience. What makes up a true value exchange?
It is predicted that in 2019 we will spend $300 billion on content marketing, but we need to crack the code on performance. Let’s keep it simple: If marketers approach content with the end buyer top of mind, whether business or consumer, we can strive to extend a relationship with them. And that’s where storytelling comes in.
At a time when the average person is bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day, brands can deliver value by using storytelling to stand out, differentiate themselves, and deepen their relationship with customers. Storytelling is as old as humanity, our brains are wired to want to hear stories, and the principle of storytelling for a brand makes content impactful. A memorable content interaction with emotions, great characters, and a developing plot shapes how people perceive a brand.
Make Your Content Tell a Story
As brand marketers, we need to be laser-focused on creating an emotionally engaging story that people want to view until the very end. The average retention rate to the end of a video, for example, is only 37%. We need to tell engaging stories that are full of subtle gems about our brand in order to make content marketing more valuable and engaging.
The storytelling-based approach offers value regardless of where a person is in the “buyer journey,” because a compelling, emotional story is something we all want to share. It creates a value exchange that cuts through the noise and opens up a potential buyer to learn more. Studies show that B2B buyers are twice as likely to consider a brand if they connect with it on an emotional level as opposed to being sold on its business or functional value. If we give them a great story, they will spend more time learning about our product solutions.
B2B companies can make an impact on the end consumer, and by highlighting that impact through storytelling, we can break through emotionally in a way we could not have before. How we tell a brand story can grab attention and drive awareness of our brands—from top-of-the-funnel interest all the way to the point where someone will want to know more and, perhaps, download a whitepaper.
It’s essential to start with a strong cocktail of data and creativity that examines audience behavior and media consumption habits to determine what topics people care about most— because art and science combine most powerfully when they unearth a human truth that speaks to the “why” of a brand.
Pitney Bowes and Diamonds
The four principles of brand storytelling are:
- Follow the basics of beginning, middle, and end.
- Do not talk about your brand; let the client story do that.
- Use emotions to hook your prospects.
- Choose the best storyteller for the client.
We put these principles into practice here at Pitney Bowes. When you think of Pitney Bowes, chances are marriage proposals do not come to mind. But what could be more intimate? We needed to reimagine our product story to make it more personal.
Our client, Helzberg Diamonds, will be the first to tell you that the act of picking out the perfect ring with which to begin a lifelong partnership is a major and emotionally charged purchase that we can all relate to. At that point, the brand’s values matter more than a logo. In fact, it’s not about the brand. It’s about a life moment enabled by the brand solutions.
The best stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and are based on conflict resolution. The story we shared with Helzberg didn’t start with the proposal but rather with the lead-up to it. If you were to tell a friend the story of your engagement, you would never start with, “She said yes.” A value exchange demands more than that. Our story starts and ends with a couple; the tension exists in-between, and that is the sweet spot for brand relevance.
In this particular circumstance, it truly took an international effort to realize the ring’s purchase, creation, shipment, and delivery, but all phases need to be seamless and invisible to the buyer.
This resulting piece of content (in partnership with Digitas and CNN), a video called “The Ring Bearer,” displays a true value exchange, and I believe it’s what we as B2B marketers should strive for. It tells the story from multiple POVs: the individual, the retailer, and the brand itself. When done well, all characters shine, but the true hero in the story is the human emotion we can all relate to.