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Storytelling: a real marketing challenge!

What’s Marketing Storrytelling about? 

You have a website (or you want to create one) and you want to know….

  • How to immediately get your readers' attention
  • How to keep their interest, hanging on to your every word, until the page end?
  • How to charm them, captivate them, put a spell on them?
  • How to give them the urge to come back to your website as soon as possible?

You’re at the good place!

Because, we’re going to break down together the art... of Storytelling. And discover the magic recipe to delight your visitors... by telling them some stories.

So open your ears and eyes: Once upon a time...

Storytelling: definition and marketing use

Storytelling is the art of delevering important messages, by recounting a story, creating tales or just a narrative hook.

Since the dawn of time, humans use imagination to pass on the rules of life, for moral education, for safety warnings…

Why? Because, emotionally speaking, the human brain doesn’t make the difference between the real and the fictional

The sacred texts, mythology, legends, fables and tales are just some few examples of this narrative tradition.

In the modern world, this trend remains.

In the marketing or politic field… As soon as we need to convey messages, we use this same old technique. 

Some brands like Disney or Apple, excel in the art of storytelling, having created a whole narrative world around their products that everyone knows. But don’t forget something, to create a storytelling which will entice your community, you have to know it: don’t overlook the importance of the buyer persona. .


Analysis of the art of storytelling: How does it work?

Mastering storytelling is knowing how to tell a good story.

A good story, in the narratology field, satisfies an accurate “actantial model”(all the characters and their interactions).

A hero goes on a quest. In this quest, for the benefit of a recipient, he is helped by some “adjuvants”(characters, objects or events), and some opponents counter him.

Let’s take the example of a young man not too well-known ;-):
Frodo, the hobbit, has a quest: to destroy the One Ring, in order to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Dark Lord. Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn… are his allies (or adjuvants), and he encounters on his way some opponents, like the Black Riders.

We can easily recognize the following narrative structure:

  • The hero (here, Frodo), who wants to reach his goal.

  • He encounters some hurdles (emotional as well as physical, and even philosophical). 

  • Another character (here, Gandalf) guides and helps him, giving him a plan, and leading him to a paradigm shift (taking him outside of his comfort zone).

  • The hero completes his quest, either successfully (Yeah! 👍 ), or not (oh no! 👎).

Typology of storytelling applied to the marketing field

Ranging from the Iliad to GOT, and including Tintin, Snow White or Star Wars…

The years and centuries go by but stories are always told in the same way. 

According to Sebastien Durand, we can define 7 narrative structures which have proved their worth, since “The Tales of a Thousand and One Nights”:

  • Narrative type 1: associated with Sunday, and Apollo, the god of sun. Matches the companies who want to change the life of their customers.
  • Narrative type 2: linked to Monday, and Diana, the goddess of moon. Matches the brands providing complex products that need explanation, or BtoB companies
  • Narrative type 3 : in relation with Tuesday, and Mars, the god of war. Matches the “challenger” brands, in the spirit of “David against Goliath”, or of the small startup against the market leaders.
  • Narrative type 4 : correlated with Wednesday, and Mercury, the winged messenger and the god of trade. Matches the brands who want to help, reassure and protect their customers. Typically, small shops, and business fields like craft and food.
  • Narrative type 5 : connected to Thursday, and to Jupiter or Zeus, the god of gods. It represents strength, and will be mainly used by bigger companies.
  • Narrative type 6 : related to Friday, and to Venus, goddess of beauty and youth. Matches the companies who want to create desire and to build a “glamorous” image, like Nespresso and Apple.
  • Narrative type 7 : corresponding to Saturday, and Saturn, the god of hell. Matches the brands addressing non-conformist or rebellious audiences, like teenagers for example..

You’ll choose your narrative type, depending of your environment, your competitors, your history, your products….

According to your profile, the role of the hero will be played by your brand itself or by your customer.

In any case, you’ll always have to involve your audience.

It’s all fine and well, but we want more details: What are the benefits of storytelling for a company, and when should we use it?

Why should we use storytelling for Marketing?

The use of storytelling arose from an indisputable observation: the traditional advertising model is subject to negative press. 

The public is fed up and, and let's be clear, tired: They consider advertising as an intrusion, and sometimes it's even worse : they consider it as total rubbish!

In France, a 2016 survey showed that 83 % of people are annoyed by online ads, 80 % are bothered by radio advertising, and, as far as TV is concerned, the rate rises to 75 %.

In short, the traditional advertising model is a stale, outdated and obsolete process. In a word, that’s totally old-fashioned. Only good for a trip back to the 90’s.;-)

The communicators increasingly tend to change the way they talk to their audience:

  • The audience becomes the most important: They are the heroes of the communication

  • The brand starts a talk, a dialogue with their customers

  • The message is always adjusted to the target audience, and offers adapted content providing value.

The benefits of storytelling

Whatever we say to ourselves, (yes, stories again...), humans are more emotional than rational.
A feelings based message will thus be better received, by a more attentive audience. It will get better appreciation and will more certainly reach its target audience.

Storytelling allows to:

  • Provide an identity, or even personify a brand, and thus make it more human and appealing.
  • Highlight the brand characteristics (history, service quality, expertise…)
  • Improve the brand reputation
  • And of course, entice new customers, retain them and make a positive impression.


Marketing storytelling: In which cases should it be used?

It’s really simple: you can use storytelling whenever you have to deliver a message and whenever you have something to say:

  • In your emails or advertising campaigns, 

  • For your internal communication, including for management, 

  • For your blog articles, 

  • In your newsletters, 

  • On your social medias, 

  • In your teaching content (online courses, ebooks, white papers…),

  • In the public relations context,

  • During oral contributions (conferences, trainings or other)

Storytelling is indeed polymorphic, multiform, usable in any circumstances. However, it requires to be quite consistent and to establish an overall harmony.  

OK but that’s not all: How to become a talented storyteller?

Storytelling and marketing: techniques to write some thrilling stories

Content creation is a serious topic, above all because it’s a topic that can make a big difference.

“Content is king”, according to Bill Gates. 

First thing to do to ensure you create good content: developing a well-rounded editorial line.

Then, you may use these writing tips:

  • First of all, think “efficiency” before anything else:

    • Write in a simple manner, keep your readers understanding what you’re talking about. No one wants to open their dictionary  50 times, to read a simple page

Of course, you should adapt to your target audience. Give them a touch of know-how, if they request it, and rub them the right way whatever their expectations are: humor, friendliness, expertise…

    • Carefully organize your narrative: On the web, people like clean and well structured pages.

    • Quickly get to your point. Or you’ll lose your reader, before the introduction.

  • Then, set the scene, right from the beginning:

    • As already mentioned, choose a hero with whom your readers can identify,... someone glamorous and dreamy, dammit Good heavens ! :-D

Your product can save you, like "Mr Clean", for example. And it can also be your servant, like Netflix, which is the best partner for your lazy pizza-and-beer couch nights.

    • Offer a significant challenge: a quest, a mystery, a wild ride…

    • Follow the basic plot of any good story: original state / conflict / resolution

    • Add action: plot twists, allies, nemesis…

  • Finally, be stylish !

Your goal: making them want to read the next line without further delay. 

To do so:

    • Add rhythm: some intense crescendos, suspense moments, action scenes, breaks and slow progression phases...

    • Split your text, to create some breaks

Indent your text and try to create big effects: surprise, contemplation, mystery, smile or complicity… you keep your readers wanting more and more, and they feel free to give free rein to their unfettered, fertile or deviant imagination!

  • Bring life to your story: details, emotions, comparisons, shapes, conversations and thoughts,...

  • Use senses: sounds, smells, colors, textures…

  • Illustrate!  

  • Surprise your readers: turn their brain upside down, bring them into an unexpected situation

  • Don’t only work on what is being said but also on what is left unsaid: connotations, subtexts, evocations…

Don’t forget that Balzac, when he wrote his classic “The Human Comedy”, detailed behind the scene, the full biography of all his characters, even the secondary ones.

  • To finish, talk about your readers, because they are your true heroes!

    • Always remember to enhance them, and above all be careful, because promoting someone means, first and foremost, not devaluing them (be aware of the underlying message). 

For instance:

      • If you use expressions like “you should know” or a very specific terminology, you call them ignorant…(and it's not very kind to them! ;-) )

      • if you always boast about your achievements, without explaining how they can reach their goals too, it’s rather like saying they are not good enough... (not so nice!)

      • If you flaunt your wealth without any goals , it will make them feel poor…

      • etc.

    • A cultural reference, a piece of memory, a common taste or habit… all of that brings hearts and souls closer, it’s really unifying, and a good way to get your reader on your side.

    • Speak about your personal experiences, as if you were telling a secret, to create an intimacy, to make your readers feel privileged. But also like a parable, to give substance to your argument.


Storytelling: You have the outline and some tips…. 

But above all, you have your unlimited imagination, your sharp mind, your unbounded creativity, your incredible talent...to become the king (or the queen) of the storytellers.

So, once upon a time, there were...YOUR greatest stories!

Last update: March 23, 2020