by Mark Hayes

There is something about a good story that draws us in. When I hear something compelling, I share it, I feel engaged in the tale.

It is no wonder that stories are such an effective tool for brands. After all- isn’t that the entire point of advertising? We want to convince people to feel connected to our brand and to share it with others.

Here is what you need to know about why these brand stories are so powerful and how you can use it them to build your own company.

Why is storytelling so effective in marketing?

Humans have been telling each other stories for thousands of years. Cultures have passed down their morals and the stories of their foundations through tales that are told from one generation to the next.

Today, most of our time spent sitting around campfires is reserved for telling ghost stories and trying to scare those sitting across from us.

That does not mean, however, that stories do not continue to have significance. Storytelling has something to offer even us fast-paced, digital consumers. In fact, researchers have found that when we hear a story, our brain reacts different than it does in other situations.

In the 1990’s Giacomo Rizzolatti and his colleagues decided to study how brains react to stories using Macaque monkeys. (Doesn’t it feel as though every helpful experiment involves monkeys?)

So this Italian neurophysiologist attached electrodes to the monkey’s brains to see how the monkey responded to different actions that were performed.

While monitoring their subjects, the scientists noticed something fascinating: when one of the researchers reached for his lunch, the monkey’s brain reacted as though it was the money that reached for a lunch, even though the money didn’t do anything! In case it has been a few years since you brushed on your neurophysiology, let me put it another way.

The scientists found that we do not use logical thought processes when we interpret, or when we predict, the actions of others. We feel these actions.

Don’t worry, the same idea was then confirmed using humans as well. Apparently, when someone is telling you an engaging story, the same part of your brain will light up as the person telling the story.

In other words, you brain responds to the telling of the story the same way as the person who actually experienced the event. When we are just reviewing cold, hard facts, the language part of our brains light up to help us interpret the information.

When we sit and listen to a story, however, our brain makes very little distinction between what we experience personally and what we hear about others’ experiences. The brain remembers these supposed ‘experiences’ therefore, much easier than just lists of facts.

Not only are these stories easier for you to remember, but your brain also craves them. We reportedly spend an estimated one third of our lives daydreaming, with brains that are perpetually looking for the next distraction (that is definitely what I am going to tell my boss next time I am caught spacing out…).

When we tell stories with our brands, we answer this basic need of consumers and help them satisfy their brain’s craving for exciting and interesting tales. Since the story helps to address this consumer need, audiences become more engaged.

Customers today consume an estimated 100,500 words in digital content each day and an estimated 92 percent of them want to experience this content in the form of a story. The need for companies to use storytelling as a vehicle for communicating with prospective clients has never been clearer.

Why you should bother with brand storytelling

Too many people hear ‘brand storytelling’ and they think that it means they need to retell, with straight facts, the history of the brand.

Since even they know that this information is dry and boring, it is no wonder that so many people get confused when they hear marketers talk about the importance of brand storytelling!

If you learn nothing else from reading this article, remember this:

Brand storytelling is not about you! It is about your customers.

You are telling a story that communicates how customers feel when they use your company. It means using stories to connect with customers in a fundamental way. You need to communicate with them the why’s behind your company.

Discuss what motivates your company or how the brand was born. Help customers feel connected to the faces behind the names by offering an inside look at the people who help the company run.

Storytelling is a tool with which you can lay the foundation for relationships. By engaging with customers and helping them to relate to the company through stories, you will be able to form the foundations of this bond.

Tales about the company and its employees will help prospective clients feel connected to the brand itself. You want your stories to help communicate the company voice and the vision for your customers.

Ways to include storytelling in your advertising

Show your customers how you fit into their lives and why you matter

This type of storytelling is wonderful for telling customers who you are and why they should care about you. Customers are bombarded by thousands of advertisements every day –about 5,000 per day at last estimate– which means that customers are used to giving you the side-eye and asking why they should care about anything you have to say.

Since storytelling is an excellent way to connect with customers, it is also a wonderful way to answer this burning question for them.

Take Town Centre Car Parks in the UK for example. Drunk driving is a prevalent and dangerous problem, but people still like to go out and have a good time. They question is just getting home safely. Town Centre Car Parks created an advertising campaign where they invited customers to fill in their favorite drinks and how many they typically consumed.

The infographic would then tell customers whether or not they would be over the limit, along with statistics about intoxicated driving. Since Town Centre Car Parks will look after people’s cars if they have to leave them behind to get home safely, the story demonstrated how they can help customers have a safe and jail-free holiday season.

Create transparency to show your customers who you are behind the curtain

Blame the Wizard of Oz if you like, but people today love to get a good look at the people behind the curtain, or rather, the people behind the company.

Customers today are all about the personal relationship, and that means that they do not just want to interact with faceless names through email and over the phone. They want to know why you care about them and how your company came to be.

Consider the popular yogurt brand Chobani. They used storytelling to let customers know about how they spent almost two years trying to perfect their yogurt before selling it. Customers now trust them to genuinely care about the consumer, which helps them forgive transgressions, such as product recalls.

Set yourself apart from the competition

Chances are, you company is attempting to thrive in a company in an industry that is already quite saturated with similar products. Marketing 101 tells you that you need to find some way to differentiate yourself from your competition.

Storytelling, however, is a fantastic way to do it. Create a brand story that demonstrates what you do differently or what unique touch you add to your product and services.

Have you ever enjoyed a vitamin water? If you are like much of population, the answer to that question is ‘yes’. There is no question that there are countless companies who sell these types of water. The company Activate saw the product saturation and decided to tell the story of how their product works and why it is superior to other vitamin products.

When you drink this water, you get to control when the various vitamins and compounds get activated. The stories help to differentiate Activate from their competitors and people remember the brand.

Help customers see themselves a particular way

You know that by using your products or services, your customers will feel fantastic. The problem is that they do not know that. Successful storytelling, however, can involve helping customers see themselves the way you see them. Let them visualize themselves the way they will look or feel when they use your products.

“You’re going to like the way you look, I guarantee it.” Have you ever hear that Men’s Wearhouse tagline? It has really stuck with me, even though I am not really a big suit shopper.The commercials introduce you to different scenarios when men want to look their best, such as their wedding day.

The company does a great job of helping you visualize yourself as one of their customers. They let you know how you, or the man in your life, will look when they buy one of their suits. When you visit their website, the subtle product arrangement lets you easily visualize their suites in your own closet.

Although some have produced understandable critiques of the rest of the Men’s Wearhouse advertising campaign, few can argue with the power of their brand storytelling.

Use humor

Customers like to laugh. It not only helps them relax, but it helps companies break through negative customer assumptions about brands. When done correctly– and that is the key– humor is a fantastic storytelling tool.

It is a fine line between making people laugh and making them angry, so you want to make sure your attempts at humor are not going to offend anyone and go viral for the wrong reasons.

When companies do this right it can be utterly fantastic. Take the Point of Sale app Clover. They cast their commercials for small business owners who fill a variety of different roles just to keep the business afloat. According to their commercial, when you start using Clover, you can fire all of these different ‘versions’ of yourself.

The commercial is perfect because it taps into the struggles of these small business owners and demonstrates that this is a company who understands how crazy it can feel to try and run a business by yourself.

I am not even a small business owner, and somehow I felt compelled to buy their app. I think that means they are doing something right.

When you break it down, customers generally do not care all that much about lists of specs about your products and services. They want to know how your company is going to make them feel and whether or not you can actually help them.

Storytelling lets you appeal to their inner caveman, who likes to learn things through tales. Create a brand story that helps to draw customers into your company and begin the foundation of a strong relationship.


  • Understand why storyselling makes it easier for people to understand and remember your content
  • Learn what storyselling actually means (hint– it doesn’t mean dryly reciting your company’s history)
  • Read key examples of companies who have used storyselling successfully
  • Consider 5 awesome ways to use storyselling with your brand

Like what you see and want to work with us?

Let's Talk!

You may also like: