Strategic Storytelling

April 22, 2019

Entire civilizations were built on storytelling.

We could go on and on about how humans have transferred ideas, passed down histories, and exchanged opinions through stories for eons, but we won’t bore you with such pablum. Plus, other people have already done a good job of it.

Strategic storytelling is important because it addresses an insight about a target audience. When effectively telling your brand’s story means spending money to create and distribute it, you want to make a risk that’s calculated. This means incorporating emotions into your marketing.


Quality over Quantity

With the advent of all our data collecting platforms, brands have replaced the amounts and proportions of their customers’ habits without learning the more methodologically rigorous “why” behind their customers’ behavior. This insight is qualitative and anecdotal. Despite being data-driven, insight is not metrics-driven. That’s not a weakness, though. Anecdotes are emotional and gripping.

Different people buy your products or services for different reasons, and strategic storytelling focuses on a campaign’s direction, so it resonates with your audience. Metrics will be important for disseminating that asset. You use metrics to know when, where, and how often to tell your message. That is, metrics can help spread your brand’s story but not tell it.

This is because metrics are just an excuse for those without behavioral insight.

A brand’s reliance on metrics in their storytelling is like saying that a new candy bar needs only be in the impulse purchase section of the grocery store. It’s a great way to get in front of a potential customer. Sometimes this approach alone is referred to as “strategy.” Though if the product doesn’t speak to the customer’s innate desire it’s fulfilling, it’s not as strategic as it should be.


How Insight can Help

Without a strategic story, you can’t fulfill the desires of your target audience. A Snickers bar doesn’t stem hunger any more than a ham sandwich might. A standard Snickers bar is about 250 calories. It’s less healthy for you due to the sugars. But a clever story directed at the right people convinces them that, if they’re hungry, then a Snickers bar is what they need.

The “strategic” part comes in when The Mars Corporation considers that their target audience is males between the ages of 13 and 35 who are too lazy and impatient to prepare their own snacks. Mars Corp also probably knew what the competition of healthier snack alternatives could be. The larger peanuts in a Snickers bar give the product itself an air of healthiness that a Mr. Goodbar or a Crunch bar cannot claim.

With this insight, they featured ads with the line “You’re not you when you’re hungry.”

Someone who only cared about metrics wouldn’t tell that story.

Snickers didn’t pitch themselves as the best candy bar with chocolate, peanuts, and caramel. They strategically broadened their message from candy bar lovers to anyone who’s hungry, which is admittedly everyone. Since hunger is a visceral feeling that potential customers will recall when being told the story of the brand. It piques the memory of anyone who might be hungry. This Snickers story is based on emotion.


Without strategic storytelling in your marketing campaigns, you’re simply telling people to buy an undifferentiated product. You want to build an emotional bridge in your marketing. Strategic storytelling stirs up a craving in your customer. If entire civilizations could be built and united by well-conceived storytelling, imagine what you could do with your brand.