Why Storytelling Is Your Most Powerful Brand Building Tool


Content might be king, but storytelling is the sultan of modern marketing. Who you are.  Where you came from.  How you came up with your billion dollar idea.  It’s what makes you credible, interesting and trustworthy.

Storytelling is such an ingrained part of our global culture that it seems surprising that it hasn’t always been at the forefront of marketing. It doesn’t really matter where you go in the world, everyone has their own tradition of telling tales.

In Ireland, 2,000 years of folklore has been passed down verbally or even in song. Hula in Hawaii was traditionally a way of sharing myth and creation stories. In China, shadow puppetry relayed moral lessons and folk stories all the way back to the Han dynasty. And in Trinidad, Calypso developed in the early 20th century with lyrics, as a way of sharing news.

The land before stories

Yet as media, marketing and advertising grew between the ‘50s and ‘90s, storytelling took a back seat to a conveyer belt approach to everything from pop music to soft drinks. Obviously there were exceptions to the rule, but somewhere in the dizzying world of billboards and TV, storytelling got lost. We didn’t care where something came from, we just want to know what it could do for us. Like kids in a candy store, we were strung out on consumption.

The Spice Girls were the ultimate in manufactured pop bands.  No one even pretended that they were best friends before Simon Fuller brought them together. McDonalds on the other hand has been around since the 1940s.  But the movie – the story – was only put together in 2016’s The Founder, along with a swathe of other biographical films that seek to fulfil an insatiable consumer appetite for real life tales.

Coincidentally or not, the fast food giant, who could easily sink in a world of increasing health awareness, also continues to beat revenue expectations. They’ve made a number of changes to what they do and how they do it.  One of those is the notable introduction of storytelling to their marketing.

Even amongst brands that have been around ‘forever’, it’s only more recently that their stories have taken centre stage. So what’s the point? Is it just fodder for the voraciously hungry content monster or does it have greater strategic purpose? It’s very much the latter.

Top 10 reasons to make storytelling part of your marketing:

    1. It creates an emotional connection between you and your customers.
    2. That emotional connection makes you memorable and is a distinct competitive advantage on other market leaders without a tale to tell.
    3. Stories are an opportunity to really show your personality and your values.
    4. Stories are much more interesting than numbers.
    5. They make for much more shareable content, whether online or word of mouth.
    6. Stories can reinvigorate a brand (McDonalds isn’t new but their storytelling is).
    7. They create positive associations with your brand.
    8. Stories inspire people to want to know more – what happened next?
    9. Stories have the power to be motivational and associate your brand with feel good factor.  You can actually inspire some really powerful change – just see Nike’s Dream Crazier video!
    10. Give the people what they want: Americans alone consume over 100,000 digital words every single day.  But 92% say they want brands to tell stories amongst all those words.