Storytelling In Marketing

Contributed by Taylor Burkhalter

When I was 3 years old, I tripped and fell onto a glass beer mug and bursted my knee open, severing my patella tendon. I don’t remember any of the big, gory details – the blood, the intense agony, the fear. I remember how big the steps were that my dad took as he ran towards me. I remember both of my parents holding me in the back seat of the suburban and how fast their friend, Paul, drove it to the hospital. I remember my mom staying the night with me in the hospital room. I remember the little paper castles that my sister and her friends built for me when I returned. I remember how blue my cast was and the color of the sky right before the accident.

The biggest stories are often told through the smallest details.

Several months ago, I had one of the most retweeted tweets of Christmas 2017. The tweet told a story. A 33-word, 3-picture and hardly significant story. It was a trivial moment in time for my family.  Had I not tweeted about it that night, we probably would have forgotten it ever happened. So, if it was so insignificant, why was it on CNN? Why was it retweeted nearly 300 thousand times?

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People cling to the little things. The small character traits, the body language, the simple yet revealing facial expression that tells a story in itself.

No one cared that my mom did snow angels in our living room. They cared that she had only “29 followers”. They cared that, despite her mediocre audience, she was willing to perform for the sake of their entertainment. They cared about the reluctance of my dad and his disinterest in the entire event. They cared that, ironically, in all of this insignificance, there was a lesson about love. People love love – it’s something everyone experiences!

We connect through shared experiences. We latch on to characters who feel the same emotions we feel – The dads who have had to take pictures of their wives being “extra” for their Instagram; anyone who has gone out of their way to get a “like”; the children who have to put up with their parent’s shenanigans.

There was something very genuine and pure about that moment on Christmas Eve. I think that is why it resonated with so many. People from all over the world wished my mom a Merry Christmas as a result of the tweet. People who undoubtedly had differences in religious beliefs, political affiliation, gender, race, etc. Yet, they still connected with my family in some way. Sometimes all it takes is one minuscule detail for us to speak the same language.

That is the power of storytelling.

This is why storytelling is so prevalent in marketing. After all, brands are an intangible thing – they are forced to connect with people through emotion. And the best way to access emotion is through storytelling. Think Nike’s “Equality” and “Find Your Greatness” campaigns or Chipotle’s “The Scarecrow”. These are great examples of brand-driven stories that successfully tapped into the human emotion and influenced viewers in a powerful way.

Here is one of my favorite stories from this past year called “Imagination”. It is a short film by The North Face. I really connected with the boy in the car – the daydreamer!


What is your favorite brand story? Why did it resonate with you?