If you’re not a creative type, “show, don’t tell,” might be a sentiment you recall from high school English class. But for our creative team, it’s the goal of our work, every day. Particularly in today’s marketing landscape, where brands vie for attention and engagement in a sea of digital noise. As more and more content is created (and promptly ignored), creative storytelling — helping audiences connect the dots by showing, not telling — remains the powerful tool to give brands breakthrough creative.
Why storytelling? It’s not just for the kids. People’s brains are primed and wired to process stories differently than other information. It’s not just your language-processing powers that light up when listening. Rather, studies show that stories that engage us and which we share are stories that move us, literally causing our hearts to race and our brainwaves to synchronize with the person we’re listening to.
Given its link to our very biology — and our ability to connect with others — it’s no wonder that storytelling endures as the most effective form of communication throughout human history. Artists, authors and entertainers don't need to find creative ways to fit a sales pitch into their work, but we do. That's why our creative team uses fundamental storytelling techniques to make campaigns and communications that inform, inspire and ultimately move audiences to action.
“Emotions transcend rationality, encouraging individuals to act. And a good story awakens those emotions within your audience.”Izzy Sliker - Senior Copywriter
Your audience is the hero
From ancient mythology through the Barbie movie, every story needs a protagonist. In Joseph Campbell’s exploration of the hero journey, the hero of the story isn’t necessarily a savior, but instead an individual who goes on an adventure and encounters challenges and experiences that ultimately lead to transformational change.
Many businesses position themselves as the hero who can help their customers’ needs or challenges. But it’s often more effective to think of your audience as the hero. Before kicking off any creative project, we think about the journey these individuals are on. What are their goals? What are their fears? By elevating your audience to become the hero, it’s easier to create a connection and tell a story that will resonate with them.
Example: In our “Let Them Play” campaign for Arkansas Children’s, we helped parents play the hero's role: protecting their kids’ fun and adventurous childhoods by choosing health care close to home.
Your brand is the guide
While we don’t make brands the hero of the story, they still play an important role: the guide. As a provider of products or services, you have knowledge and resources to support your audience through their journey. If what you provide is enticing and ultimately beneficial, you’ll create loyalty.
What makes your guidance (or products or services) even more interesting is how it’s delivered. Just think about your real-life mentors. Your grandmother probably gives advice differently than your best friend does. They have different tones, personalities and ways of communicating. Creating an authentic story around your brand requires a deep understanding of your brand values and personality.
Example: Our brand campaign for TriHealth highlights different moments of healing. In each example, the patient is the hero of their story, but we also depicted TriHealth team members as the guides who made healing possible.
Speak their language
Making a connection between the guide and the hero depends on empathy, and it’s easier to be empathetic by showing that you understand the hero and their journey. This is where creativity in messaging and media comes into play. How does your audience speak? What language will create the feelings that you want to elicit? Where and how will you interact with them? How can you make your calls to action direct and purposeful to help the hero on their journey?
Example: For the SoftWheel product launch campaign for Numotion, we partnered with social media influencers who were real wheelchair users, tapping into a close-knit community and sharing the product benefits with real authenticity.
Infuse your story with emotion
Think of the stories you remember: whether it’s your favorite novel or a childhood memory, the part that lives on inside of you is how that story made you feel. This is the most important part of storytelling, whether it’s purely for entertainment or sharing a brand’s message. Language is important, of course, but that’s just one part of the puzzle. The stories we engage with reel us in with captivating visuals, arresting music choices and unexpected surprises. Storytelling is an orchestra that involves all of our senses, stimulating our brains to make the experience unforgettable.
Emotions transcend rationality, encouraging individuals to act. And a good story awakens those emotions within your audience. Creating marketing and advertisements that are entertaining — whether it’s funny, sad, exciting or nostalgic — is more likely to get your customers to respond to your call to action and more likely to share the story with others.
Example: In our brand campaign for ThedaCare, we depicted slice-of-life moments that rode a range of emotions, reminding people that simple, everyday interactions and choices have the power to inspire — and create a healthier future for all.
The emotional resonance of well-crafted stories eventually becomes synonymous with the brand itself. As consumers laugh, cry, or reminisce, they forge a bond with the brand. It’s through storytelling that we at Core transform faceless entities into trusted companions.
What I’ve outlined here are some general guidelines we ourselves follow to craft such brand stories. But I’d be remiss not to mention that it’s a delicate balance of art and science, commerce and entertainment. Simple in concept but often requiring creative finesse. Explore our creative services to learn more about how we can tell your brand story and watch the video here to hear our team talk more about the art of storytelling.