Retail Marketing and the Power of Stories
Once upon a time there was a marketer who heard that storytelling was the best new thing, so he plumped up his campaigns with insincere emotion, but of course they weren’t effective because he approached the concept in the completely wrong way so his marketing failed and he was never heard from again. The end.
Not all stories conclude with “happily ever after.” But by truly understanding the essence of brand storytelling – and what it has evolved into – retail marketers can meaningfully connect with shoppers to tell tales with great success.
Brand storytelling isn’t new. But I believe its practice has changed drastically in the years since the term was first used. The insane growth of social media, the rise of content marketing and the growth of omnichannel now require that marketers not so much tell stories as collaborate with consumers to create them.
Some have called this storymaking. I prefer storysharing. It’s about creating a space in the brand story for the shopper, building opportunities for her to share her stories and facilitating her personal relationship with the brand. The consumer is the main character, and the store and its merchandise, supporting players.
Some marketers consider storysharing and content marketing the same thing. That’s thinking small. An omnichannel point of view is more holistic, opening new, mutually supportive lines of communication. Rather than simply pumping out content, smart retail marketers take advantage of the opportunity to share stories across platforms, locations and devices.
Some big-picture guidelines for storysharing:
Show some personality. Give the shopper something to connect with. Every brand should have a voice, a tone and a style. Make that unique point of view inescapable to the consumer at every interaction. how some heart and some fire; the shopper will respond by doing the same.
Provide an emotional payoff. Find ways to engage the emotions of the shopper. Learn her emotional drivers and use them to engage on a deeper level. Let her feel the story.
Use each channel appropriately. The elements that make an email campaign shine are not the same as those that deliver an amazing in-store experience. Each channel does something particularly well. Determine your emotional hook, and then articulate it in the specific language of each channel.
Remember what a story is. At its essence, a story is a satisfying journey to a meaningful conclusion. It is not a tagline or a slogan or a call to action. Good brand stories have an arc; there is structure, pacing, conflict, a protagonist. The marketer’s job is to build a complete experience. (And BTW, where can a marketer get inspiration? Tap in to the stories shoppers are already telling.)
Don’t fake sincerity. Be authentic in every interaction with the shopper. They now settle for nothing less.