One of the best ways that brands can create fans is through storytelling. Specifically, through telling stories that relate to the brand, but that also tie into themes that are important to the customer. When done effectively, storytelling also helps the customer get a better understanding of what the brand is about. Think of it as pulling back the curtain and giving us a ‘backstage pass’ to see what goes on within the brand.
Last night I talked to the Advanced Social Media class at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls, and one of the examples of creating fans through storytelling was what Robert Scoble did years ago with Channel 9 videos while he was still at Microsoft. He would take a small camcorder and just go up to the cubicles of his co-workers and ask them to explain who they are and what they do. This was wonderful storytelling because it helped us understand more about the people who worked at Microsoft, and the culture at the brand. It made it a bit easier for us to relate to the brand once we could see the faces of the people that work there, and understand more about WHY they loved working there.
More recently, look at what Whole Foods did with wiping out its Instagram feed to raise awareness of declining bee populations around the world. This was powerful storytelling that tied into themes that relate to the brand (protecting the bees that help create the foods we love), while also giving us greater insights into what the brand is passionate about. Anything that a brand can do to help its customers better understand what it stands for, will always aid in creating fans.
Another instance of storytelling is what Maersk did with its archival photos. Kerry did a wonderful podcast with Maersk’s former head of social media, Jonathan Wichmann. Wichmann explained that when he took the job, he discovered that Maersk had an archivist who had thousands upon thousands of photos associated with Maersk and its shipping containers over the last century. He asked why no one ever used the photos and the brand’s response was ‘who would care?’ So Wichmann started posting the photos on Instagram and other social media sites and they were an immediate hit. These photos helped tell the story of the brand, and also helped us understand what they do, and for how long the brand has been doing it. All of this also made it wasier to trust the brand, especially when you consider how long they have been providing the same services.
If your brand wants to experiment in creating content that helps tell the story of your brand, think about what stories you can talk about that tell what’s important to your brand, but that aren’t entirely focused on your brand. Whole Foods talked about why we need to pay attention to declining bee populations. Maersk by sharing its photos was also telling the story of why the work it does is so important. Yes, the pictures were mostly about the brand, but those pictures are also the history of shipping on the sea. It helps us understand what Maersk does, and what role in plays in global commerce.
And also, think about how you can lower your guard a bit and help us understand a bit more about what your brand does and who it is. Show us the people behind your brand, like Scoble did at Microsoft. GE does this with its employees, encouraging them to go on social media and talk about the work they do, as a way to increase the quality of job applicants. People better understand the culture at GE and why people love working there, and they are more likely to apply for open positions.
Above all, this is a potential competitive advantage for your brand. By engaging in storytelling with your customers, by opening your brand to them, you make it easier for your customers to better understand your brand, and relate to it. Which makes it easier for your customers to TRUST your brand.
And when your customers trust your brand, then they can advocate for it. Interactions lead to Understanding which leads to Trust, which leads to Advocacy.