Content Marketing: The Power of Great Stories

A Good Story is Timeless. Your Content Marketing Should Be Too.

campfire-984020_1920Stories are an intrinsic part of humanity.  They bring us together.  They teach us lessons.  They even entertain us.  A good story, like good content, creates and maintains connections, between individuals.  Stories can even be timeless and – in the age of the internet – stories can live on making connections much longer than one might think.

From our very beginnings, stories kept us together and created the social animal that we are.  Throughout history, the most powerful stories were those about the creation of all things.  Every culture in every land had a creation myth that held their unit of humanity together, whether it was the world being born from Chaos (like that of the Sumerians and the Babylonians) or that of the Cherokees, where Gälûñ’lätï, the little Water Beetle came from the sky realm to explore the water realm, diving below its surface to bring mud up and creating what would become earth.  These stories bound the people with a single belief that held them together.

Other stories are not this epic and may not provide a sense of understanding of the world around us; however, they may have an even broader impact across cultures due to their common lessons.  Some survive still today and feed our need for entertainment, like the story told by Herodotus about the Battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans (along with about 1100 others) held a pass to allow the bulk of the Spartan army to retreat and, therefore, not be outflanked by the much larger Persian army.  Most recently, this was made into an epic action movie simply called 300, and this shows the power of a good story to stand the test of time, as the original story was written in the 5th century B.C.

The story is successful, because it provides something basic that people from all times and cultures can relate to: the story of a few standing against the many to protect their own against injustice and oppression.

Now your content marketing strategies may not have this sort of long life (after all, 2500 years is a long time), but it should make connections and drive an emotional response that makes them want to learn more and see more about your company and its services and/or products.  When you create content to support your marketing, think about the stories that resonate with you and your team and figure out how they can tie into what your company does and how it will work for them.  You want to build a connection with your customers, so your content should bring them in and engage them on a emotional level.

A great example of very successful content marketing was Coke’s “Share a Coke” campaign where bottles were personalized with common names based on a geographic location.  The idea being that you could find a bottle of Coke with a friend’s name and share it with them, thus brining you and your friend even closer through a simple sign of friendship.  The campaign worked so well that – what started in Australia as a test – quickly took off around the world.

The power of personalization can be a huge asset to content marketing, bringing life to an advertising campaign.  Coke is a perfect example where mass personalization and the common story of bringing people together made a huge impact worldwide and resonated across cultures, borders and oceans.

Pratik Dholakiya, in his article on MarketingLand.com, talks about his top 8 picks of great and recent content marketing successes, with “Share a Coke” being his #1 pick.  While the sheer size and simplicity of the campaign really do make it stand out, it covered all 5 of his recommended key traits of a good content marketing campaign:

  1. Tell powerful stories.
  2. Be honest and open.
  3. Personalize where possible.
  4. Quality over quantity — but if you can have both, then do.
  5. Employ visual content at all costs.

Additionally, the campaign itself was about sharing which made it perfect for social media.  People wanted to find “their” bottle of Coke and share the find with the world.  The entire campaign created a desire to be included, thanks to the appeal to common emotions that resonates with us all.  The bottles provided recognition of one’s self, tangible connections to others and the ability to bind closer to others through the act of sharing.

So, while you may not tell a story that will last thousands of years like Herodotus did through your content marketing, you may find one that can last long enough.  The key is to truly understand who your customer is (including the various persona groups) and find that brand story or connection that fits.  You want your content marketing to “make connections” and drive a deeper relationship with your business.  If you really do this right and follow Pratik’s five traits above, you will be on a good path to creating a story that cannot only bring people closer to your brand and business, but that, like Coke, might bring people together through a great story making a strong emotional connection.

Now think about what that story is for your brand and remember to use the 5 traits above to drive your brainstorming sessions.  If you can cover those and think to yourself “I want to share in that,” then you probably have a winner to start with.  Who knows, it may even take you back in history to earlier stories that get a “refresh” like Leonidas’s epic tale of a small number standing against the odds in facing the massive Persian Empire.