Stories are the lifeblood of communication. From cave paintings to corporate conferences, no message sinks in like a brilliantly-told story. So, you need to tell your business’s story – to connect with customers, to tell them why they need to feel the same thing you feel; to engage on a level beyond, “buy me”. Contributor Sarah Musgrove, Editor in Chief, Brighter Business.
Did your business have a scrappy beginning, fighting against all odds and naysayers to earn its place in the market? Did your brand begin with simply philosophy, forged after a frustrating experience and the realisation that you could solve it with a service or product? You need storytelling, and more importantly, you need to be aware of what’s available in the market to do so. We all know about Facebook and blog posts – but what are the newest trends and developments that we can utilise to tell our stories?
Just in: Whatsapp Business
After recently moving to a free-to-use model (dropping the annual subscription fee – a costly 69p), Whatsapp has now announced its move into the commercial content space. ‘Whatsapp Business’ will allow brands to create and manage a business profile, similar to a Facebook page. It will allow for two-way communication between brand and customer (assuming a customer has opted in for communications), as well as hosting signposting information like the business URL, physical address, email address and so on.
How can this help tell your brand story? It certainly starts with visibility on a platform that’s so prolific amongst smartphone users. Alongside Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp customers use the service more than any other social app – with over 50 percent of people saying they use it more than once a day. Simply being accessible on the Whatsapp platform speaks volumes about the kind of demographic you’re positioning your brand with – as well as providing customer service in a medium that is second nature to some audiences (think digital-savvy, app-first device users). Think about whether it makes sense, with your brand positioning, to belong on the platform. If your audience is there, join them to amplify your message.
Do you know who I am..? (Influencer marketing)
Now no longer the realm of an exclusive group of the social media elite, one “social influencer” landed in hot water recently after a case of, ‘don’t ask, don’t get’ backfired on her in a big way. 22-year old Elle is a minor celebrity in Instagram terms – with a following exceeding 90 thousand users – and her request for a free hotel stay to supplement her holiday in exchange for social exposure spawned hundreds of headlines, inciting outrage amongst some.
So, could, and should, you use influencers to promote your brand’s message? As a storytelling device it can mean showing off your product or service in a targeted light; the association with an affable social media ‘star’ can lend certain favour to your brand. Some brands, like Phillips, have shown that authenticity can make for an exemplary influencer campaign.
A simple but effective partnership can breathe life into your offering. For example, Primark’s recent PR stunt that sent groups of lifestyle bloggers on holiday to Iceland together, where they could show off their new leisurewear collection in scenic grandeur. Beautiful pictures, believable partners, and overall a collaboration that made sense both for the brand and the influencers’ followings. If done well, influencer marketing can be a fun way to tell new narratives to new audiences via other people’s channels and media. When done without much thought (particularly for others’ livelihood) it can backfire spectacularly. Consider wisely before jumping in.
Ever thought about employing Artificial Intelligence to tell your brand story? Or, at least, a very convincing pretence of AI? Several brands are already making use of chatbots to communicate directly with their customers in fun and engaging ways. It’s an automated way of giving your brand a voice, and thanks to a lot of pre-programmed responses, the customer can feel like they’re experiencing a true interaction (although none of these examples are quite mature enough to pass the Turing Test just yet).
First up, we’ve seen a couple of food brands launch chatbots that ‘build’ recipes for users. In Jamie Oliver’s chatbot, users enter food emojis and the chatbot responds with a suggested recipe using said emojis – plus a handy CTA to buy his new recipe book, of course. Whole Foods’ chatbot has a similar premise, while Domino’s chatbot allows users to speed-order pizza, offering up light banter while they wait for their delivery.
They’re simple but offer another way to make a personal connection with a customer – we can’t wait to see how brands use them to amplify their story as this particular trend becomes more sophisticated.
Listen up: bringing the story inside the home
Voice-recognition devices in the home are currently the closest most people are to feeling like they live in a sci-fi film.
The biggest players in the game are currently Amazon and Google, whose home devices allow users to send voice-activated commands. Start with a trigger word (‘Alexa’, ‘Okay, Google’) and then ask anything of the device that your heart desires. Within reason, it will obey – play music? Yes. Give the weather forecast? Yes. Hear you when you’ve turned the volume up to 10 so you don’t have to resort to screaming at a small plastic speaker? Not yet, sadly, but maybe one day.
How can these devices inspire small business storytelling? It requires a little out-of-the-box thinking. While futuristic in nature, these home devices deceivingly simple to pick up – with almost zero education period that normally comes with new tech, this wave of technology is all about fitting seamlessly into a customer’s life. Wearable devices like smart watches and activity trackers have done similar things – like Owlet’s smart baby socks that can track an infant’s vital signs.
To make a leap to marketing capability, we need to ask if we can reverse engineer our brand story. Instead of carving out a story that a customer must align themselves with, can you turn your story into the missing puzzle piece of your customer’s life/work/home?
Augmented reality takes digital information and superimposes it onto footage from a digital camera. Given that most consumers now carry a digital camera on their person at all times, experiencing augmented reality is no more complicated than downloading an app.
Brands have already started making use of this – furniture stores are letting browsers ‘test’ what pieces look like in their homes (not sure if that Ikea corner sofa will fit there? Check using AR). Car manufacturers are letting users experience thrilling rides; Snapchat is letting users play with the real life surroundings.
With AR and VR, the limits really are just a brand’s imagination
So, be bold, be strategic, and go out and tell your story in the most engaging way possible. If you can create content your customers love, your brand will resonate in a way most businesses can only dream of.