5 essential elements of story-driven, brand-building content (with examples!)
It’s easy to read about the importance of creating story-driven content and what it can do to build your brand and grow your business. But what really makes this content effective, and what does it look like when done well?
Story-driven content takes content marketing to the next level.
It is not about writing a blog post full of obnoxious keywords, or creating clickbait social headlines, or using backdoor methods to fabricate an Instagram following. These are methods masking as content marketing and are quite frankly lazy.
No matter what you do, what service you provide, or what goods you’re selling — you have a story. Real content marketing is about the story. What is your “why”? What do you this for? How do you want your customers’/clients’/audiences’ lives to improve because of what you’re doing?
Businesses who understand and have embraced that concept have successfully transformed from businesses to Brands, elevating the connection with their audiences beyond just a transaction, creating a true emotional tie. How have they done it?
Consistency is vital in every aspect of content and storytelling. From consistent look and feel, to consistent messaging and tone of voice, all the way down to consistent timing and cadence of social posts, consistency must run through every aspect of what you create.
Who’s Doing It Well?
Netflix’s Strong Black Lead
Since Netflix launched this sub-brand in 2018, they have built great brand equity through the strength of consistency. First and foremost, the consistency starts with the consistency between message and product. This effort would have failed dismally if they had attempted to highlight and praise Black actors and filmmakers without having a rich array of Black content on their platform. Authenticity is key, otherwise the rest of this is meaningless! On top of that, Strong Black Lead is consistent in its tone of voice across platforms. It is clear and unapologetic in its praise for Black talent, regardless of channel. And of course, it is consistent in producing content that matters to it audience, from podcast interviews, to movie snippets, to updates on the Netflix’s collection of Black productions.
Otherwise known as audience-centricity. Great story-driven content is all about them — not you. What drives your audience? What problems are they facing that your business solves? What are your audience’s biggest pain points? What are the biggest obstacles that keep them from getting where they are to where they want to be? Customer-centric, story-driven content is presented in a way that addresses their needs without jamming branding and product mentions in their face. It creates genuine connection with your audience because it is truly focused on them.
Who’s Doing It Well?
Smead’s Keeping You Organized Podcast
Let’s face it, Smead — the company that makes manila folders — doesn’t necessarily evoke feelings of excitement. Yet they’ve built a Brand that resonates deeply with their audience because they’ve created a podcast that addresses a huge need — the need to get more organized. The podcast dives into tips and tricks for staying organized, gently sprinkling in information about how their products can help. As Marie Kondo has shown, getting organized is hot right now. And as with many things, the appeal of getting organized goes beyond simply the joy of a clean space. It also speaks to a larger desire to simplify, streamline, and curate a space that echoes a simplified, streamlined, and curated life. By leaning into this bigger picture understanding of why being organized matters, Smead has been able to grow a podcast that has been running since 2014 and ranks in the top 10 percent of all podcast downloads.
A clear tone and point of view is vital for content that truly builds Brand. Think of a Brand as a person. It should have a personality, a voice, and a perspective. Similarly, great brand content should illustrate those things. Now, that may be easy if your brand is related to a cause or a movement. But not everything necessarily lends itself a POV, right? I beg to differ. No matter what your product or service, your content can provide a sense of personality.
Who’s Doing It Well?
Though it is simply a retail store, anyone you know who regularly shops at Target probably lights up when they talk about it. It feels warm and welcoming. The Brand has a clear personality that jumps out through its content, from its upbeat video content to its bright, cheery and clean Instagram photography. It has a high end, curated feel while still remaining accessible. As you create your content, consider the “personality” you want it to emit.
Oxford defines calling as “a strong urge toward a particular way of life.” What is your calling? What inspired you to get into this business in the first place? Great content should answer those questions. Countless studies, including this one produced by leading communications firm Edelman, have shown that the strongest most enduring Brands have a clear purpose. Customers are increasingly demanding that their Brands of choice be purpose-driven. That means it’s not a luxury to show purpose, it is now a necessity. Story-driven content is a perfect opportunity to bring your Brand calling and purpose to the forefront.
Who’s Doing it Well?
Soap doesn’t necessarily equate to empowerment, but when you look at the content Dove produces, it is clear Dove has built their Brand based on empowering women of all kinds. From different body types, to skin colors, to hair textures, Dove celebrates women in an authentic and unapologetic way. Dove’s Instagram feed showcases authentic photos of everyday women, telling the story of empowerment and self-confidence. Though your product may not seem like it could be highly purpose-driven, think about what it enables and connect that to your purpose in the content you create.
Even the best content on the surface will fall flat without the context of culture. Cultural relevance helps grow lasting Brands by reflecting an understanding of where your business fits into the larger cultural and societal conversation. When done very well, culturally relevant content leverages trends and connects to audiences by being exceptionally relevant and poignant.
Who’s Doing It Well?
The thought of a hamburger joint doesn’t quite lend itself to a trendy, urban, internet-culture-based brand, yet Wendy’s has embraced and elevated culturally-relevant content. Unlike those who attempt to haphazardly get in on a one-off joke or trend (hint: don’t say “bae” to try to look cool), Wendy’s has infused internet culture into all content it creates, fully committing to the persona. From trolling McDonald’s on Twitter, to spoofing popular memes on Instagram, even to creating a SoundCloud mixtape — Wendy’s has expertly studied and shared internet trends in a culturally-relevant way that has served to build its Brand.
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