Stories that sell

My morning today started as usual: a fresh cup of espresso and a cookie, a good brisk run in the sharp cold air, a hot shower... typical journalists’ tricks for writing a solid story. Before starting with the new material, I decided to read a couple of articles I’d saved in Flipboard earlier. One of them drew my attention.

It was written by a photographer who traveled to the most distant corners of the world in search of exciting stories to tell. He shared his experience and illustrated some of the photo tips with his rangefinder camera. At some point the author mentioned his new camera that he takes everywhere and told a couple of stories where the device helped him make a unique shot. This is some tricky storytelling, I said to myself.

Try to think of a really good advertisement. What is so special about it? The story.

Storytelling is a powerful marketing tool. It is the art of an engaging narrative with the main purpose of attracting the listener and turninig them into a customer.

From emotion to structure

Paul Zak has proven in his experiments that emotional stories stimulate oxytocin. In other words, they create trust and benevolence. It’s important for the emotions evoked by the story to be relevant to the reader. Only then will they trust the author and listen to what the author has to say.

To create stories one can use a brilliant “snowflake technique” described by Randy Ingermanson. It allows the user to design stories the same way that software is designed. We at OKC Media use a similar method. For every text I am assigned with, it is specified:

  • What the target audience looks like;
  • What I should tell them about;
  • Common words and phrases used by potential readers;
  • The length of the text;
  • Key words, density and frequency for search engine optimization.

A good story is a story told to the right person at the right time. The Internet allows us to almost infinitely segment the audience and tell everyone their own story. Here is where the magic of the story in the digital world lies.

Storytelling in e-commerce

As with any other marketing tool, storytelling is first about sales, direct or indirect. Sometimes we sell not objects, but ideas, either way the concept remains the same. Let’s figure out what makes this tool so effective.

It is engaging. How can we sell something to a person who did not plan on buying in the first place? We need to attract them. With a well-structured story, common readers are turned into buyers with the power of desire.

It is emotional. Stories broaden our opportunities for showcasing the benefits of the product by conveying emotions and sensations. A story evokes feelings that no design or interaction can create.

It is segmented. Create profiles of your clients and write about each of them. It will help the reader see themselves in the protagonist and trust them. This approach does not only sell, it also helps the client to make the right choice.

It is viral. We all like to share good stories with our friends, and this means quick distribution of the content and broadening the outreach.

Inspiring examples

The Airbnb website features a section where users share their experience and impressions, encouraging others to try the service. Each story is incredibly exciting. Reading them, you get sucked into the situations, sympathize or rejoice with the author, laugh or sulk. It is such a simple concept, and yet it evokes lots of emotions. You feel like trusting each narrator and Airbnb in general.

“Rules to live by” by Esquire is a wonderful example of positioning and recognizability of the brand, as well as of its virality. Short interviews with renowned actors, historical figures, and scientists. Is there a single person who hasn’t read those?

The New York Times published “Snow Fall”: an incredible journalist's story with masterfully designed composition, told with innovative multimedia methods. The text, maps, graphs, photos, videos, audios, and animation, all immerse the reader into the events described in the story.

Ariston, the producer of gas boilers and water heaters, tells “Four stories about warmth.” Each of them is designed to help new clients pick a heating system. Photo and video materials, “warm” words, discreet and intuitive drawings, all enhance the storytelling effect. Ariston creates an image of a “homelike”, “warm” company that takes care of each of their clients.

Lifeblood Agency team believes that story in its digital form is in need of some renovation. How can one bring reading to the next level? They offer a groundbreaking format: stories with flowing illustration. This approach makes “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury a whole new story: clear memorable images appear, landscapes are brought to life… Very enjoyable.

The world is made of stories

Engaging and absorbing stories portraying the value of products and services are created with the help of analytical work, lots of talent, and a clear goal in mind not only for the copywriter, but for the whole team working with the common objective.

Try to check which links you clicked after reading this article… meanwhile, I need to go back to writing some new stuff.


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