Storytelling has always been an essential part of a brand's development. A great story is something you can build your brand upon, something you can get your team behind and perhaps more pivotally, something your customer can fall in love with.
In this age of information, customers are increasingly more clued-up; they can research and compare product offerings in a matter of seconds; likewise, competitors can quickly mobilise to imitate your most significant differentiator.
So when it comes down to your customer making a buying decision, features aren't always going to seal the deal. Many times we have seen a mediocre product win out through excellent marketing, and often it's the story behind these brands that make the difference.
What is a strategic narrative
Storytelling and Narrative Design is on the lips of every Product Marketing Manager these days. A few brave companies have seen great success in creating a story around their brand, a sense of purpose, breaking out from the norm to develop and own new categories for their product offering.
Forerunners in this approach are the likes of Apple and Salesforce, who famously forged exponential growth for their businesses by offering clear, yet often challenging narratives that highlighted a seismic change in the status quo. This change had winners and losers, and there's no guessing that the solutions touted by these brands were for those focused on winning.
More recently, narrative design has seen a mini-revolution with many SaaS companies chomping at the bit to make their brand stand out from a crowded marketplace or create a point of view that enables them to own a new category.
- HubSpot: Inbound Marketing
- Drift: Conversational Marketing
- Gainsight: Customer Success
- Gong: Revenue Intelligence
Proponents of this approach include Andy Raskin, who has led strategic story training courses at the likes of Salesforce and Uber. Then there is also our man at HubSpot, Marcus Andrews, whose work recently has highlighted some of the genii behind the success of HubSpot in recent years.
The work they have been doing to explore the topic of narrative design and storytelling is unprecedented. We can get great insight from their attempts to apply a methodology to the process over the past few months while working with several clients on their brand story.
Narrative Design Methodology
However, creating a compelling story that succinctly highlights a shift, risk and urgency, and is something that is going to resonate with your audience isn't as easy as it seems. Luckily enough, we're beginning to see a pattern in the approach.
The spine of a great brand story mirrors that of much-loved novels and award-winning films. Here we look at defining the stages of a fantastic narrative.
1. Tease the Promised Land
The 'promised land', as Andy Raskin calls it, is a future state, a place where your customers aspire to be, but somewhere that is difficult to get to without help.
2. Highlight the Change
Name a change in the world that creates huge stakes for your customers and a sense of urgency. This is also known as a froto (from/to), showing how things were and how they are now. Outbound Marketing to Inbound Marketing.
3. Name the winners, shame the losers
Allude to how adapting to the change will have a positive future, and how those who don't will be left behind.
4. Name the new game
No-Software, Inbound Marketing, Conversational Marketing. Create a name for your new game and take your first steps to own the category.
5. The Golden Ticket
Your solution is the golden ticket that your customer needs to help them get to the promised land. Focus on the benefits and how your customer will thrive in this new game.
This approach demonstrates that traditional product positioning is no longer enough. Highlighting a pain that your buyer currently experiences and a solution to solve it is played out. Narrative Design defines a change in the world, a change that has affected human behaviours, creating a 'new game' in which your buyer can find success. Your solution is their vehicle to the Promised Land.
Get behind your story
You'll be pleased to hear that the benefits of narrative design extend beyond setting your brand apart from your competitors, becoming the leader in a new category and influencing a stream of new customers.
Those companies who have taken a narrative approach boast company-wide alignment behind a common story. The narrative acts as a rallying cry to your teams, is embodied in sales and pitch decks, and becomes the thing that dictates your product roadmap and content strategy moving forward.
So, are you ready to examine your brand narrative?
More and more companies are examining their messaging and their positioning around it. However, very few have wised up to the virtues of a narrative approach. It takes time and support from the top to get company-wide alignment, but there is currently a huge opportunity to break out from your competitors and elevate your brand to a whole new category.
Contact ExtraDigital today and let's start the first chapter in your brand narrative.