Insight August 29, 2016

Unlocking the Power of Story


By Anna Condon, Junior Copywriter

Storytelling. It’s a key feature of human interaction; it’s natural. There’s a reason we use stories as a means of teaching our children. Stories engage us in a way that logical explanation of the facts can’t.

What makes a story?

Essentially, a story is a string of events that begins in one place and ends in another, where events influence and build on one another to create a clear narrative arc.

A story goes somewhere. It follows characters through a series of events for a purpose. Take, for example, Kombi Last Wishes, part of the “unlaunch” campaign to announce the end of production for the Volkswagen Kombi.

The video tells the story of the Kombi, from its conception until its final journey to deliver bequests from its list of Last Wishes. The fulfillment of the list became a short film narrated by the Kombi itself, featuring stories from people who submitted their personal experiences with the Kombi and a reunion with the son of the car’s creator — technically speaking, a brother of sorts.

The end of the Kombi made news across the world, and the goodbye film was watched for a period equivalent to eight years in a single week, becoming the most liked and shared video in the history of Volkswagen Brazil. What about the Kombi story made it so engaging?

Show, don’t tell.

It’s the maxim of great advertisers — and great storytellers — throughout time.

When Volkswagen decided to discontinue the Kombi, they could have chosen to send out a simple press release with a purely economic explanation of why they chose to cease production. Instead, they decided to create a campaign that allowed people to show how this wasn’t just about a car, but a symbol. The best way to demonstrate that was by sharing customers’ real experiences with the car.

Storytelling is a way of showing customers something without having to tell them what you want them to know. It’s effective for building your brand, since its estimated that stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered than facts alone.

Most brands are complicated and easily forgotten—or replaced by other brands. They need stories as a way to ensure consumers remember what a brand is all about.

Storytelling gives marketers the ability to evoke emotions and generate strong personal connections to a brand, its mission, and ultimately, its products in a way that a list of product features can’t.

Storytelling vs. Co-creation

One of the greatest triumphs of the Kombi ad is that it capitalizes on customer’s investment in the brand. Inviting people to come to the website and tell the stories of their experiences with the car offered them a chance to become part of the campaign.

The future of storytelling is co-creation, where a brand facilitates and taps into the stories people are already creating and sharing with one another. Storytelling can be an effective method of delivering messages in an interesting, amusing, and interactive way, but co-creation takes that a step further, allowing people to feel a sense of ownership and deepening their emotional connection.

And, if you can make someone feel, you’re halfway to persuading them to buy something.