The Brand Guide To Storytelling

Storytelling is one of the year’s hottest marketing buzzwords. But unlike some marketing trends, storytelling is a proven marketing technique used by most big brands. In this article, Moondust , specialists in social media and content marketing, are looking at brand storytelling, why it works and some hacks you can try yourself.

Credit:  Reuben Juarez  on  Unsplash

Why Does Storytelling Work?

Most adults remember a time when as a child, they were read a story. There’s something immersive, comforting and enchanting about being transported to a different place. It’s one of the main reasons we read books and visit movie theatres. So why does storytelling work? It’s simple. A good story evokes emotions which can influence purchasing decisions. According to the stats, marketers are finding it increasingly difficult to reach their target audience on social media. Yet, storytelling is producing the results they want to see:


·      Only 6% of millennials considering online advertising to be credible

·      While 84% of 375,000 people surveyed across 33 countries expect brands to deliver content, over half described branded content as ‘poor, irrelevant or fails to deliver.’

·      Brands can increase the value of a product or service by 20 times with storytelling

·      92% of consumers prefer ads that feel like a story

·      Experts suggest, over 200 million virtual reality headsets will be sold by 2020 opening the possibilities of immersive storytelling

·      According to “The impact of storytelling on the consumer brand experience: the case of a firm-originated story” published in the Journal of Brand Management, storytelling has an empirically positive effect on consumers.

By properly planning and executing brand storytelling, you can draw out an emotional response from your audience which will have a stronger and longer-lasting effect. By being honest when constructing the story, you can build a rapport with your audience, turning them into loyal followers.


Did You Know…

Did you know that when a story is told well, a neurochemical called oxytocin is released in the brain which can increase a person’s trust in the storyteller. So, if a brand gets its storytelling strategy right, it helps to develop that much needed relationship between company and consumer.

Know Your Target Audience

Big brands know their target audience. This is the most important aspect of storytelling because all stories are tailored to a target audience. So, when we create a storytelling marketing strategy, we always think about your target audience and draw on your data to help shape our decisions. By 2020, 1.7 megabytes of data will be created every second, for each person on earth. This creates immense to create highly visual, engaging and targeted stories.

•          Use analytical tools to understand the demographics of your audience.

•          Use data to tailor your campaigns and content.

•          Understand the views and ethos of your target audience. Know the social media platforms they frequent and what they like to share.


Create A Storytelling Structure

Storytelling for social media still follows a basic structure in the same way as an article or book would do.

·      Exposition - Beginning of the Story

·      Rising Action - The build-up to a notable event

·      Climax - The main event

·      Falling Action - Reflections on the event

·      Resolution - End of the story

 This will all culminate in a message that will either affect your readers positively or negatively. The best way to achieve a positive impact is to have your readers identify with you and have a single message that can be condensed into a sentence or two.


Storytelling Example- Unsung Hero

Do you remember the famous Thai life insurance commercial Unsung Hero? This and the other long commercials in the series had marketers around the world sitting up and taking notice and the rest of the world hitting share and weeping onto their keyboards. These commercials have created a new type of ad genre called “sad-vertising”. These commercials filmed in sepia with melodramatic background music follow the storytelling plotline expertly to build an emotional connection. These ads became so popular that people even started creating “reaction” videos, where the premise is not to cry to the commercial.

 These commercials are in native Thai but with subtitles so they can be viewed and understood by English speakers. A factor which adds to the authenticity of the story.

Practical Tips for Organic Storytelling

#1 Be Authentic

Authenticity is key for 2019 and beyond. An increasing number of consumers believe authenticity on social media to be very important and are quick to call out brands for fake news or inauthentic messaging. The key is really to be yourself.  A great example of someone using social media to promote his brand by being himself is Peter McKinnon.  

The Toronto-based vlogger was able to do the impossible by acquiring over 1.1 million subscribers in less than a year. His niche is photography hacks, tips, tutorials, and recommendations, but with a cursory search, you’ll find a heavily saturated market for his content. So how did he do it?

Obviously, aside from being 100% committed to the endeavor and consistent with his posting, people stayed with him, because of him. His personality is at the forefront and while the content has value, it plays more as a tool to reach him, rather than the other way around.

storytelling by Peter McKinnon vlogger

 His tweets keep it real and ensure that he is accessible for fans, a key part of an engaging storytelling strategy.

peter mckinnon tweet storytelling

And he is keen to share “behind the scenes” footage from his storytelling sequences:

behind the scenes footage from a storytelling sequence
storytelling behind the scenes

TIP: A behind the scenes story can be just as valuable as the main one. If you’re shooting a storytelling movie, be sure to capture thoughts, photos and footage behind the scenes. Your social media followers will feel connected to you on a deeper level if you share funny bloopers, true stories, fails and successes.  

#2 Make It Interactive

Do you remember storytelling around the campfire as a child? Campfire storytelling often involves the audience playing a role or responding aloud to the story. Think how fun it is to boo and hiss at a baddy on stage. Or to phone in during a singing competition to place your vote.  

In the same way for marketers, consumer interaction is key. Essentially, you want to take your consumers on an interactive journey as this helps them to feel part of your story. Being an interactive storyteller can be enhanced by polls, live question and answer sessions and by integrating feedback into your strategy.

Storytelling Example- Lego and Hulu Offer Viewer Choices

Lego’s “Slimy Situation” video ad offers users a choice of endings to a dramatic Lego city story.

Catering to its target audience, Lego’s one-minute drama begins with a Lego-crafted village in which a small Lego character purchases a cup of coffee from the town coffee shop.

Seconds later, Slime begins pouring into the town as if it were volcano lava.

 But then it’s over to the audience to decide how the story ends… Suck it Up, Get to a Chopper or Hide it.

lego storytelling


TIP: You don’t need to utilise video or have a big budget to play with audience participation. You could create a blog and have fans vote on alternate endings, story subjects or invite users to vote on a brand name. Just be careful not to give your audience too many choices. We all remember Boaty Mc Boat Face…

Boaty McBoat Face

 #3 Create a brand character

Creating a brand character can really boost your storytelling and provide you with a solid base for your campaigns. Think that a character won’t work? Check out the brand characters behind these successful companies:

Insurance company Churchill’s famous nodding dog helped to boost pre-tax profits for the Direct Line Group by almost 50% as part of an extensive rebrand.

Compare the Market enjoyed an 80% jump in internet traffic following meerkat Aleksandr Orlov’s initial TV advert appearance.

Go Compare’s moustached Italian opera singer, Gio Compario returned to TV screens and contributed to a 26% increase in customers looking for quotes, while insurance revenues rose 17%. 

The benefit of a brand character is the ability to take readers on adventures and tell an ongoing story that loosely incorporates your products. It also allows you to step outside the realms of reality and be more daring. This July, television viewers were taken on an epic and slightly tear jerking journey with Oleg the meerkat.

brand character storytelling

 Those following the series will know that Oleg is a baby meerkat who first appeared in an advert broadcast on 25 December 2013, where Sergei and Aleksandr find him on their doorstep and take him in. On 25 December 2014, whilst on a trip to Africa with Aleksandr and Sergei, Oleg decides to stay there after befriending the meerkats there. 

The adverts proved popular and became a commercial success for, which became the fourth most visited insurance website in the UK as a result. A book featuring Oleg was published in 2010, and other merchandise, blogs and materials were created in tandem with the ongoing campaign.

 TIP: When creating a brand character, think about your long term aims and the story you want to tell. Consider how your brand character can be included in social media, blogging, video and perhaps even offline. The Aflac insurance duck, for example, answers all the brand’s tweets!


storytelling with the Aflac duck

#4 Tell Your Brand Story

If you’re in a sector where trust is an issue, then your storytelling approach should create trust. Brands like those in the finance sector have chosen to do that by telling their brand story. Some ways to do that include:

• Document the journey of your brand from the stat to where you are now. Intel did this nicely on their Instagram channel for International Women’s Day.

intel storytelling

• Introduce key team members to give your brand a face and make it more approachable. Revolut created a RevInsider video and blogging series which is published to YouTube and features the employees of Revolut.

revolut storytelling
revolut storytelling revinsider

 • Go behind the scenes of a product launch to show the team working hard to make it happen. Keep it inclusive by meeting everyone, from the office tea lady through to the CEO. You can then connect it with blogs from these team members about how they solved a problem, worked to meet the deadline or created a new feature.

TIP: Talk to your audience using simple language and don’t script it! Of course, everyone should be prepared and know what they will say but a script won’t create the feeling of trust that your storytelling campaign needs.


#5 Stand For Something

Taking a stand on an ethical or charitable issue is a great way to kickstart your storytelling campaign. CSR – Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer just about saying “We donate to charity”. It’s about showing your hands-on commitment, volunteering and being passionate about what you do. It’s inspiring to see so many companies heading out for beach cleanups and nature conservation but how do you incorporate that into storytelling? 

·      Give your readers full information on the charity and why you are supporting it

·      Blog about milestones however small they may be. Perhaps an employee raised $50 in a bake sale – tweet it, or your company are running a thanksgiving collection for your charity- blog about it.

·      Include interviews, photos, video snippets and stats from your cause or charity.


Take a look at outdoor clothing retailer, Patagonia, who combined storytelling with authenticity by aiming to raise awareness of an important social issue: the protection of America’s public lands- check out the video.

Having uncovered the insight that their customers care deeply about sustainable and ethically-made clothes, the brand decided to prove its dedication to the cause. In 2017, Patagonia released its first-ever TV commercial, and it had nothing to do with clothing.

A spokesperson for the brand said, “Whether you are a hunter or a hiker, an angler or a climber, Patagonia wants you to join them in this fight to ensure access and protection for our public lands.”

TIP: To incorporate charity into your storytelling you need to leave out any promotions as this will come across as crass and money motivated. Your involvement and alignment with the charity will promote your brand. Consumers, especially millennials, feel inspired by ethical brands and buy their products even when there might be cheaper alternatives. Companies perceived to be ethical tend to be more profitable.

Storytelling isn’t going away anytime soon and with consumers increasingly turning away from influencers and sponsored ads, this could be the perfect time for your brand to try it. Speak to the experienced team at Moondust to craft your own storytelling campaign.

Marie-Helene Dibenedetto