Brands as Storytellers: Make Your Customer the Hero

The art of storytelling has always been a powerful technique for bringing people together and keeping them engaged. A great story can give any brand, even a so-called “boring” one, a powerful voice in the market. After all, the difference between a boring product and an exciting one is its story. When you create content that is useful and relevant to your customers’ needs, you are making the customer the center of the story, the hero.

DropBox, a cloud storage company, is a prime example. Dropbox grew their software startup to 2 million users in just under 2 years. Cloud storage is not typically the most intriguing topic, so how did they do it?

Dropbox didn’t go the route of traditional marketing and pay-per-click advertising. Keywords for cloud storage were too expensive for their budget, and “long-tail search wasn’t providing them with the volume they needed.” They had already created a product that was worth talking about because it was tailored to their customers’ needs. So, the next logical step to their growth was to figure out how to get more people talking about their product.

Dropbox was created by Drew Houston, an MIT student.  After he repeatedly forgot his USB flash drive for class, he conceived the idea of creating an online storage platform. Since this is something most college students and even business executives can relate to, Dropbox used their backstory to craft their marketing messages. They used a light-hearted approach and created their messaging around the fact that their product simplified the act of online storage and file sharing and solved an everyday issue for the customer. What’s more is that this made the customer the center of the story, capturing audiences all over.

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The main focus of their story is that their product is going to make your life easier – a simple, user friendly solution to your data storage issues. The style of the visual is what helps make their message even more powerful and gets straight to the point. Scott McCloud stated, “When you look look at a realistic drawing of a face – you see it as the face of another, but when you enter the world of the cartoon – you see yourself.” Which is exactly what DropBox has done.

With the use of a stick figure, it allows various demographics to be able to relate to the ambiguous character in the drawing. The lack of technical jargon and use of playful colored-pencil-like sketches makes the message seem even more personable and showcases the brand’s personality. The message and the story they convey to their customers is what makes them an exciting company. They give the customer something to talk about, something for the customer to remember.

Leverage Your Story

Once you’ve created your story and the connection of your company or product to the customer, you need to get them sharing this story and even their own story about their experience with your product. Storytelling incites excitement which will help turn your customers into brand evangelists, telling everyone they know about their experience. Your brand needs to convey that same excitement.

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By now, you must be thinking to yourself, that is great, but where do I start? Here are some questions to start asking yourself and your employees to help you develop your own story.

  • What values do you hold close to your company?

  • What were the struggles and victories you faced in creating your brand?

  • How is your product or service different than others, how does it help others?

  • What motivates you and your employees?

  • What role can your brand play in the lives of your customers?

Don’t overthink the process; telling the story of your brand should come naturally. As if you are telling a close friend about how you started your business, and how your product could help them. Be honest. Be conversational. When you take the approach of sharing the personalities of your company, your strengths and your weaknesses, it makes your brand appear more accessible to your customers. What is going to make it exciting for the customer is when your story answers the question of why you care about them, and how your company connects to their passions and interests.

“Companies looking to stand out can’t sit back and hope they’ll be found, nor can they trust solely in paid ad buys to reach their intended customer.” Instead, having a trusted team that understands your current mission and where you’ve come from and who spearheads targeted content marketing and community building is one of the best ways to ensure that your brand and its story will be placed where your customers will not only find it, but engage with it. You can’t waste your time telling an amazing story to people who aren’t interested. Dropbox hasn’t achieved their rapid growth with traditional advertising, but rather by placing themselves where their users are and inviting them to be a part of the next chapter.

About the Author

Phoebe Pinheiro

Brand Strategy Supervisor - SEO

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