How to tell a compelling story for your brand through video

Telling a story through video is an increasingly popular way for brands to create valuable relationships with their customers. This is…

How to tell a story through video
Elisabetta Severoni
Content Marketing How to tell a compelling story for your brand through video

Telling a story through video is an increasingly popular way for brands to create valuable relationships with their customers. This is because video, more than any other media, allows you to establish a connection with your viewers. It’s a connection that is all the more powerful when the stories told draw on a shared experience and use it to convey emotion.

Marketing uses the mechanisms at work in video storytelling to achieve a series of important objectives, and it does so by following certain rules. Let’s see which ones.

How to tell a memorable story to gain customer loyalty

A person is more than 20 times more likely to remember a fact if that fact is central to a story.

And, if a story is memorable, it can be used as a point of contact between the world of the storyteller and the world of the message recipient, between the world of the brand and the world of the customer. It can help grow customer loyalty. It can initiate a relationship that will gain value as that initial story is woven coherently into a larger storyline.

The most memorable stories can provide information through a wide range of modalities:

  • description of events through statistics and numbers,
  • recognizable narrative patterns because they are typical of Western culture (think of the thousands of variations on Christopher Vogler’s “hero’s journey”),
  • textual elements capable of creating emotions by activating certain universal physiological responses.

How to tell a story through video: choose the narrative over raw data

Not all stories are the same or prove equally effective in achieving the intended communication objectives. There is a distinction that concerns the different resources of thought and experience that we can use creating the message.

The logical and rational presentation of an event, accompanied by technical data and metrics, will always have less capacity to engage the public (and therefore to be remembered) than using the narrative form to recount the same event. So, what is the reason for this distinction?

In general, telling a story has a lot to do with a particular feature of our memory, which associates more vivid and lasting memories with the way we feel rather than with a simple account of a fact.

Put another way, we remember what makes us feel much more than we remember the factual elements of a story.

For years, neuroscience research has shown that specific areas of the brain are activated when a memory is associated with particularly intense emotions. The strength of this biochemical reaction means that that particular memory, together with the emotions associated with it, is retained longer and in greater detail than other memories.

This mechanism helps determine the memorability of a story and its ability to persuade and convince. When the story is told through video, the potential of this mechanism is fully unleashed because video allows for a more immersive viewing that makes information easier to memorize and emotional engagement more immediate.

How to tell a story through video to deliver meaningful content

For decades, marketers have been leveraging video storytelling – the unique ability to reproduce and induce emotions that we’ve mentioned above – to achieve a number of basic goals: to build and enrich a brand’s identity or to help viewers make sense of complex information in order to convince them to make certain choices (conversions or purchasing decisions). Above all, storytelling has been used to create engagement and establish a dialog with consumers, to build loyalty.

Loyalty processes, the holy grail of marketers and companies, are also developed thanks to narratives that are able to impose themselves on the attention of the target audience and prove – for that specific audience – to be useful, relevant, and significant.

7 tips to understand how to tell a story through video

In addition to conveying informative content without being heavy or complicated to understand, stories are associated with emotions and are remembered and felt with more immediacy and ease. Because of these inherent characteristics, stories improve the overall quality of communications, including that between brand and consumer.

Whether it’s a funny short animation or a documentary-style video, stories all have a beginning, a middle, and an end, twists and turns and obstacles to overcome, a protagonist and his formidable adversary, secondary characters who steer the course of events, and inner conflicts to face in order to gain the awareness needed to “win” – whatever winning means.

That said: how do you tell an effective and compelling story through video?

Below are some tips to get you started.

1. Don’t underestimate the “playlist” effect

If some people will be convinced to buy your product or service after watching a single video, many others will need a more diffuse and articulated story to make an informed decision: we could call it the “playlist effect”.

In fact, it can happen that, in order to enter the brand’s world or participate in the product adventure, consumers may need an introductory video, followed by other follow-up content.

The latter also give you the opportunity to further segment your audience and communicate on a more targeted level.

2. Show, don’t tell

This is the true super power of storytelling, which applies to advertising as much as it does to the film industry: limiting words to let images do the talking.

By loading the visual part with meaning, or rather, by delegating part of the sense of what you want to communicate to moving images, this strengthens the message. In this way, the content is enriched with suggestions and emotional nuances linked to areas of our brain that are different from those that control the functioning of verbal language.

3. Come as you are

Talking about oneself, perhaps in the first person, is not a bad thing. However, it can be a bad thing if it’s a boring or self-congratulatory monologue.

What is very different, however, is the attempt to bring to the screen a personal and therefore unique experience where the audience can easily recognize itself and which is therefore perceived as authentic. What allows a story to be shared is the spectacle of humanity, the staging of the fragility of the protagonist, his vulnerability in the face of obstacles.

Imperfection – which unites us all – reduces distances.

4. Keep your eyes on the customer

A narrative pattern that is widely used in videos is the one where the potential customer – the ideal customer – plays the hero. In this case, the brand becomes the helper who, through a magical object (the product or service), creates the conditions for the success of the protagonist.

Although there are many other structures where the hero is not impersonated by the customer, one rule of storytelling is that it requires you to never lose sight of the real recipients of your message, i.e. the people in your audience, and to shift the focus of the narrative to the aspect of your product or service that is relevant to them, and not on the exaltation of generic technical features.

5. Make it simple

Don’t overload your video with repetitive twists, convoluted dialogs, and brainless voice-overs. Avoid unnecessary special effects. A clear, straightforward storyline – which doesn’t necessarily mean uneventful (see point 8, Keep moving) or linear in a chronological sense – can more accurately communicate the key message, the one that contains the most meaningful information for the viewer.

6. Mobile First

This suggestion, compared to the others provided so far, refers to a different level than that of storytelling, one that is technological. According to a Facebook survey, people are one and a half times more likely to watch a video on a smartphone than on a computer. Optimizing your videos for mobile users is no longer an additional activity that can be done later: it has to be planned in the strategic design phase, as well as in the video writing phase.

7. There’s no story without conflict

Conflict is the force that drives a story and it occurs whenever someone wants or needs something and has to fight for it. This “something” can be many things: a physical object, the values of the protagonist, the crowning of a type of personal relationship (for example: a love relationship or a friendship or loyalty), etc..

You always have to keep in mind that the audience will not be interested in a story if there is no conflict. The brand that generates interest is the brand that tells a story where the conflict is relevant because it expresses a struggle with a problem that its target audience can relate to.

8. Keep moving

Conflict gives rise to the urgency to move from a situation of balance to one that is unbalanced. For this reason, stories need a direction: in videos, this direction is marked by the progress of sequences, during which the protagonist moves from one place (and one space) to another (and another).

The set of these steps describes a narrative arc, or also called a character arc (because it manifests itself through the character). Creating a video that is able to return these movements in the most realistic way over the course of the narrative arc gives rhythm and intensity to the story.

9. Context is everything

Surprising your audience is one of the best ways to capture their attention and engage them. If we want to create a surprise effect (which can also be accompanied by an effect of estrangement), you must first understand the dynamics of the context in which our story is set. At that point, in order to move the story forward, the context can be used in a kind of side game, in two ways:

  • by subverting its rules,
  • by showing “behind the scenes”,

Either way, if there’s one rule where visual storytelling beats textual storytelling, it’s this. You can also use words to describe the scenario that lies behind the scenes or what the world would look like from another perspective, but you would probably get a less powerful and effective effect.

10. Take a stand

Don’t be bland: show or share a specific position. Every marketing initiative actually conveys a message. And in order not to get lost in the information chaos typical of contemporary markets, this message – which helps define brand awareness – must resonate in a distinct way and must offer consumers a precise key to interpreting contemporary reality.

These 10 tips on how to tell an engaging story through video – although they do not exhaust the infinite possibilities of human creativity – can guide the creation of content that is not only beautiful, compelling, and enjoyable but also functional to the objectives of your marketing strategies.

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