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Brands must tell better stories

News, 23 June 2015

LONDON: Eight out of ten Britons think brands should be telling stories, but a similar proportion couldn't give a memorable example when asked by a new survey.

Content marketing specialist Headstream polled more than 2,000 UK adults for its Brand Storytelling Report 2015 to discover their feeling towards brand stories on digital channels and found that 79% felt it was a good idea for brands to tell stories as part of their marketing and customer communications.

"Storytelling has become one of the key phrases behind any modern marketing strategy," noted Headstream CEO Stephen Sponder. "It's clear that people want to hear and see more engaging narratives," he told The Drum.

The survey suggested that this is not currently happening: 85% of respondents were unable to give an example of a memorable brand story, although older consumers (55+) were three times more likely to manage to recall one than 18-34 year olds.

Despite that, two thirds (64%) said brands were good at telling stories and most wanted to hear and see stories about people like themselves: just 19% wanted stories involving celebrities compared to the 66% who demanded stories about "regular people".

Humour is a vital ingredient, especially as regards consumers over the age of 35, for whom this stood out as being important, far head of other options such as being inspirational or dramatic. These three elements were more or less equal for 18-24 year olds.

And if people really liked a brand story, the survey found that more than half (55%) were more likely to buy the product in the future, while 44% shared the story and 15% bought the product immediately.

"Customer advocacy should be at the core of all content marketing and storytelling campaigns," Sponder advised.

And he added that the quality of the content could overcome any reservations consumers might have about sponsored content.

The survey showed that 71% of respondents thought it important that brand-created stories were clearly differentiated from editorial stories on online news sites, although most were willing to read or view them anyway; just 8% refused to do so.

"Great content and engaging stories will attract and appeal to consumers irrespective of whether a brand is obviously behind them," said Sponder.

Data sourced from Headstream, The Drum; additional content by Warc staff