An argument for more emotion in content marketing

Why you need storytelling and storydoing

by Patrick Van Impe, Cypres

While storytelling brings your content marketing to the next level, storydoing takes it up another notch. This article explains why and illustrates how the two strengthen each other. In both cases the key word is ‘emotion’, all too often the missing link in content marketing.

Storytelling and content marketing are sometimes used interchangeably and while they are certainly related, they are not synonyms. Storytelling is not so much about content as about the way in which that content is presented. It is an approach to content marketing, a way of infusing your content marketing with emotion. The same is true of storydoing: the main thing is not the content of an event but the way in which you bring it across. More specifically, with a generous shot of emotion.

Virtual experience

With content marketing being relevant is not good enough. You need emotion to forge a link with your audience. And that’s where storytelling comes in. Strong stories are always about people and emotions. The main character in a story has to overcome all kinds of difficulties and the emotions that come with this struggle make it possible to identify ourselves with the character. This identification generates empathy and creates a virtual experience of the story. No emotion, no identification, no experience, no story.

Identification and experience are what made the old Marlboro man campaign so effective. Countless men pictured themselves riding that horse into the sunset, all macho and free as a bird. It was an image with a story that appealed to the target group and that fit in perfectly with the brand’s values and positioning. Nowadays Red Bull is famous for its content marketing and the brand employs identical tactics: the target group can just see themselves snowboarding, skiing or skating across the spectacular landscapes that feature in the videos of the drinks manufacturer. There is a perfect match between brand, story, experience and target group.

You need emotion to forge a link with your audience.

Physical experience

What if you were to offer actual physical experiences in story form instead of virtual experiences? In that case storydoing is the first thing that comes to mind. Instead of sticking to an ad featuring a cowboy this would mean actually going horseback riding with your customers. Or take tyre giant Continental with its Heroes Cycling Tour: they go cycling with their customers, offering them a unique experience.

Not every event involves storydoing. Real storydoing involves the same ingredients as storytelling: emotions in characters and a clear plot line. Emotions are what turn your event into a true experience. With the Continental Heroes Cycling Tour the emotion is in the cycling classics they ride (the plot line) and the interaction with the cycling heroes that participate, such as Eddy Merckx and Johan Museeuw (the characters).

Is your event an emotional experience? Then it also acts as a trigger for the creation and dissemination of stories because that is obviously always one of the purposes of storydoing. A car manufacturer that organises a great day for its customers on a race circuit but fails to craft it into a gripping story is missing out on a prime opportunity. It is doing but without the story whereas stories about that day could have given their reach a major boost. Moreover, stories based on actual events always have a more authentic feel. It’s a win-win situation, especially when the stories no longer originate with you but come directly from your target audience. If your event is constructed around the emotional ingredients of a wonderful story, all the elements of great storytelling are within easy reach.

Take the storytelling & storydoing test

  • Does your story dovetail with your brand values and positioning?
  • Do you create virtual or physical experiences through emotion, characters, a plot line?
  • Do your visuals tell a story?
  • Are storytelling and storydoing interlinked in an integrated communication plan? Do they strengthen each other?
  • Do content marketers contribute to the script for your event to help turn it into an emotional experience?
  • Do you take inspiration from film makers, authors and storytellers?
  • Is your event set up in a way that fosters the creation and dissemination of the right stories by the participants?

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