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The future of brand storytelling:
four predictions

| 26 June 2015

In recent years, the term ‘content is King’ has been used excessively – and for good reason. Certainly, the use of content has evolved to become an integral aspect of many brands’ digital marketing efforts, and storytelling plays a key role in producing content that will engage.

But what exactly is storytelling? What are appropriate stories for brands to tell? And what do consumers actually want to hear?

In order to answer some of these questions, we surveyed over 2,000 UK consumers to garner some accurate predictions about the future of storytelling. How can you tap into this exciting (and often misunderstood) medium?

1.   Tell stories with Millennials in mind

The younger generation prefers storytelling over any other type of content. Through the research we carried out, we found that – despite special offers or discounts being the form of content consumers prefer to see in general – Millennials (those aged 18-34) actually ranked it second, stating that “humorous, dramatic or inspirational stories” gain their top-spot.

Brands can learn a valuable lesson here, and it could help them to adapt their content for the future: while we all love an exclusive deal or freebie, the love younger audiences have for stories is even greater.

2.   Talk about real events by real people

Peer-to-peer recommendations are invaluable; we only have to look at the success of Trip Advisor to see that. Peer ratings and reviews are becoming the expected norm and are making their way into the overall product experience – Airbnb, for example, is the brand that springs to mind here.

Some brands, however, have been slow to adopt this strategy, with many focusing their storytelling on fictional characters. But our study actually discovered that over half (57%) believe that better stories come from real people with a focus on real events. We’re not saying there’s no room for memorable fictional characters (who could forget those Meerkats?), but we think a rebalancing is needed in order to reap the rewards of peer recommendations.

3.   Tell stories with reference to the everyday man and woman

Who do consumers mean when they say they want to hear stories from “real people”? Well, the majority of people aren’t referring to celebrities or CEOs; 66% prefer to hear these tales coming from regular people. Of course, celebrity endorsements can still help to engage a consumer with a product or service, but, again, we think a rebalancing is on the cards as brands turn to advocates who are just like their customers – or maybe even customers themselves!

What does this mean for brands? They will have to become more strategic and systematic about how they garner and utilise customer advocacy – either among their customers or by making it accessible to everyone.

4.   Don’t always rely on the comedy factor

Typically, brands have viewed humour as the go-to option when it comes to online content. Our research certainly didn’t deny this; 42% of people still ranked comedy as their preferred storytelling genre. However, younger audiences (particularly those in the lower age demographic of Millennials, aged between 18 and 24) stated that dramatic and inspirational stories were also one their favourite genres (26% for dramatic and inspirational vs. 28% for humorous).

By inspirational content, we don’t just mean a philosophical quote with the backdrop of a sunset image. Let’s not forget the medium of video – something our survey revealed to be the top choice by consumers for the delivery of stories online. So, rather than always assuming humour is the way to engage potential customers, brands should be looking deep into their soul to find the dramatic answer!

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