How can emotional storytelling build a more consumer-centric brand?

Love is one of the strongest emotions that we experience. What is the first question we ask someone in love? It is what is the story? Which makes it very evident that there is a strong connect between emotions and stories. Gone are the days, when stories were just considered a bedtime narrative for little children. We now experience storytelling in our everyday lives through images, text and videos. New age marketers have clutched on the art of expressing through stories to create a lasting impression and to win consumer trust.

What is storytelling?

In simple words, explaining through a story. The human brain can only process and retain a fraction of the factual information, however, when the same information is presented in the form of an interesting tale, it makes the content relatable and memorable. In other words, storytelling is the easiest way to tap into people’s mind and be remembered. Therefore, most brands use storytelling as one of the main components of their advertising and content strategy.

Through innovative and creative scripts, smart brands are able to connect and engage with the viewers taking them through the experience that their products and services are bringing into their lives to make them even better. They create a journey the audience will yearn to experience.

Stories are a breath of fresh air in contrast to the promotional content and discounts that are shoved into viewer’s faces through various adverts. They are subtle and focus on the value and experience that directly impacts trust, repeat business, and even loyalty. In a competitive landscape where viewers have the liberty to skip advertisements, stories can generate feelings and emotions to touch hearts and sustain interest.

Why do emotions play a big role in storytelling?

Now that we understand storytelling is a key element in crafting memorable brand experiences. We must also recognize that the goal of advertising is not to convince people or to make them think something; it is rather to make them feel something. And emotions are a way to rendering engendering stories.

Research has established that most of our big decisions are made with the right side of the brain. These choices are often based on feelings that we try to justify with rationale using the left side of the brain. Unlike cognitive thinking, emotions have a more profound impact on human actions and create a lasting instinctual impression that prompts us to take action in the future. It is this emotional bond that empowers relationship and consumer behavior towards the brand. Emotional campaigns are not only memorable but also lead to a high conversion rate, twice as much profits than rationale content (Institute of practitioners in advertising).

How can brands leverage the power of emotional storytelling?

India is a market driven by relationships, emotions and culture. We come across many brands leveraging these characteristics of the Indian mindset. Amongst many such brands like Coca-Cola, Cadbury, Airtel etc. the Tata Brands Titan and Tanishq remain on top my mind for creating emotional campaigns through storytelling. Ad campaigns such as the ‘Tanishq wali Diwali’ or Titan Raga’s ‘Mombychoice’ create a big impact by making a bold statement. In my curiosity to understand, are these ads creating as much impact on everyone, as they are on me, I analyzed these ads using Meltwater’s listening tool. I was interested in understanding the real sentiment behind these ads (the percentage of people talking positively or negatively), what exactly is being said in the form of posts and comments in social and also what is the reach of these ads. And I wasn’t surprised with the results:

Conducting a simple keyword search with the brand name, ad titles and hashtags, some vital metrics were collected from social media conversations that happened over the past year.

Impact of Tanishq Ads in Social media and online news

Sentiment- Positive

Meltwater sentiment analysis

Trending keywords based on conversations

Meltwater trends analysis

What are people saying?

Meltwaters content stream

Based on the analysis, let see what we learnt.

5 Lessons learnt from brands that are doing it right

  1. Customize to the local market– understanding what hits the pulse of your local market for e.g. in India it is relationships- be it a father-daughter relationship or mom and child, they all win hearts.
  2. Use popular topics and themes to your advantage– e.g. In India, Weddings, Patriotism etc.
  3. Don’t forget culture– Culture plays a big role in localizing the advert to taste- for e.g. In India adverts around festivities like Diwali showcasing the real charm of the Indian culture.
  4. Create consistency– this impacts the memorability aspect. Have an ongoing theme that showcases the real essence of the brand every time. Eventually, customers may not even need to see the brand name and may relate to your campaign. It could also be a song or a jingle used everytime. For e.g. ‘Har ek friend zarori hota hai’ by Airtel or ‘’Khud se naya rishta’ by Titan raga where they always depict powerful and independent women.
  5. Use mascots– they become relatable to the brand and help in building trust while impacting the recall value. For e.g Vodafone Zoozoo or even the Pug used in their ad campaigns that create an emotional bond.

Customer Orientation – Winning Trait or Survival Gene

Perpetual disconnect between brands and customers: While companies spend millions of dollars in promoting themselves, customers rely on the experience of self and others with the brand to make purchase decisions. This disconnect thus creates a leaky pipeline where companies continue to spend more to attract new customers, while customers continue to fall off due to an unpleasant experience. Although consumer-centricity or customer-orientation have become buzzwords in the branding and marketing space, but real life experiences make us wonder are companies living it in true spirit and getting the appropriate return on their investment (ROI)?

The fundamentals of the customer first approach, largely depends on understanding the customers and demonstrating clearly “what is in it for me” from their perspective. This is followed by, retaining these customers through consistent and differentiated experience. Ideally, this retention should be such that customers not only keep adding to the company’s revenues but also become brand advocates and bring more customers.

Thus comes the thought how can brands generate advocates?

The brand journey undergoes three main phases namely awareness, preference and Loyalty. As the name suggests awareness stage is about creating an impact by making the company’s presence felt. Time and relevance are two important factors here. If the product or service is relevant at that point in time (not ahead or behind the curve), and the brand is able to create a demand for it, the first battle is won. This phase often involves high investment in marketing and advertising that helps promote brand awareness and recall. Once people are aware, it is relatively easier to get considered for the next stage of being preferred over another competitor.

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The second stage, however, demands a lot more consistency in terms of experience, emotions, and communication. In the process of winning the customer, brands must remember that they are dealing with people who have emotions. In my opinion, it is important to make them feel wanted and treat them with empathy to build and maintain a relationship. For instance, in my consultation with an insurance company, we focus on training the call center employees to be empathetic towards customers. A compassionate response when a customer calls for an accident claim can make them feel valued and reduce her natural anxiety. These positive experiences not only save churn but also helps customers climb the ladder to the loyalty stage where they generate repeat business and become advocates. By being consistent and fulfilling brand promises, businesses can slowly let their advocates to do the talking on their behalf.

Similar to brands even customers go through a journey in the association. The illustration re-iterates the importance of customer experience within the brand journey. Focusing on the “loyalty zone” is critical for a brand. If on the usage of a certain product or service, clients do not enjoy the experience of interacting with the brand, it is unlikely that they will remain users. The company then has to restart the need generation process yet again. On the other hand, if the experience of a customer is delightful, then they will stay in the “loyalty zone”, wherein they will not only undertake repeat purchases but will also actively promote the brand. This in turn will help the brand build credibility and reputation.

customer journey

The influence of brand loyalty and advocacy does not end at intangibles. I am particularly fascinated by two research findings put out by Bain & Co., which demonstrate that remarkable customer journey not only creates brand advocates but also directly impacts profits and growth of the business. These findings state: a) It is 5 times more expensive to acquire customers than to retaining them. b) With every 5% increase in customer retention, there is a 25-95% increase in profits (varies from industry to industry). So for those who are always asking brand and marketing team for ROI, here is your answer!

Guest Post by Mitu Samar

Mitu Samar

A first generation entrepreneur, Mitu Samar has a proven track record in strategic communication and thought leadership positioning. She is the founder of ‘Eminence’, a boutique firm with the value proposition- building brands and positioning personalities. she serves as an Independent Director on the board of Times Group companies and is also on the advisory board of Biz divas. Amongst her many accomplishments, Mitu was recently featured on the list of ’50 Most Talented Corporate Communications leaders 2015’ by world CSR congress.