How to weave stories into your brand videos and why your customer must be the hero in your story.

If your marketing content is to stand out from the crowd then it is important to tap into the power of video storytelling.

We all love a good story.  As human beings, we are psychologically wired to enjoy them. Stories help us to make sense of the world, concepts, emotions, morality, society and so much more.

Stories create an emotional connection

Stories invite the audience to step into the main character’s shoes and imagine themselves going through the same trials and triumphs.

For video marketing purposes, this is powerful because you can entice your target audience to join you on a journey that highlights how good their life will look if they buy from you.

Video storytelling can make your brand more memorable as our human brains find it much easier to recall the key points of a story than a list of features. It can also help you to forge a deeper emotional connection with your customers, secure more sales and result in more repeat business.

The customer is the hero

Many businesses make the mistake of believing that they are the hero of their marketing stories. But, in truth, a story will only resonate if the viewer – in this case, the potential customer – takes centre stage.

If you have read my previous article, Your Brand Video. What it is and what it’s not you will already know that the most successful brand stories are those that recognise the ‘hero’ is not the brand. Your challenge is to pinpoint where your business fits into the hero’s story and then play that role with aplomb through the story you tell (more about this later).

Plot-lines that work for business videos

According to storytelling expert and screenwriter, Melissa Cassera, there are two main types of plotline that are particularly effective for brand videos.

The first is to tell a story about Overcoming the Monster. The second is to take your customers on a Quest with you.

At their heart, both types of story are about the triumph of good over evil, heroes over villains, success over adversity.

How does this translate into a video to market your business, products or services?

Using the Overcoming the Monster approach, the monster will probably be a problem that your customer is currently facing.

This could be a legal problem that they don’t know how to overcome, being stuck in a dead-end job with no prospect of promotion or a dietary need that’s affecting their life – the type of challenge or ‘monster’ will depend entirely on the nature of your business.

Once you’ve identified the monster that is most affecting your potential customers, your video needs to tell the story of how your business can help the viewer to slay the monster.

The Quest format may overlap with an Overcoming the Monster story or be told independently.

The concept of the quest is that the hero of the story – your customer – will go on a journey through various challenges and pitfalls until they reach their desired destination.

Your business should act as a guide, leading the customer safely through their journey to a happy ending.

The rule of three

From 10-second Instagram marketing videos to three-hour-long films or children’s short stories to classic novels, most stories are told in three acts.

  • Act one – the ‘Hook’ – sets the scene and draws the audience in
  • Act two tells the meat of the story, setting up the conflict and delivering on the hook promised in act one
  • Act three resolves and concludes the story, giving viewers a satisfying ending – with marketing messages, act three may end with a call to action

This ‘rule of three’ can be applied to most marketing messages and is a strong way to define the story you want to tell in your video.

Other key elements to include in your video story

I’m a big fan of Donald Miller’s StoryBrand approach to brand storytelling. After analysing a huge number of famous films and stories, Donald believes that there are seven key parts to any compelling story:

  1. You know what your audience wants 

If you’re able to identify exactly what it is that your potential customers want and need, you can not only develop an engaging story but also communicate how you can meet these needs in a clear, compelling and memorable way.

  1. You can identify three levels of problems 

In stories, there are three types of problems that prevent the hero of the tale achieving what they want. These problems are either external, internal or philosophical.

Typically, the external problem is something that has happened or will happen to the hero that’s beyond their control. For example, the target customer for a legal firm may be someone who doesn’t know how to go about writing a will but desperately needs to do one.

Using this example, the internal problem would be that the hero of the story has to find someone they can trust and someone who is affordable to help them but they don’t know where to start. They keep putting their worries about their will to one side, reasoning that it’s not urgent.

The philosophical problem explains why their internal feelings need to be resolved.

The hero in our example above risks leaving his family with a huge amount of stress and legal hassle to sort out his estate. Without a will, they will not be able to ensure that his last wishes are honoured. The hero won’t want to leave his family to suffer when he’s gone.

As Donald Miller tells us, the best marketing messages solve all three of these problems in one go.

For example, “At Acme Law, we offer a trustworthy, affordable will writing service that will protect your estate and save your loved ones from distress when you die”.

  1. You position yourself as a guide 

In every good story, there’s a guide, mentor or teacher who comes in and helps the hero. In the case of brand marketing, this guide should be your business.

You can use storytelling to show how you support your customers to help them achieve whatever it is they want. This might be by giving them the best tools, insider knowledge, an easier journey or something else altogether.

  1. You can give your audience a plan 

Think about your favourite story and the chances are that the guide who supports the hero puts together some sort of plan for them to follow.

The plan is what tells your audience how you’re going to get them from where they are now to where they want to be.

For example, an orthodontist might tell potential customers who want a brace that they should:

1) come in for a face-to-face consultation,

2) receive and agree their individual treatment plan and

3) complete their treatment with the beautiful smile they’ve always wanted.

The clearer you can make the plan, the better.

  1. Know your call to action 

Even with the most compelling, effective marketing videos, it’s essential to provide a clear call to action. What is it that you want the people watching the video to do next? People won’t act unless you tell them.

  1. & 7. You know what success or failure looks like for your audience

Your story and the call to action may lead to a happy or sad ending for the customer, depending on what they decide to do (or not do).

Your brand story needs to show the viewer how good their life will look if they follow the call to action or how bad it would look if they decide to walk away.

Your customers have to have a stake in the story

What each of the approaches above tells us is that your customer has to have a stake in the story you choose to tell.

This stake is what will spark an emotional connection and spur the viewer to action once the story is over.

With brand messaging, you can use your story to show your purpose, values and how you benefit others. In turn, your target audience will realise that they share the same values, beliefs and aspirations as your brand. They will prefer to buy from you over another company because of this alignment.

As we’ve seen above, video storytelling isn’t just about telling the history of your business. It can also be used in other types of video such as explainer videos, behind-the-scenes videos, events videos, testimonial videos and case studies, or culture videos, as just a few examples.

In all cases, just remember that your business is the guide that leads the customers to success. Now, go out there and overcome the monster that is effective video marketing!

Developing a strategy for using video in your marketing mix can be confusing if you haven’t worked extensively with video before.

If you want to make video a profitable part of your business, it’s important that you have a video marketing strategy that extends beyond your normal digital marketing or content marketing strategy, and maximises the impact of the videos you get produced.

Don’t know exactly what you need?

Get in touch for some free advice and discover:

  • What videos will have the greatest impact on your bottom line
  • The best way to have your videos produced, based on your needs and budget
  • The video marketing channels that will deliver the greatest reach and engagement for your brand