Marketing March 24, 2017 Last updated September 19th, 2018 1,897 Reads share

Why Brands Must Engage in Storytelling & Leave Blatant Promotion Out

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The present business ecosystem is amazing. This is an era that is seeing a high turnout of creative ideas coupled with the passion of changing the world. Businesses are launched every day – while some perish through the sands of time, the remaining flourish. What do those businesses that flourish do that the others do not? They tell stories.

We remember our ancestors through stories. It is a collective recollection, a collective memory that every human possesses. Stories capture our imagination and our consciousness. Businesses that understand this psychology are in a position to capitalize on this art of storytelling without having to resort to blatant promotions.

In economic terms, marketing can bring instant revenue to your business, but building a brand through storytelling can bring loyalty and evangelism. The expected ROI differs vastly with these two strategies. With marketing, you measure your ROI in terms of revenues. With brand storytelling however, your ROI is measured in terms of the loyalty earned and the brand recall factor among your customers. These are metrics that help your business generate a life-long revenue stream.

Brands steadily realize the power of stories. As we will see in the examples below, brands are building customer experiences and acquiring lifelong loyalists. While the examples below are of comparatively newer brands, there are some iconic ones like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Disney that received legendary status through storytelling.

Stories create trust. It builds human communication. Years of research conclude that when we read a story, its descriptive powers affect both our motor and sensory cortex. When we read a story, we go through an experience, which may not be ours. We may not be the subjects of the story, but its impact leads us through a path of catharsis.

Scientists call this process neural coupling, in which the listener and the speaker interact, and the beneficiary is the brand. It leads to a greater understanding, comprehension, and interaction.

In a Forbes article, Susan Gunelius draws a powerful difference between branding and marketing. She says:

“Brand stories are not marketing materials. They are not ads, and they are not sales pitches. Brand stories should be told with the brand persona and the writer’s personality at center stage. Boring stories won’t attract and retain readers, but stories brimming with personality can.”

Telling brand stories is a multi-step process that should be relatable and not monopolistic. Every story has a beginning, middle, and the end OR in other words, a Problem whose timely Solution creates Success – that’s a brand story agenda highlighted in few chosen words.

Let us check out some successful brand stories as examples.


Chipotle delivers food with integrity. Usually, fast foods are condemned due to factors like lack of nutrition and its contribution towards weight gain. Though Chipotle works in the fast food segment, they identify themselves as the evangelist of good food. They have a fantastic and engaging fan base, and their method of cultivating and delivering food works well for both the consumers and the farmers. They seek to “cultivate a better world with respect for animals, farmers, and the environment,” and this message is visible in their brand commercials and marketing activities.


Welcome home is their message. Airbnb is the global leader in affordable and luxurious accommodations. They have a presence in 190+ countries. What they are selling are not hotel rooms or resorts, they are selling experiences, and this perception is vividly visible in each of their commercials and promotions. They have redefined user experience and created a trusted community of marketplace users. Look at their Super Bowl 2017 commercial; it’s a brilliant example of branding. It doesn’t have any in-your-face CTA asking you to book with Airbnb or any discount deals, they are curating a brand perception, and such perspective offers high recall factor.


There are multiple headphone manufacturers in the market but still, why do people prefer to buy high-end headphones like Beats. Acquired by Apple in 2014 for $3 billion and created by Dr. Dre, Beats has introduced the new generation to the premium sound environment that is akin to listening to music in a recording studio. Dr. Dre found the problem with subpar headphones problematic enough to devise a new listening experience through Beats. A lot of celebrities endorse them, too.

Virgin America

Flight travel is boring and Virgin America created a niche for them with stories that tell a different experience. They made flying good again by reinventing domestic travel with awesome service and various amenities. Even before booking a flight, the traveler can tour plane cabins through their partnership with Google Street. Their partnership with Netflix allows travelers to stream content during flight. They introduced custom leather seats, mood-lit cabins, touchscreens, power outlets, on-demand menu and much more. Their in-flight safety video clocked more than 12 million views to date. Virgin America improved their product and gave passengers a better experience.

Warby Parker

Eyewear is usually expensive, and the Warby Parker’s reason for success is, again, based on valuable experience. Going with the slogan of good eyewear, good outcome, Parker has created affordable eyewear in premium quality. The creators found a problem and mitigated it through affordable eyewear. Warby Parker, to date, has distributed millions of eyeglasses free of cost for every eyewear purchased through their site, to the needy.

A Lesson to Learn

What did we learn from the five examples? All of them focus on the user experience, and that’s the core part of their branding activity. They are not indulging in blatant marketing or promoting; they are creating stories that people find relatable and hence, their brands are enjoying visibility and profits.

Someone truly said that money is only the by-product of what we do. We should focus our energy not on the money but on solving a problem. In the above examples, Chipotle is doing it by offering good food, Airbnb through quality accommodation, Beats through a better listening experience, Virgin America through a better in-flight experience, and Warby Parker through a better eyewear option.

What is your brand doing?

Vic Anandan

Vic Anandan

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