It’s not your product, it’s your story.

Consumers are changing, a full 70% of consumers prefer to get to know a brand via articles over ads. While social and digital marketing continue to capture an increasing share of marketing budgets, the existing digital ads are declining in value. With over 7.1B, yes that’s Billion with a B, in Ad fraud in 2019, brands must rethink how they deploy their marketing capital. While I don’t advocate throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I’d recommend brands think differently about how they allocate budgets. While paid media has, and will continue to be an arrow in every advertiser’s quiver, the power of storytelling through content marketing is becoming one of the most powerful ways for brands to build connections with consumers.

We are seeing a rapid shift in the way audiences connect to brands. It’s easy to spin up a few ads and spend your way to the top of search engines or social media, however recent studies are increasingly showing that these ads are largely being ignored, blocked, or in the worst case not even seen. What consumers desire in 2020 is an emotional connection to the brands they support. This means brands should start focusing on their unique story than their product features and benefits. As evidenced by Forrester’s latest research, 32% of consumers would trust a stranger in a public forum more then they trust a brand ad. Yes, you read that right, they would trust a stranger, on the internet, over a brand advertisement. This is the clearest indication that brands must begin investing in storytelling through purposeful, authentic, action-oriented content.  

In Simon Sinick’s TED talk he presents an interesting case for Starting With Why. I recently read the book that accompanies the TED talk and was exhilarated to see his recommendation on how brands can build powerful, long lasting connections. As a former marketer himself, Simon saw first-hand what created winning brands, and it has very little to do with pumping up their product features and benefits. Take Apple for example, why would anyone pay double the cost for a computer that basically has the same internal components as say, a Dell or HP laptop? The answer, while not immediately apparent without some introspection, is as I’ve said above – it’s not about your product it’s about your story. Apple’s story is to Think Different, to Challenge Status Quo. It just so happens that they also make computers, and phones, and digital music players. The reason people are willing to pay more for an Apple product is because they identify emotionally with the brand. They are challenging the status quo and ultimately connecting on a deep emotional level with what the Apple brand represents.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve this year, we’ll see companies who adapt and evolve along with it. In the last 15 years of digital disruption, most of us would be amazed to learn that 52% of the Fortune 500 companies have disappeared. Yes, that’s a true statistic and one that should spark a bit of anxiety in the titans of industry today. The time has come to reinvent how we (brands, organizations, marketers, and advertisers) build relationship with our customers and audiences. This transformation can be an opportunity, or a threat, depending on how brands respond. The takeaway for brands, listen to your customers, adapt your techniques, and provide value through authentic content marketing that delights, informs, and creates a memorable experience. 2020 is the year of The Brand Story.   

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