Storytelling is both a marketing technique and an art. The storytelling method is so cool that it is used not only by screenwriters and writers, but also by advertisers, psychologists, managers, and businessmen. We will talk about storytelling in business and marketing.

In the world of modern advertising, the marketers’ focus has shifted from traditional methods of creating a sales offer to customer needs. The customer with their life challenges and desires are now always in the spotlight. The experience of potential buyers helps businesses create realistic and compelling stories about their brand.

Storytelling and content marketing are closely related, as storytelling is an essential component of any quality marketing strategy or branding. However, the art of storytelling is more than just a simple narrative. It can be compared to a fascinating TV series in which viewers partially see their own lives. The art of storytelling involves a lot of rules and tricks that can help marketers not only attract the attention of consumers or readers, but also win their sincere affection.

What will be discussed

“Storytelling is a social and cultural activity for sharing stories, sometimes with improvisation, theatricalization or embellishment” Storytelling, Wikipedia.

What is storytelling?

In marketing terminology, this is the technique of informing the target audience about a certain product, service or project through a story with a plot and characters.

The history of storytelling dates back to ancient times, when people left rock paintings in their caves. Of course, the goal of such information transfer was far from advertising — in this way people wanted to record certain events and emotions, to pass on the experience to the next generations. It was basic illustrative storytelling. But even then, storytelling became an essential part of everyday life and communication.


As far as marketing is concerned, it is believed that the ” father” of storytelling was David Armstrong, the head of Armstrong International Corporation. At one of his seminars, he learned about the MBWA (Managing by Walking Around) theory, the essence of which was unconventional team management.

This is how Armstrong’s personal theory MBSA (Managing by Storying Around) came about. This theory says that people don’t want to get into instructions and dry clericalisms, but are always ready to listen to stories about how others have done certain jobs and overcome difficulties in their work. David first used the term storytelling in his book “MBSA: Managing by Storying Around” in 1992.

Since then, storytelling has become an important component of advertising. It is a kind of native marketing, when potential clients or blog subscribers don’t always understand the purpose of the appeal, don’t realize that it is actually advertising. They are interested, so they listen and read without feeling intrusive involvement or pitching a product.

What is storytelling

Writer and marketer Brian Eisenberg said: “Effective content marketing is about mastering the art of storytelling. Facts tell facts, but stories sell.” And really, an interesting story can promote a product or service much more effectively than the most compelling facts about a product’s benefits.

The storytelling approach is closely related to “word of mouth”, because through social media sharing, such as social networks, stories benefit the brand. Let’s consider the advantages of this technique in the marketing world.

Benefits of storytelling in marketing

Storytelling has many advantages over other advertising and copywriting techniques. Storytelling expert and communications consultant Annette Simmons writes in her book “Whoever tells the best story wins” that stories not only trigger the senses, but also focus them on a goal.

Rational thinking, which is targeted by the typical lists of product benefits, numbers and dry facts in advertising content, is born in the forehead brain. Stories, on the other hand, are understood by the old brain, the limbic system, the amygdala, and so on. So, storytelling affects the sensory parts of the brain and triggers the desired emotions.

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Stories are good to remember

The interpretation of facts and sentences depends on their perception. An excellent example is teachers and professors who combine information with personal experience and experiences in lessons instead of just montone theory. Examples from own life or from the biography of famous people are recorded in the memory and help to remember what was said before and after an interesting story.

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Stories have different ways of being told

Storytelling isn’t necessarily a blog article or a social media post. It can pretend to be a video or even a multi-part commercial, a customer testimonial or a text about brand development on the About page.

Remember what you use to judge the review’s credibility. The more detail and emotion, the more trustworthy the story is. Stories bring potential customers closer together: they find themselves, answers to their questions and solutions to their own problems. With the idea of “I had the same thing happen to me” or “This is important to me too” the consumer is likely to choose the product that another user has shared in detail.

“Stories create a structure that, as George Lakoff writes in “Don’t Think of an Elephant!”, forces attention.A strong story can influence a person. When you are told, “Don’t think about the elephant,” it’s hard to think about anything else. Storytelling drives people to other points of view where they can re-think what your ‘facts’ mean to them. And when you control the attention, you control the conclusions” Leading with narrative.

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Stories show clear evidence

A story is one of the strongest trust triggers, because it is a proof of what is being said. If you’re talking about the uniqueness of a cleaning company, tell the story of the parents of three children who had no time for anything and argued about who would clean the house. Before and after photos of cleaning visits are fine, because in some areas of business you can’t do without cases with visualization. But a story about improving family relations and making the house cozy will influence a certain target audience segment more effectively.

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Stories are addictive

But not harmful to your health. Once you have established contact with one category of clients, create a story for another. It is important that everyone sees themselves, their lives and familiar situations in brand storytelling. The chain of such stories is addictive, and the audience becomes curious about what will happen next. A typical example is a TV commercial showing the same company mixing ads for women and men or for customers of different ages.

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Stories play with emotions

The decision to buy is influenced by emotions such as pride, guilt, fear, love and greed. This is successfully used in stories about improving relationships between close people or change in a person’s social status by using a certain product or service.

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Stories go viral fast

Influencers’ native ads get a lot of views and reposts, so most brands are promoted exclusively with bloggers. Successful stories, especially in video format, are sent to friends and saved to show to others on occasion. Emotional advertising very often goes viral and eventually doesn’t need financial investments anymore, promoting itself.

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Stories build beliefs

The storyteller can become close to the listener or reader to a specific level. In this way, his beliefs and lifestyle can be transmitted to the target audience. A person might not even notice how his or her views on various things have changed in some way. For example, a user who criticized expensive gadgets suddenly buys the latest iPhone model, or a strong supporter of Mercedes chooses Ford. This happens if the advertising message in the form of a story is really “hooked”.

Advantages of storytelling in marketing

Storytelling is practiced in filmmaking, in fiction and popular science literature, in branding and public speaking. TED talks, where speakers are able to reach everyone by expressing their feelings and thoughts about their experiences.

Storytelling basics. How to create an interesting story?

Annette Simmons advises that stories be brief and coherent. She draws on Aristotle’s assertion about knowledge (logos), feeling (pathos), and credibility (ethos) and encourages leading the listeners or readers of a narrative “down the steps of discovery and inference up the ladder you want them to climb” Leading with narrative.

Storytelling Rick and Morty
An example of storytelling: the stories of Rick and Morty, the plots are canonically constructed

Aristotle saw the basis of an ideal history as a linked series of events with a clear beginning, middle and end. He considered action and plot to be the most important part of history. He presented his theory of rhetoric in two treatises: “Rhetoric” or “On the Art of Rhetoric” and “Poetics”.

Information should be metered and concise. This is true not only for storytelling, but also for advertising content in general. However, there are several rules and well-tested basics for creating good stories.

  • Specific purpose

Storytelling in marketing should lead to a CTA (call to action). Bring the reader to a logical conclusion, but give them the opportunity to draw their own one.

  • Appropriate use of humor

Mixing up the narrative with relevant jokes, you help the potential customer to avoid boring and let them feel belonging to the brand, because laughter makes people closer. Lyrical digressions should be appropriate and short. After such entertainment, a person should make a decision triggered by positive emotions.

  • Example of solving a problem or realizing a dream

Give answers to the potential client’s key questions and close the main objections with a story. Create an emotional connection. Build a portrait of your target audience and let the person recognize himself in your story. Try to create the impression that you are the one who best understands what exactly he needs.

  • Literature tricks

Metaphors and hyperboles are what will help you make the story extremely bright, unique and interesting. Keep a balance, you should not overuse the art style.

  • Professional copywriting

Make it easy for the reader to move through the story. Start with the basics — the title. The right title motivates the opening of the story. Don’t forget the introduction, lists, and other elements of text.

  • Confession to failure

Bloggers, business owners and stars often share their setbacks, life failures and ways out of difficult situations. This should also be followed when writing articles, for example, telling about the ups and downs of a company in the process of its growth.

  • Interesting details

A brand character or the hero of a promo video, a blogger or the author of a review should open up to the target audience to the full, describing trifles that at first look are not of primary importance. But it is in a small detail that the reader or viewer can see themselves. It can be a car brand or a useful or harmful habit, a favorite drink or a style of clothing of the person described in the story.

Periodic table of storytelling, archetypes and ideas

Digital storytelling is closely related to online marketing and screenwriting, as well as drama and writing, because at the heart of every interesting story is a certain character archetype and plot kind that has been passed down from generation to generation in various forms.

Artist James Harris has created a storytelling table based on Dmitry Mendeleev’s periodic table of chemical elements.

“Harris has taken all the tropes, archetypes, and clichés found in cinema (not to mention television, comics, literature, video, and even professional wrestling) and synthesized them into an elegantly realized grid. Rather than grouping the elements by noble gases or metals, Harris organized them by story elements — structure, plot devices, character archetypes. Each element is linked to a large wiki article that contains definitions and examples. For example, if you click on the Chk element, you’ll be taken to a page explaining the Chekhov gun trope. And if you click on Neo, you will be taken to a page dedicated to The Chosen One, of course” Jonathan Crow, The Periodic Table of Storytelling Reveals the Elements of Telling a Good Story

Periodic table of storytelling

This extraordinary periodic table was created for fiction writers and can be useful for anyone who generates stories, for it contains archetypes, plots, story structures, characters, and more.

“In The Triumph of Narrative, Rubert Fulford writes: “Of all the ways we communicate with each other, story has proven to be the most convenient, the most universal, and perhaps the most dangerous. Stories reach out to each of us, passing through cultures and generations, accompanying humanity through the ages. Combining facts or events into tales is the only form of self-expression and entertainment that most of us enjoy equally at three and seventy-three years of age” Leading with narrative.

Seven basic plots for stories

You can rely on the key types of stories suggested by journalist and author Christopher Booker in his book The Seven Essential Plots: Why We Tell Stories.

  1. Overcoming the monster. The protagonist overcomes barriers in the way, but comes to the goal.
  2. Rags to riches. The person grew up under unfavorable circumstances or in difficult times, but this did not prevent him/her from achieving success, changing himself/herself or even changing the world.
  3. Rebirth. A negative character goes through an inner struggle and is transformed into a positive hero.
  4. Voyage and return. A main character travels to an unfamiliar world and returns home, experiencing various adventures.
  5. The quest. Description of a kind of quest, which the hero needs to go through to achieve the goal.
  6. Comedy. Funny, misunderstandings and comic situations that have a logical conclusion and help the hero to get something or change his or her attitude to certain things.
  7. Tragedy. The struggle between good and evil, sometimes with a sorrowful but teachable ending.
Семь основных сюжетов для сторителлинга инфографика

8 basic techniques of business storytelling

There are also 8 basic business storytelling techniques that can be quite effective in combinations.

  1. The classic mono-myth. The leader’s journey and his recognition as a hero after victory.
  2. The road of ascent. At first the challenges seem simple, but as time goes by, barriers appear, at first sight irresistible. Everything can end either happily or dramatically.
  3. Nested loops. The main idea-story is framed by additional stories united by the key idea.
  4. Sparklines. A classic example is the work “I have a dream” by Mark Luther King. It is a utopian plot with intense dynamics of events.
  5. In media res. Breaking the story with an unexpected fact or joke, after which the narrative continues, which enlivens the audience’s attention.
  6. Converging ideas. Plenty of situations and details that end up being resolved through a single factor, such as the discovery of a mystery, a major character’s decision, or a fateful encounter.
  7. False Start. Optimistic stories about getting out of a predicament.
  8. Petal Structure. Several examples or separate stories support one idea, folding in like the petals of a flower.

12 patterns of human behavior

Read Carl Jung’s basic archetypes and determine which character types attract your audience in order to effectively use storytelling techniques and choose the right type of story plot. Jung’s theory was updated, taking as a basis 12 models of human behavior. Marketers have identified such archetypes of heroes:

  1. innocent;
  2. explorer;
  3. sage;
  4. rebel;
  5. hero;
  6. magician;
  7. creator;
  8. ruler;
  9. caregiver;
  10. lover;
  11. everyman;
  12. jester.

Brainstorm your team to know exactly which archetypes, stories and techniques to use in your marketing strategy, and highlight the most powerful features of the brand, the mission and values you want to promote. In any case, your story should be properly framed and structured.

The structure of storytelling advertising

Like a piece of fiction, a story for advertising should have an introduction, a plot, a culmination, a resolution, a conclusion, and an epilogue. Often, storytelling in marketing excludes the ending, so the reader has the opportunity to speculate on the ending and the moral of the story. Let’s look at the most important parts of the story.

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Event that started the hero’s activity

A circumstance that pushes the central figure out of his or her comfort zone and drives him or her to take certain actions.

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Object of desire

At this stage, the hero realizes what exactly changed their life. There is a goal, having achieved which the hero will be able to return everything to normal.

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First act

An initial step that should improve things.

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First reaction

The moment a plan gets out of control, barriers, external or internal conflicts arise.

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The hero analyzes the situation and takes risks, again trying to confront his opponent or even himself.

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The result of effort, conclusion, or open ending where the storyteller makes the reader or viewer aware of his or her belief and motivates the hero to emulate them.

story cycle in storytelling infographics infographics image

What is storytelling on Instagram?

Stories are the most powerful way to build connection with readers on Instagram. It’s used by brand founders, CEOs and entrepreneurial professionals, as well as by influencers who make money from advertising and collaborate with various companies.

Examples of storytelling

Amazon has moved from presentations at board meetings to sharing stories. Storytelling forms the basis of Coca-Cola’s marketing policy with its well-known Christmas commercials. Likewise with Kinder Pingui products and many other goods, the positive emotions from the consumption of which can most successfully be expressed through short stories.

Examples of Storytelling Kinder Pingui
Memorable Kinder Pingui characters
Examples of Coca-Cola's storytelling
Coca-Cola’s story ads are already legendary

Another good idea of storytelling is the Milka chocolate commercials. Many people love the videos of animals in the Alps making milk chocolate and packaging it themselves. The first commercial was shot in 1998.

In 2019, the brand launched its first chocolate paste, and to mark the occasion, it released a new advertisement, or rather, updated everyone’s favorite story in the video “Patamilka Milka’s marmot, 20 years later”. The script has been changed only partially, preserving the atmosphere of the old commercial. A comparison of the two commercials can be seen in the video “Patamilka Milka’s marmot 1999 / 2019”.


Storytelling is one of the most effective marketing techniques. Different channels such as blogs, social media, YouTube, books and offline events can be used to share stories. Short and customized to the thinking style of a typical member of the target audience, stories are best at influencing potential customers. To do this, you should clearly understand the needs of the reader or viewer of the advertisement, unobtrusively transforming their beliefs and incentivizing them to buy your product.

Each story should be emotional and aimed at a specific segment of the target audience, adjusted to the social circumstances and promotion channel. The more emotions, details and unexpected turns of events you include in your storytelling, the better the result will be.

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