9 Storytelling in Marketing Trends to Track in 2020
It’s tough to track storytelling trends when you’re busy dominating multiple marketing mediums in your day-to-day grind.
Well, you’re in luck – we’re bringing the trends to you. We’ve chatted with one of the world’s most accomplished brand storytelling experts, Melanie Deziel, to show you what trends marketers need to latch onto in 2019.
Melanie is the founder of StoryFuel, an international brand storytelling keynote speaker and former New York Times brand content editor. She’s the person brands bring in to get a pulse on the industry-leading strategies they need to deploy. According to Melanie, one of the most powerful practices to incorporate into your storytelling strategy, is to emulate the journalistic approach.
In this piece, we’ll provide you with a game-changing strategy (with three tangible tactics) on how to get your marketing team to start thinking like journalists. We’ll also leave you with nine great storytelling in marketing trends to try out this year.
How Marketers Can Start Thinking And Working Like Journalists
There is a slew of great practices that journalists employ, which marketers can start mirroring. From your company building out a ‘brand newsroom’ (we’ll touch on that below) to doing more long-form illuminating content, there are quite a few philosophies worth adopting.
Here are three easy journalistic methods you can start implementing immediately:
1. Reputable Sources
Credible sources are integral to your stories.
These are third-party experts in the field you’re looking to build content around.
It could be a university professor, someone who’s been in a niche job for a good period of time or a company who’s put together a solid study with a healthy sample size of participants.
Without these industry experts, it will be incredibly challenging to develop trust with your customers.
“Absolutely find reputable sources,” Melanie says. “Make sure any time you’re making a claim as a brand, that you found some third-party, whether that’s a study or a human being to back it up and make that claim for you.”
If you do this, the content becomes “more credible and trustworthy,” Melanie says.
Here are four easy background research tips to ensure your sources are credible and are who they say they are:
- Conduct a Google crawl of the person’s name, social media profiles, article mentions and affiliations.
- Dig to see if the source is professional and representing a consistent narrative.
- Research their work colleagues to see if they’re representing a similar high standard and consistency in content or research.
- Make sure their colleagues speak or post about this source in a manner you’d expect (e.g. they’re not accusing your source of plagiarism).
Any good story has an antagonist (villain) and protagonist (hero).
It’s that struggle between good and evil, what’s ‘right’ and what’s ‘wrong’ that draws the audience into the narrative, wondering how it will all end.
Melanie said the same goes for any good news story, as journalists are always looking for the tension in their story.
“There’s some sort of battle with the outcome or the decision. There needs to be something at stake. And that’s why we (journalists) all loathe when you have to go cover a local community event where there’s no drama,” she explains.
Humans need mystery, intrigue, drama and tension.
“Many times as brands, we’re conflict-averse, so we need to try and take that lesson from the world of journalism,” Melanie says.
3. Put A Face In Front Of Complicated Issues
When you’re writing a story about a big complicated issue or product, the first thing you want to do is find someone who’s impacted by it.
Make that person the face of the complicated issue at hand.
“You don’t write a story about immigration, without meeting a specific immigrant and hearing their backstory. You don’t write a story about homelessness, without meeting someone who’s homeless and hearing how they got into that situation,” Melanie clarifies.
A good journalist knows that meeting a person who’s going through that complicated situation is going to make the macro-trend and data feel much closer to home, and much easier to understand.
“For brands, it’s the same way. You know that your product helps your customers. You know that it increases your sales or decreases their risk or whatever it may be. But you can’t contextualize that. A person doesn’t want to hear, ‘I can give you 0.7% more success’,” she says.
“But if you meet someone, who’s had that transformation…and have a face to that story. Suddenly you can see yourself in that position and see yourself as a customer,” she describes.
9 Storytelling in Marketing Trends
How brands tell stories is always evolving. This is due, in large part, to more high-end technology becoming more accessible to brands beyond the huge national franchises or brands.
Here are nine trends Melanie sees unfolding before our eyes in 2019:
1. Brand Newsrooms Become Mainstream
Brands are actually starting to build out their own newsrooms instead of just talking about it. There were early adopters like GE and Reebok, but now lesser-known companies are following Melanie’s ‘think like a journalist’ approach.
“In my experience, the brand newsrooms that I’ve worked with or the brands that are putting out the best content are often the ones that are taking that journalistic approach. Whether it’s setting up the team or the content that they create on a more tactical level,” she says.
Melanie and her team at StoryFuel have walked many brands through the process of building out that newsroom.
“I’m taking that journalist perspective of saying, ‘this is how a newsroom would operate and this is how we would decide what stories are newsworthy and are not.’”
2. VR/360 Video/3D Facebook Photos
“As each of these new formats come out, it gets super exciting for me to think of what’s the branded implementation of that? What’s a way a brand could take that storytelling tool, use it to their advantage and serve the audience better?”
3. Branded Music Video
You could get creative like Kool-Aid did with this music videos:
Lil’ Jon and Kool-Aid Man, ‘All I Really Want For Christmas’:
4. Paid Placement In A Novel
We’re seeing this more often, however, it is coming with some backlash from book purists. Land Rover recently pulled off paid placement in the novel, ‘The Vanishing Game.’
5. Increased Willingness To Work In Non-Traditional Formats
“There was a time where people just wanted to stick with writing because it was cheap, it was safe and it could go through legal in an organized fashion. There’s definitely a desire to work in non-traditional or non-written formats right off the bat. Brands want interactive, they want multimedia, they want audio.”
6. Social-Specific Video
“Now there’s much more attention being paid to creating video specifically for Facebook, Instagram and Instagram Stories. When you’re taking your content and just sort of pasting it in every possible place, your consumers catch onto that.”
7. Online Courses
The idea of a course could be super intimidating depending on your brand and what your mission is.
Typically you’d expect a course from a university or a training company but a few forward-thinking brands like Blue Bottle Coffee are creating Skillshare video courses that are fun and easy to follow along.
“I recognize that creating a course is a pretty big workload and in those cases you do need some sort of editing. You don’t want to shoot something like that on your phone. But even (try) a short course or a mini-course,” Melanie unpacks.
“I think courses are a really great way for brands to showcase their expertise. They provide a ton of value to the audience. I’d like to see more brands creating courses.”
8. Unique Podcasts
“I’ve seen some brands creating really unique podcasts that aren’t product-focused but are showcasing their thought leadership and are providing really interesting information to their audience.”
9. Branded Feature-Length Films
“One I bring up to people is ‘The Lego Movie’ franchise. I mean that is straight up a feature-length animated film of branded content and not only is it a feature-length film but we paid to go see it,” she says.
“Certainly a feature-length film is out of the scope of most companies. But it’s definitely something to spark the creativity.”
Is a full-length movie not in the budget for your business this year? Many companies are getting creative with their own long-form video content or mini-film.
What’s your favorite brand storytelling trend? How are you going to creatively tell your company’s story? Are you going to start thinking more like a journalist?
Tell us in the comment section below.
About Melanie Deziel:
Melanie Deziel, the founder of StoryFuel, is an international keynote speaker and a lifelong storyteller. She’s recognized as one of the world’s leading experts in native advertising and branded content.
She is a member of the National Speakers Association, and has graced the stages of industry-leading events like Content Marketing World, Native Ad Days, Social Media Marketing World, SXSW, and more.
Melanie serves on the board of the Native Advertising Institute, and has judged countless industry awards, including the Digiday Content Marketing Awards, the Native Ad Awards, the WANIFRA Digital Media Awards and the Mirror Awards.
She developed the Content Marketing course for Fairleigh Dickinson University’s MS in Digital Marketing program, and now teaches as an adjunct professor.