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Stop Making Ads, Start Telling Stories

Stories are a large part of what makes us human.

In 2012, Neilsen—the go-to source for consumer information and insights—conducted a study on trust in advertising. What the data company found left many brands scratching their proverbial heads. Turns out, today’s consumers trust earned media (like word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family) way more than traditional paid advertising.

Gone are the days when people bought a product or paid for a service simply because a big, shiny ad told them to. Consumers now want a personal connection with the brands they choose to patronize—something genuine, emotional, relatable.

So ads are out. And stories—engaging, compelling, personal stories—are in. People have been telling them for as long there have been … well, people. We connect with them on a biological level. They help us learn about the world around us. Whether they’re scratched on a cave wall, scribbled in a letter or scattered throughout an Instagram feed, stories are a large part of what makes us human.

While storytelling has always been a valuable tool for marketers, we at iostudio believe it’s a more important technique now than ever before.

Video is an incredibly effective way to tell a brand’s story. Creating a compelling story-based video engages audiences in a way that traditional advertising simply can’t. One of our favorite examples is a video project we did in 2013 for Middle Tennessee Lumber (MTL), a family-owned business that markets Appalachian lumber and hardwood around the globe. It’s telling that, even years later, MTL still features the film on their website. Like MTL’s products, the video has stood the test of time, and thousands of customers have watched it.

Video is a fairly simple process, but communicating your brand story through film can seem a little daunting. Here are a few tips for getting it right:

Speak directly to your target audience.

That means you first have to know—really know—who your audience is. So do your research, and then keep that buyer persona in mind when conceptualizing, refining and filming your story. The only way to speak their language or deal in their currency is to understand their specific challenges, goals and values.

Match your production value to the quality of your product.

It’s tempting to skimp on production value; after all, just about anyone can create an online video these days. But make no mistake: The quality of your video speaks volumes about the quality of your product. Just as Apple’s pristine packaging sets the tone for the life-altering iWhatever inside, how you portray your brand through video conveys a message. High production value communicates to customers that your product is valuable. For MTL’s film, for example, we took extra time to get the lighting just right, and used dolly shots as a technique to transform stacks of wood into the embodiment of craftsmanship. It took a little extra to make it happen, but the production value of the film romanticized our client’s work, heightening the viewer’s perception of the brand and the product.

Embrace authenticity.

One reason for the shift in consumer trust is that audiences are much savvier than ever before. No matter if you’re brainstorming story ideas or actually going in front of the camera, just relax and be yourself. The folks in the MTL video were real employees, wearing what they always wear and doing what they always do, and that authenticity is what engages the audience. Consumers want real. And when they get it, they’re way more likely to share, like and comment on it.

Tell the same story over and over.

Not literally, of course. But every story you tell—whether through film, print or social media—should reflect your brand’s values because that’s what resonates with the audience. It might be your personal story, or it might be the story of your product. MTL’s story centered on the company’s relationship with the wood—deep Appalachian roots, hard work and craftsmanship passed down from one generation to the next. When you incorporate human elements, you forge connections with consumers.

Want to see how your story plays out? The award-winning iostudio video team is ready to roll.

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