At the core of every healthy brand is a really good story. The world’s greatest brands know how to deliver their stories in an ongoing and memorable manner. Despite the story itself being intrinsic to the brand, the job of brand storytelling as a part of a strategic content program is a challenging one requiring heaps of skill – and a dollop of science.
One thing is certain when it comes to content creation: attention is short and the noise level is high. So how can we break through and effectively connect with the active lifestyle consumer? Below are three premises of the science of memory creation and retention that we can use to make our brand stories stick.
1. Who doesn’t love a good story?
Effective narrative storytelling can make content more memorable within a noisy marketplace. Psychologists and researchers have been studying human memory for decades, leading to valuable insights that we can apply to improve the impact of our brand storytelling efforts.
2. Credible leads to indelible.
The ability to build and maintain credibility with our audience is critical to increasing their willingness to consume content and share it on our behalf.
Have you ever cited a piece of fascinating or insightful information that you knew to be fact and yet, you were unable to identify where you read it? Clinical psychologists call this phenomenon source amnesia and it’s a normal part of how we store and process information. Over time, as we recall and re-store certain types of information, the location of that information within our brains shifts and becomes disconnected from the context in which it was learned.
Once we deem a piece of information to be factual/reliable, our brain stores it in a place were the source of the information itself becomes irrelevant. For example, I know that Madison is the capital of Wisconsin, but I have no idea where I first learned it. In the process of recalling
and re-saving it, our brain ensures the memory of that information, but only after deeming it to be true or credible. Knowing that this is how our brain works offers us an opportunity to focus our efforts on establishing credibility and trustworthiness with our audiences. Transparency and approachability in the way stories are presented and produced can be the difference between a brand being seen as salesy rather than trustworthy.
3. Shorter is sweeter.
Online audiences, especially those who access information largely from mobile devices, consume and process information differently than they do in offline channels. Therefore, we need to create content with those behaviors in mind.
At best, we can only expect our audiences to consume about 20% of our online writing, according to Jakob Nielsen. As if that’s not disheartening enough, Nielsen’s work also informs us that for the most part, only the first few words of each paragraph or grouping in online content is actually read, giving us even more reasons to choose and place our words with the precision of a surgeon.
Good writing for online channels must appease both key audiences: search engines and reading audiences. The best content is balanced with strategic keyword usage and succinct sentences. Frontload the important information and use headlines, bullets and paragraphs strategically to pull readers down through the content. Online writing isn’t based on the art of punch line delivery; the headlines are the punch lines.
All together now
When we roll all of these principles together, we end up with a formidable challenge — How can we as brand marketers, working in both online and offline media, be effective at creating content that is simultaneously evocative of emotion, rich with imagery and yet, succinct? That’s where the real work begins.
It’s ultimately our job to capture, produce and present those stories in optimized formats to appeal to our discerning audiences. The goal is to be memorable and meaningful. The most successful storytellers will leverage all available skills and resources to craft compelling, credible and relevant stories that stick.
Sara Meaney is a partner and vice president of public relations and social media at Hanson Dodge Creative (HDC), America’s leading active lifestyle agency. HDC is a full-service firm that specializes in helping global brands attain market leadership through the strategic integration of world-class branding, relationship marketing, social media, e-commerce and advanced interactive technology.
Sara, who is a frequently requested speaker at conferences and seminars, recently presented the above concepts and more at the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Summit in Minneapolis. Access the slide deck from that presentation at:
Hanson Dodge Creative is America’s leading active lifestyle agency. The full-service firm was established in 1984 and specializes in helping global brands attain market leadership through the strategic integration of world-class branding, relationship marketing, social media, e-commerce and advanced interactive technology. Clients include Wilson Sporting Goods, Trek, Wolverine, Thule and Kmart.