– Maria Gladitsch
Stories are at the heart of content, and they come in many shapes and sizes, but they’re not always easy to find when you’re trying to market a…well, let’s say seemingly bland product, or service!
However, one thing we’ve realised in our experience is you can make striking stories out of anything. We mean, just look at this line from Douglas Adams in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:
“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.”
Good ol’ Dougie has done something special there, and we’re going to let you in on it.
Here’s a few things you can do to find an attention-grabbing story in anything you’re trying to create engaging content about:
1) Become that kid who won’t stop asking you why the shirt has stripes on it
There’s a reason why kids can create stories out of nothing – their crazy powerful curiosity that makes them ask questions about everything.
Every single thing you’re trying to content market is essentially trying to help some lovely person make their life a little better.
So, if you’re trying to market a toothbrush that can sense when there’s a new cavity forming (let’s just say this is possible) and are looking for a way to tell an engaging story around it, just ask yourself (or your client) this question: ‘And, why is that a good thing?’
And ask it over and over again, like that little kid who won’t stop asking why your shirt has stripes on it. And then ask another question. And another. And keep asking the most obvious questions until you start to see a story take shape.
For example, why is having a cavity-sensing toothbrush a good thing? Well, because it tells you what area of your chompers you need to take better care of! And why is THAT a good thing? Because it might save you from having to get a set of fake teeth that fall out everytime you sneeze. And why is that a good thing? Well, we think you can answer this question yourself. Plus, you can probably see a story coming to life that involves some evil demonic-like fake teeth in a battle royale with your real teeth, right? Or maybe that’s just us.
2) Hang out and listen with the cool kids, aka. your audience
This is probably a piece of advice that you’ll find on every content marketing blog shabang out there. BUT, we really mean it! The rest don’t – we promise you (insert cheeky and slightly creepy salesperson wink, here)
Don’t read up on your audience, immerse yourself in it and don’t be afraid to talk to your audience and seek out inspiration for stories in what you find out.
When you’re trying to build a story around a product or service, you NEED to know what the people you’re trying to speak to actually care about.
So go forth, and spend some time listening to your audience.
If you’re wondering how to find them, try identifying their community hashtags, the Facebook groups they spend time in, the Instagram accounts they’re obsessed with, the Tiktok Trends and Subreddits they participate in etc.
3) Think about what would happen if you’d meet your product or service at a party
We’re not kidding. Imagine your product or service is somebody you meet at a party and try to imagine what you’d talk about with them.
This exercise is especially great if you want to find out how to tell the story around your product/service, and by that we mean what they believe in, what they’re passionate about etc.
This will help you find your voice for your captions, your memes, blog posts, and all the other show-stopping content you’re young to release onto this world.
So, if you’ll allow us to return to our cavity-fighting toothbrush– let’s say you meet it at a party. The toothbrush is hanging out there all casual and unassuming at the bar.
You approach the TB ( because why wouldn’t you – it’s a f*** toothbrush in a bar) and you get chatting. You find out that they like a laugh, but are very responsible. They don’t drink any alcohol, but think it’s perfectly okay that other people do, as long as they take care of themselves… especially their teeth.
Brushie (yeah, we came up with a cute nickname for it) is always the designated driver, who likes to talk a lot during car rides, has lots of fun facts in their back pocket and is a lovable tech-nerd. And like that, you’ve personified the main protagonist of your brand and the story around it.
4) Don’t schmear honey around people’s mouths
For those who aren’t familiar with this graphic German expression, this means to butter someone up, to be all sweet and perfect to somebody so you get what you want from them.
The days of schmearing honey around people’s mouths are over.
(Successful) brands have become a lot more human lately. This means, they’ve become imperfect, complicated and a lot more honest. And this makes for great storytelling.
Stand back and look at your brand and really pick it apart honestly. If it’s something boring like accountancy (sorry!), then maybe use the ‘boring’ characteristic as the springboard for the story. Playing on the vulnerabilities of your brand will earn you respect amongst the modern audiences.
5) Scour the premises of your product/service’s market and sort through the good and the bad apples
Look at the stuff other brands put out there and identify the cavities in the status-quo of communication in your field! (See what we did there?)
So, think about toothbrush communication. What do you think about it? Families fake-smiling into a mirror. Baby-blue 3D animations of how that electric toothbrush pressure-cleans residue out of your teeth? It’s been done to death, so go in the opposite direction, or look for a fresh take.
Understanding the context of your market in the stories being told there already will help you find a more distinct story that will hit the eyes and ears of your audiences with a meaningful impact.
6) Randomly sneak your product or service in conversations with your mum
In our experience, people, especially relatives, usually looove to tell you juicy stories out of their everyday lives. You can definitely use this to your advantage by dropping a sentence about ‘this cool new toothbrush you came across at work’ and see what people have to say about it!
Maybe they’ll brag about how they’ve never had a cavity before in their life, or they’ll tell you about that one time in high school, when a dentist had them chew on these tablets that turned their teeth blue to see where they needed to brush them more.
Conversations always spark ideas, and even if you won’t get a fully finished story out of it, you’ll have loads of inspiration.
Once you’ve got those puzzle pieces laid out in front of you…
…think about the medium, the social channels you’ll be creating the story for and let this guide you when deciding how to package it.
For example, if our lovely fictional toothbrush brand had a Tiktok channel, we’d make up a challenge that people would have to do while brushing their teeth! Or something like that. Definitely use what the Internet Gods have blessed you with!
And in the end, most importantly…
…write all your ideas down, spend lots of time meeting with your lovely teammates in which you have fun putting brainstorming together.
PS – if you end up inventing this Brushie thing we’ve been going on about in this article, the least you can do is send us one to try it out!