As Expectations Evolve, So Does Storytelling

by | Mar 23, 2017

As marketers, we face some pretty routine hurdles: How do we genuinely connect with our target audiences? And how do we shift them from knowledge to action?

A classic solution for jumping these hurdles is to tell a brand story – human beings are hardwired to connect via stories, after all. It’s how we make meaning of our own individual lives and the world we live in.

But storytelling isn’t such a straightforward concept as it used to be. Evolving (and proliferating) technologies and ways to connect mean we have to evolve our brand stories.

Successful brand storytelling has become more immediate, transparent and experiential – because that’s what people now expect from a company. And those expectations are now driving the market.

In this “expectation economy,” explains an article in Recode, “as far as consumers are concerned, the measure of value of any brand is how seriously it takes its responsibility to make their lives better or easier. Constant change for the better is now unconditionally expected.”

This is obvious in the B2C market. Amazon has made product reviews table stakes, not only supplying their own customers’, but also linking out to third-party review sources. For that matter, it’s hard to find an online retailer of any size that doesn’t offer some sort of review resource.

Airbnb is another market leader in the expectation economy. In a pre-Airbnb world, traditional lodging companies marketed customers a nice hotel room with nice amenities. Airbnb came along and decided to target audiences who expect more than a relaxing stint in a hotel or playing the tourist – these folks want to live a place, not do a place. Airbnb’s communications show how they enable people to meet that expectation.

How does all of this play out in B2B communications?

We’ve recently finished up a video project for NutrientStar that tracks with the expectation economy – but we came at it from the opposite direction. While B2C communications aim to show consumers how a company is meeting their expectations, we used this video to show an industry that their customers have unmet expectations. And by doing so, we earn the business audience’s attention.

NutrientStar is a nonprofit that reviews the performance of products and technologies designed to help farmers use fertilizer more efficiently. The audience NutrientStar wanted to engage – the agribusinesses that make those products/technologies – was hesitant. They would need to share company data with this unknown entity for the review and be fully transparent with their customers.

Our challenge was to build credibility with this skeptical business audience, and give them confidence that NutrientStar’s purpose really is to make products as effective as possible for farmers, not to slam agribusinesses that don’t meet its standards.

Our solution? Don’t make a case, reveal an expectation.

Sure, we could directly tell agribusinesses the value of NutrientStar’s unique service. We could tell how important third-party verification is via explainer video or a carefully crafted positioning statement. But the fact of the matter is, the agribusinesses weren’t particularly interested in what NutrientStar had to say.

So, we let them hear directly from their end users – farmers. In the video, these farmers describe what they expect agribusinesses to do to make their lives a little easier.

By connecting agribusinesses with their own end users – and the expectations that are driving purchase decisions – NutrientStar proves its purpose and its value.

 

 

Whether you’re marketing to consumers or business decision makers, evolving your storytelling is critical for staying relevant.

About the Author

Matt Brass

Matt Brass

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing all campaigns and collateral. With nearly two decades of marketing design under his belt, Matt has extensive experience in design, photography and videography, as well as blogging about the latest and greatest (or worst) ad campaigns out there. He leads our team on kayaking trips, too.

About the Author

Matt Brass

Matt Brass

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing all campaigns and collateral. With nearly two decades of marketing design under his belt, Matt has extensive experience in design, photography and videography, as well as blogging about the latest and greatest (or worst) ad campaigns out there. He leads our team on kayaking trips, too.

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Suzanne Shelton

President and CEO

Suzanne is the voice and the vision of Shelton Group. Drawing on her extensive experience in energy and the environment – and 25+ years in the marketing and advertising industry – Suzanne provides high-level strategic insights for our clients and guidance for our research and creative departments. She regularly speaks at conferences around the country, including Sustainable Brands, Fortune Brainstorm E and the International Builders’ Show, and serves as a guest columnist for publications like Fast Company, Green Builder and GreenBiz.com.

Susannah Enkema

VP Research & Insights

Susannah directs our research team and plays a key role in extracting the nuggets of information that pave the way for recommended marketing strategies and creative approaches. Susannah has nearly two decades of market research and strategy experience, including her role as president of SE Consulting, where she led the services for the likes of DIY Network and the makers of GORE-TEX®.

Laila Waggoner

VP Client Engagement

Laila leads our client engagement process, overseeing activities from both a strategic and a tactical level to ensure our work generates desired results – and clients’ satisfaction. She brings 25+ years of marketing leadership experience to her client relationships, with particular expertise in the homebuilding and remodeling industries as well as member-driven organizations, such as the Vinyl Siding Institute and Plastics Pipe Institute. Before joining Shelton Group, she led strategic marketing teams for Owens Corning’s insulation business.

Matt Brass

VP Creative

Matt steers the creative department in concepting, designing and producing campaigns. He ensures sound strategy and deep insights inform everything his team develops, and works closely with the accounts department to ensure copy and designs will meet our clients’ goals. As a designer and filmmaker himself, he’s also a principal contributor to all of Shelton’s in-house photography and videography work.

Glen L. Vesser III

VP Finance and Administration

Glen manages Shelton Group’s finances and administration, ensuring our internal systems run smoothly so we can provide exceptional client service in a seamless and timely manner. Glen’s financial and administrative expertise has been shaped by decades of experience in a variety of industries, including public accounting, media distribution and health care.

Mike Beamer

VP Business Development

Mike joined our team to help provide strategic vision and foster our agency’s growth by overseeing new business leads and managing agency marketing and website content. He arrived in Knoxville steeped in energy efficiency and renewables – he previously led client service for an agency division in Boston dedicated to marketing communications strategy and branding for B2B and B2C clients in that space.