ITL #344 - Emotions and memories: storytelling that draws in the target audience

8 months, 1 week ago


If a brand can connect with people through a suitable emotional trigger, it becomes more real, infinitely more personal and far more compelling than an advert that bangs on about amazing product features. By Rakhee Lalvani.

I grew up listening to my mother’s riveting tales on partition and the hardships most, at the time, had to endure – just to survive. Those stories had a profound impact and remained engraved in my mind. So much so, when I visited the Partition Museum in Amritsar, where related historic facts have been very thoughtfully and carefully curated I felt I was reliving some of those stories again, albeit in a different environment.

Storytelling may be a buzz word today. Much like content marketing not so long ago. However, storytelling actually dates back thousands of years; the earliest records were found in Egypt in 700 BCE. It appears almost everyone told stories to entertain, communicate and convey tales of valour and courage.

So, why is it only now that people are realising the importance of storytelling in brand marketing?

Emotions and memories

Essentially, we are all driven by emotions and memories. If a brand can connect with people through a suitable emotional trigger; it becomes more real, infinitely more personal and definitely more compelling than an advert banging on about how amazing the product/service’s features are. The over-marketing that exists today with many thousands of brands, all vying for our attention, has sparked the need to foster an authentic and emotional connection with consumers.

Take for example one of the best and most valued brands in the world: Apple. From the time they launched the personal computer to the invention of the iPod and subsequently the venerated iPhone, Steve Jobs used masterful storytelling to communicate to target audiences his story behind the innovation in a simple yet impactful manner. By forging this connection, he was able to create a whole community and cult of veritable Apple junkies!

Jobs invariably built the narrative through suspense and aspiration, drawing his audience in. Whilst everyone can’t be as skilful as a Steve Jobs, storytelling can be done by just about anyone as long as one focuses on some key techniques.

Key storytelling techniques

Try building in suspense and a sense of mystery around the story as it makes people curious to find out more. There is always that riveting desire to find out the unknown, and the drama and tension that helps drum up interest. It's always the "not knowing what to expect" that drives us to see a movie or explore a new experience or even destination.

Besides Apple, I would also state Land Rover does a marvellous job with its video series combining facts with fiction; reflecting its brand values in uniquely captivating ways.

Make it real. People are suckers for a true story and hearing about personal experiences. Humanising your brand and talking about real people who benefit and what a positive difference it makes to someone has a deeper resonance. The predictable triumph over evil, rags to riches or a hero’s voyage are stories we can keep hearing. Dove does this brilliantly, its focus has always been real people while keeping the messaging simple.

Data and infographics

Data storytelling works really well for some channels which use fact based insights and analytics to tell a story. Infographics and sharing trends can create meaningful engagement. Google interactive infographics are probably the best example of how detailed and engaging this form of storytelling can be.

Attempt purpose driven storytelling. In the current time, customers are increasingly influenced by brands and companies that have a purpose. Or companies which are environmentally conscious, have ethical practices in sourcing, handling and, more importantly, treat their employees well.

This builds long term trust with a brand. Tata in India leads the pack with its legacy of giving back to the community and nation building‎; while affording a framework of respect and voice to each member of their staff. 

Experiential/immersive storytelling is really a combination of experiential marketing and storytelling through immersive experiences. A great example of this strategy is Starbucks which uses its physical stores to create unique experiences and an inspirational environment to tell and share stories.

There are many, many such techniques and one size will clearly never fit all. A story can take its inspiration from anywhere as long as it is relatable and can connect with a target audience. Effective brand storytelling should typically be viewed from any of these three lenses: those that can help inspire action, stories that drive beliefs and finally the ones that influence buying behaviours, which eventually create enduring and lasting bonds with consumers. 

Soft power

I believe storytelling is soft power that can connect communities across continents and influence people through positive emotions. People are essentially almost the same everywhere you go. Sure, they may look different, have different cultures, cuisines, practices; but they are all human beings with emotions. If one can connect this fascinating interconnected world with storytelling, one can almost certainly have an inclusive and global brand to hand.

So, given the progress man has made over the last 2,600-odd years or so, including with the sophistication and nuances of storytelling now compared to the ones recorded in Egypt, go ahead and tell yours so as to bind people.

After all, we are invariably connected through narratives and tales which can be passed down generations. Just like my mother passed on her partition ones to me.

The author

Rakhee Lalvani is Vice President, Public Relations and Corporate Communications, The Indian Hotels Company Limited.



Rakhee Lalvani


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The Author

Rakhee Lalvani

Rakhee Lalvani is Vice President, Public Relations and Corporate Communications, The Indian Hotels Company Limited.

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