The art of the yarn

Storytelling. It’s not a new thing, it’s been around since the start of human kind. It connects us, resonates with us, entertains and taps into the emotion that is wired up in all of our pre-historic brains. It’s not even a new thing in business! Storytelling has been used in advertising for over 20 years.


It’s not just a cup of coffee…

The brands that have used this approach will be ingrained on your brain, remember Nescafé’s Gold Blend adverts in the 1980s and 1990’s? The approach was so different at the time that many marketing experts cite Nescafé as one of the inventors of ad storytelling. Its serialised advertising campaign ‘Love Over Gold’ told the story of Tony and Sharon, two neighbours who slowly attract, thanks to their shared love of Gold Blend coffee. Over the course of several ads, the audience see the couple face numerous trials and tribulations, with each ad ending on a cliff hanger. Soon the public couldn’t wait to see what happened next, they were emotionally connected to Tony and Sharon, and more importantly to the product. UK sales of Gold Blend increased by an impressive 50% thanks to this clever piece of storytelling. Watch the ads here:


More than just a pair of jeans…

Also during the late 1980’s and 1990’s, US denim manufacturer Levi Strauss & Co re-launched their original 501 jeans with a global storytelling campaign. Taking a different approach to Nescafé, a series of self-contained mini films told a story involving attraction, adventure and humour with the hero being the 501’s and their product benefits. The ads were beautifully crafted with rich, cinematic imagery, a compelling story and gift wrapped in a big vintage feeling classic soundtrack. The audience couldn’t wait for the next ad to tell us about shrink to fit, improving with washing, women’s fit, engineered fit, strength, the timelessness of 501’s and many more. Several stars were propelled from the ads including Nick Kamen and Brad Pitt. Most importantly, the spreadsheets were looking healthy, in 1989 Levi Strauss reported a record revenue of $7.1billion. Watch the ads here


Hats off to storytelling.


Today’s world

Fast forward to today. The fast paced, digitally driven world of 2019. A very different place socially and economically to the 1980’s and 1990’s. However, what hasn’t changed is our inbuilt instinct to connect with a story. Our emotional selves crave this connection, perhaps more than ever. Think of these brands which have stood the test of time and continue to use storytelling throughout their communications – Disney, Coca Cola, Tui, Nationwide to name but a few. What has changed is that the digital landscape is often the central delivery platform.


Not just for the big brands

Let’s not overcomplicate this, storytelling is exactly that – telling your story to the world, but in a more creative and interesting way than straightforward factual writing.

It’s a style and approach that can work through every sector and for organisations of all shapes and sizes with any size of budget. You can use storytelling to:

  • tell your brand story

  • unveil a new product or launch a new service

  • launch a new piece of research

  • attract new students

  • differentiate yourself against your competitors or peers

  • tell your own personal career story on your company website or on LinkedIn

And more….


How to tell a story

The subject is often the easy bit, the difficulty lies in telling the story in an interesting and engaging way. To give you a head start, we’ve compiled our starter for 10:

  1. Structure – all stories need a beginning, a middle and an end. Be clear on your story, decide what you want to say before you start writing and stick to it. Don’t waffle, overcomplicate it or make it too long.

  2. Tone – establish the tone of voice, starting with who is telling the story, how and why? The tone is constructed through the words that you use, the pace that you set and any consistent terms that you use. Design also subconsciously impacts the tone – the font that you write in, the colours and imagery that accompany the words and even the paper stock that you print on.

  3. Content – keep it authentic and keep it real. Don’t exaggerate about things or equally, don’t underplay important points.

  4. Through the line - your tone of voice should match all of your other communications and reflect you as a brand, otherwise your story will stick out like a sore thumb…

  5. Consistency – keep your story the same everywhere and every way that you tell it.

  6. Be creative – how are you going to present your story on your website? There are lots of options - through a film? Podcast? Just written words? What about imagery? How will this tie in with your story? If you start by telling your story on your website, how will it translate across to other channels such as printed media? Or vice versa, if a story already exists in other formats and you want to include it on your website, how best can you bring it to life in this medium?

  7. What’s the final message? The best stories leave the reader with an outcome, a final message, a feeling. What’s yours?

  8. Who is going to create your story? You? A copy writer? Stories are best written by people who know how to write them. Good writing really is a craft and it is worth investing in a professional.

  9. Be clear on your objective – you are telling your story for a reason. If it’s your brand story, it’s to set out your stall – to tell the world who you are, where you came from, what your values are, where you are headed. In all, it should give your customers a compelling reason to buy from you. Make sure the story does this.

  10. Don’t underestimate its impact – your story defines your business. It can help you to establish your unique selling point, inspire trust between your business, customers, employees and suppliers. It can even help contribute to your competitive advantage.


So, take the time to review your website, your important pieces of communication – is there an opportunity for you tell a story? If so, do it. You’ll be pleased that you did.

We are Olamalu, a team of technology experts working hard to help clients present their story on the web. We design and build technical solutions to help organisations present their best selves to the outside world and to help them to run more effectively and efficiently on the inside.

January 2019