The Forum 2018: The Power of Strategic Brand Storytelling

Even the best story — one that inspires and evokes emotions — is meaningless if the right people don’t read it, see it or hear it. Here are some suggestions from speakers at The Financial Brand Forum on how to tell and package your brand story.

By the third day at most financial conferences, the attendance at sessions can be pretty sparse, with attendees skipping out on presentations to respond to emails, sit by the pool or take a nap. Not at The Financial Brand Forum.

The enthusiasm among the 1,750 attendees remained high, as banking industry executives enjoyed the final day with Power Breakfast Sessions, Live Demos, Lunch-and-Learn Presentations, Concurrent Breakouts and a pair of high-powered keynotes from Jason Dorsey and Randi Zuckerberg.

A key theme throughout the three-day Forum 2018 conference was the impact of storytelling — the most effective tool to cut through all the digital noise that bombards consumers. Leveraging the power of stories allows you to present your financial brand as unique, valuable and human.

Speaking to the packed auditorium from the Forum 2018 main stage, Kindra Hall, a worldwide expert on strategic storytelling, told banking executives that the art of storytelling is being lost. In fact, many of us (marketers included), can’t differentiate a good story from a “meh” story.

“We allude to the story, but we don’t actually tell the story,” explained Hall. “We stay too high-level.”

The tone is too stiff. The message is too dry. There’s no protagonist, no narrative arc. In short, most marketing just isn’t very interesting. It’s corporate copy that doesn’t engage.

“Technical, emotionally detached descriptions don’t work,” Wei Ke, PhD, Partner at Simon Kucher & Partners, told attendees. “Consumers respond to stories. Keep it real.”

Stories Are Human

Technology can help you deliver your story, but the message — not the media — is at the heart of what consumers respond to. Social media isn’t a strategy. In fact social media is practically worthless if you aren’t sharing real stories that impact real people.

Many of our most cherished stories are centered around a hero helped by a guide, explained Forum 2018 speaker Catherine Courage, VP of Ads & UX at Google. Without Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker might still be a farmer on Tatooine. Frodo Baggins might never have found the ring without Gandalf’s guidance. But the you are not Luke Skywalker or Frodo Baggins — the consumer is the hero of the story, and you are the financial guide/mentor striving to make consumers’ lives easier and better.

“Don’t make the story about your bank or credit union,” advised Courage. “The goal is to drive conversations and emotional connections with consumers.”

Remember that consumers really don’t care about banking, but they do care how their bank or credit union can help them solve a problem. This is where most brands — inside and outside of financial services— simply don’t get the story right.

Lux Narayan, CEO of Unmetric, shared the following sobering statistic with attendees: 74% of brands have no meaning in consumers’ lives.

“If those brands went away, consumers wouldn’t even notice,” said Narayan. “In contrast, good content that tells stories can grab consumers attention and add real meaning to a financial brand.”

Narayan evaluates brand content through three filters:

  • Is it going to make a difference to consumers?
  • Is the content entertaining?
  • Is the content useful?

Your stories should pass all three filters, said Narayan.

Be Helpful

Finances are stressful for many consumers. Money concerns affect all areas of our lives, often resulting in marital strife, loss of productivity at work and health issues.

James Robert Lay, CEO of the Digital Growth Institute, told Forum 2018 attendees to design content to help consumers.

“Use content to build a digital community you own by helping first and selling second,” Lay said. “These stories should offer transformation and hope, since that’s what consumers want from someone they trust.”

And banks and credit unions have a long way to go, especially with younger consumers. Unfortunately only 8% of Millennials trust banks and credit unions for guidance, noted Lay.

Showtime: Go Live

Randi Zuckerberg, the first CMO at Facebook and founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, told attendees that live video is an effective way to tell your story because it creates scarcity — it’s only “live” once.

Unmetric’s Narayan also believes that live video is a powerful tool in telling your story because it humanizes your brand — there can be bloopers, spontaneity and unscripted moments (which people love).

Email Still Works

Apparently, the death of email has been largely exaggerated.

“Banks and credit unions must have a truly amazing e-newsletter,” Joe Pulizzi, Founder of the Content Marketing Institute, told banking executives at the Forum.

Pulizzi recommends that banks and credit unions focus on growing subscribers via email and — wait for it — even print.

Once you have built a loyal audience through email—and if your content and your storytelling is great, you will—you can then extend that content to other channels such as social media.

Emotions Matter

A story doesn’t have to be big or amazing—but it has to include emotion rather than just spewing information. It has to have characters that people care about. It has to have a beginning, a middle and an end, said Hall. “A story isn’t pictures of smiling people or catchy copy. A story captures the emotions that people care about,” she noted.

This article was originally published on May 10, 2018. All content © 2018 by The Financial Brand and may not be reproduced by any means without permission.

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