Brand Storytelling: An Essential Tool in Successful Financial Services Marketing

Storytelling has usurped other types of digital marketing. Tactics that were once highly effective are past their best-by date. If financial services firms want to continue pursuing a digital approach, their approach must change. Brand storytelling is the way forward.

What is Brand Storytelling?

In most marketing, storytelling is the new frontier. Done right, it can penetrate to the core, capturing the imagination and stirring emotions, ostensibly with the power to change lives through a portrayal of connected events.

It’s innate in all of us, and smart brands are tapping into it. People are programmed to tell and consume stories. Marketers have recognized content through storytelling as a critical marketing imperative, but it’s less of an innovation than a realization. In fact, it’s been going on for decades.

Case in point: as humans, we consume stories. From childhood on through to our twilight years, we seek out and are drawn in by stories that arouse our mind and stir our imagination. If there is something to be learned, we will remember it if it’s framed anecdotally.

Even in our day-to-day lives, we create colorful stories to embellish the simplest of ideas, tasks, or observations. How many times have you sat in a coffee shop and made up a back story for the person sitting across from you? Or confabulated the truth just enough to make something that much more interesting to your friends?

From a financial marketing perspective, it’s no different. If you can capture the essence of the brand in a story, if you can tap into an emotional place, if you can make that connection between your brand and your customers and settle in the memory of your audience, you have won. That connection, that ability to resonate, that is the ultimate prize.

Stories Play on Our Emotions

From the moment we are old enough to understand, we look forward to stories. We seek them out, in books, films, music. A good story is impossible to resist. Relayed with skill and emotion, a connection is possible, motivating us to think and act.

Knowing your customers and their pain points and showing that you genuinely understand their struggles, their desires, and their journey makes you a player in their story as much as they are in yours. Your financial marketing content strategy should address those pain points, providing a voice of wisdom that will see them through to the other side of their problem.

By the end of the story, you will have walked the reader or viewer through a crisis, a climax, and a final resolution. They will remember the story and they will remember you, not only for the way you so skillfully solved their situation but also for the way you made them feel.

How Brand Storytelling Can Work For You

Everyone has a story to tell. This includes your financial services brand. But rather than focusing on numbers, statistics, and statements, make it about the people – the real struggles we face daily – and how your brand makes things better.

What you don’t want to do is make them feel like you’re selling them something. Remember – this should be a realization, not a decision. Your story should relate to your financial product or service, but your prospective customer (think: ideal buyer persona) should feel like it’s all about them.

Think about how a person would benefit from doing business with you. Show them how it would feel to use your financial product or service and how much better the world is with you in it. If you can provoke that emotional connection, they will buy what you’re selling, literally and figuratively.

Brand Storytelling Essentials

No matter what format they are delivered in, most stories follow a basic paradigm: There is a situation, a conflict, and a resolution.

The difference between straight-up marketing and a brand story is that your customer is the protagonist, not your product. When the customer sees themselves in a situation, when the story resonates with them on a visceral level, you’ve successfully made that connection. Without that connection, nobody’s going to care.

You appeal first to the emotional nature of the customer because emotions are very quick to respond. Our brains can be slow to reach the end zone. You deliver your hook and walk them through the fire and out the other side. You provide the solution as only you can do it, bringing them to the realization that there is no other way.

Storytelling in the Financial Services Sector

In the financial services industry, where one company tends to offer much the same as the next, storytelling has the potential to lift you out of the sea of data, humanizing your services. In truth, there is nothing more emotional and provocative than money and security.

This is the key to crafting your story, to finding that meaningful connection. This, more than your performance metrics, the latest technology, your fantastic reputation, and top-notch customer service, will be the thing that differentiates you from the competition.

Here’s an example:

Maria is a 30-year-old software designer. Because the investment portfolio she purchased in her twenties performed so well, she just purchased a home in Silicon Valley. It’s got a big backyard and lots of bedrooms so her family from back east can come to visit.

This is a compelling anecdote that shows how much the financial decisions she made early on allowed a young, ambitious woman to realize a dream that many of us aspire to.

A good story doesn’t have to be lengthy or convoluted. In about a minute or less, it takes complex ideas and transforms them into delectable, irresistible, bite-sized pieces that invite the audience to engage and to dream that dream. The emotional experience of buying a home is something we either relate to or aspire to, and it doesn’t take a special kind of person to connect the dots.

Chase recently released a TV commercial where a Private Client rep asks the client how the early retirement they planned is going. The client responds that it’s going great; he’s spending more time with his kids, has introduced them to crab and explains that he and the kids want to build an outdoor kitchen to have crab boils with enough room for the whole family using the money they’ve set aside. This commercial tells a brand story that connects Chase with helping to achieve dreams of family time and good food. It’s a story that most people can relate to.

And there are other potential storytelling avenues. If a financial services firm has an epic story of how it came to be, a storied history of overcoming a market obstacle, or has a unique philosophy or vision of the future — if it resonates as a story, it can become part of the brand.

Crafting the Narrative

Whether told through video, audio, or text, all stories travel on an arc. It’s a journey, complete with a situation, characters, a conflict, and a resolution. The possibilities are virtually infinite. Brand storytelling – especially in financial services — provides a way for marketers to take highly nuanced and data-driven ideas and transform them into something that, while esoteric in its concept, is about as real and human as it gets. And it is this emotion that will help drive decision-making.

Need some help with brand storytelling or talking through some potential stories to use in your marketing? Contact us!

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