The ROI Of Brand Storytelling
Good stories are memorable. We identify with them and the characters in them. Good stories affect us emotionally. They make us part of the story and so we can’t help but share with others. They make us believers, and many, brand advocates.
The question, then, is how does this advocacy influence the bottom line? Here are a few great examples demonstrating the ROI of brand storytelling.
Research from co:collective looked at the impact of brand storytelling on the financial performance of 42 publically traded companies. They found brand storytelling to have a significantly greater impact on brand engagement than traditional advertising. This higher level of engagement lead to increased ROI. Here are a few highlights, as demonstrated by Type A Communications:
  • In 2011, when comparing the number of social media mentions for traditional branding/advertising messages vs storytelling, the latter approach garnered 1900 percent more mentions
  • Of those, storytelling prompted 10 percent more positive mentions
  • These companies spent almost two-thirds less on paid media per dollar of revenue
  • From 2008-2013, these companies experienced almost double the number of social media mentions compared with traditional branding/advertising approaches
  • Their annualized revenue growth rate from 2007-2011 was 70 percent higher
  • And their annualized share price growth was 227 percent higher
Understanding how brand storytelling impacts ROI and strategizing thoughtfully about how to use your brand stories to increase ROI are two actionable steps you can take towards facilitating success for your brand. We’re just gone over the former, so now let’s tackle the latter.
We picked up a similar story originally featured in the German Huffington Post. A young man had an old Opel Tigra (actual photo above) manufactured in 1997 and wanted to sell it on Ebay. Instead of simply stating the basics, as most people do, the guy used the description space to tell a story.
A blog post by The Social M’s translates the man’s story, which was about his pregnant girlfriend insisting on his selling the car because it is too small for a family; his “Too Fast and Too Furious” encounter with the police at age 18; and the downsides of the car: the engine that makes funny noises, the worn leather seats, the fact that you cannot read the clock or the temperature – “but who needs that anyway, we all know how cold it is in good old Germany!”
He writes about his relationship with his father and his friend who advises him to sell the car to a hobby car enthusiast as it is neither new or very good. “It is a long, very personal and entertaining story,” writes Susanna Gebauer, who translated the story. It was picked up on several other German news sites as well.
“Rarely has an auction of an old car on Ebay gotten more attention since that VW Golf, which originally belonged to Pope Ratzinger and sold for almost 190 thousand Euros,” Gebauer continues. P.S. That’s around $216,177 US dollars today.
Research shows that a car like this normally costs between $340 (300€) to $1,140 (1000€). That being said, $2,275 (2000€) would have been a pretty good price. Considering the car had no famous former owners or any other extras apart from a great story, it can be concluded that every cent over was due to the great story told. The auction finished with an incredible amount of $63,432 (55750€). The story included around 3200 words, which sums up to an ROI of almost $20 (17€) per word.
The Opel Tigra Story
Burberry’s interactive brand storytelling
Since 2008, Burberry has moved away from traditional campaign tactics in favor of brand storytelling, and its stock prices have risen more than 750 percent as a result (Fast Company). Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s chief creative officer and CEO says, “Everything has a story — your clothes, buildings, videos, music. I think it’s important people go along with this journey otherwise it becomes a faceless product.”
He adds, “It’s all about touching people emotionally. . .language doesn’t matter — no matter where you are from, when you do something properly, people respond to that. It always surprises me how many people discover Burberry through our music projects for example. It’s important to keep innovating with your product and keep telling different stories with it.” (Sproutworth)
Tiffany & Co’s “What Makes Love True” campaign
When Tiffany & Co. masterminded the brand storytelling campaign, “What Makes Love True,” they were not marketing any specific products. Rather, the campaign was designed to give Tiffany & Co. “ownership” on true love, which was geared towards increasing company value and perception.
The brand created a microsite that allowed people to type a love message for their significant other and watch it appear in on a geo-location map. In less than a month, Tiffany’s stock prices had risen $10/share (Fast Company). The company later introduced a social media element that allowed people to submit photos via Instagram with the hashtag #TrueLovePictures and on Twitter with #WhatMakesLoveTrue. Within months, there were thousands of shared photos, the top 10 amassing nearly 150,000 likes.
Photo from Tiffany & Co.
Significant Objects experiment
Significant Objects was an experiment demonstrating the objective measurability of brand storytelling on an object’s value.
It was created by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn as a literary and anthropological experiment to measure the subjective, objectively. Walker and Glenn bought items at garage sales, flea markets, etc., and took them back to their team of writers where they created compelling, impactful stories about each item and then re-sold them (with the added story) auction-style on sites like eBay.
The difference between the original purchase price and the resale (story) price is what served as the objective measurement on how stories affect ROI.
Pretty cool. And the results? Even better.
The average price for an original object in the experiment was $1.29. The average resale storytelling price was… (wait for it) … $36.12. That’s an increase of 2,700 percent! One of their most significant sales was a snow globe that was purchased for one dollar and later sold for $59.
“Stories are such a powerful driver that their effect on any given [product's] subjective value can be measured objectively,” - Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker
A study by co:collective
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