Last Updated On 1-30-2020

We are all made of stories - best brand storytelling advertising campaigns

Photo by S O C I A L.C U T on Unsplash

Today’s modern consumers are fast-paced, overloaded with information, and short on time. We skim content, interact with chatbots, and gravitate toward convenience and instant gratification. In fact, roughly half of an adult’s day in the U.S. is dedicated to content consumption. In this new reality, it’s imperative that brands humanize and connect with their audiences in more meaningful ways.

Enter brand storytelling.

Research shows that messages delivered as stories are 22 times more memorable than facts. Stories have a greater ability to cut through the noise, reach consumers, and build an emotional connection. And, according to an HBR case study, making that emotional connection is much more important than customer satisfaction.

People like to buy from other people – not nameless, faceless companies. That’s why brands that use stories in their marketing are more likely to form relationships with their audience. And those relationships result in greater engagement, loyalty, and sales.

Get inspired to tell great brand marketing stories in 2020. Take a look at the 10 of the best brand storytelling advertising campaigns from 2019 and what you can learn from them.

#1 Google Capitalizes on the ‘Sheroes’ Trend

In 2019, Google launched its “Year in Search” campaign focused on the different types of heroes searched for by the world. The resulting social media post captivated viewers by taking ordinary Google search queries and matching them to an empowering theme: the idea that all types of people can be heroes, or in this case, “sheroes.”

TAKEAWAY: This campaign is about capitalizing on trends, but Google took it a step further by giving our search queries meaning. By using their search data to tell a heartwarming story, Google makes the audience feel like they are a part of a larger movement – and delivers a brand storytelling advertising campaign that resonates on a personal level.

#2 The New York Public Library Embraces New Technology

classic novels on iPhones
Source: Tier One Partners

Over the past year, the NYPL has uploaded full-length, classic novels, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Metamorphosis, and A Christmas Carol, to its story highlights on Instagram. The stories feature custom illustrations, animation, and user-friendly instructions like “hold the screen to pause the story.”

The result is a new, highly-accessible, and binge-able format that meets their audience where they are: social media. The fact that entire novels can be read from Instagram on a mobile phone shows that digital storytelling and beloved classics can come together!

The “Insta Novels” campaign grew NYPL’s following by 75%, and the novels have been read more than 300,000 times!

TAKEAWAY: Older, established brands can delight their audiences by embracing new technologies and channels in their brand storytelling strategy. Don’t be afraid of trying something new, just deliver your brand story advertising campaign in a way that aligns with your existing audience.

#3 Gillette Takes a Stand

The “We Believe” brand story video campaign from Gillette sparked conversation and controversy by suggesting that now is the time for men to “be better,” and move on from the toxic masculinity that is a cultural focus right now. This brand storytelling example, launched in January, takes the company’s 30-year-old slogan, “The Best a Man Can Get,” and shows how men can do better by pointing out toxic behavior when they see, intervening when appropriate, and protecting their children from bullies.

Speaking out on social issues isn’t always easy for brands – offending someone in your customer base is always possible – but sometimes it’s worth it. Gillette’s video ad has been viewed over 33 million times since its January launch, sparked conversation among thousands, and garnered national press coverage.

TAKEAWAY: Taking a stand on a social or cultural issue in a storytelling marketing campaign can pay off when you make a genuine connection to your brand, and lead with the intent to make a difference – rather than just make a buck.

#4 Apple Roots for the Underdogs

This long-form storytelling marketing campaign example from Apple features four colleagues that are clear underdogs After a chance encounter with the boss, the team has two days to prepare an idea and pitch it to her. This quirky, fast-paced video shows the team creating a prototype, brainstorming branding ideas, consulting with other departments and preparing for their presentation. All of this collaboration and frantic work happens on their trusty Apple products – whether colleagues are in the same room working together, or working remotely from home.

In the end, the audience never sees the presentation or finds out if the team succeeded – but it’s clear from their confident faces in the elevator that they are ready to make a winning pitch. This storytelling campaign engages and entertains the viewer while building a strong brand message and reinforcing the idea that Apple products help employees do their best work.

TAKEAWAY: A key element of effective brand storytelling advertising campaigns is a protagonist who the audience can identify with easily. By siding with the underdog, Apple’s brand story connects with viewers and leaves the audience with a warm, fuzzy sentiment about Apple and its products.

#5 March For Our Lives Shows that Fact can be More Powerful than Fiction

According to March for Our Lives, it’s estimated that currently, about 95% of school kids are trained at school to prepare for active shooter incidents. This year, March For Our Lives hoped to raise awareness of this fact among adults with a powerful, documentary-style video storytelling marketing campaign. The video shows a staff meeting featuring a safety expert who comes in to speak to the team on gun safety and active shooter drills. Then, in a heart-wrenching and unforgettable twist, the gun safety ‘expert’ turns out to be a child.

The March for Our Lives video ad – which earned the Grand Prix for Good at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – helped give a compelling voice to a generation of school children who see these drills as the norm. It stands out as one of the best brand storytelling campaigns of the year.

TAKEAWAY: The best storytelling marketing campaigns don’t need to be fictional. Sometimes the best way to connect is by commenting on real-life and growing problems faced by communities at large. Look for true stories that are grounded in facts, shed a light on underrepresented groups, and/or raise awareness for important causes and cultural issues.

#6 Renault Clio Embraces the Changes in our Culture

To celebrate the 30 year anniversary of the Clio, Renault created a brand storytelling advertising campaign that tells a love story that is also 30 years in the making. The story focuses on the love of two women, who meet as children and fall in love during their teenage years. The emotional story reminds us not only of how our culture has changed since 1990, but also that our cars are often our trusty companions throughout life.

This brand story ad comes at a time when many feel that LGBTQ representation in advertising is behind the times. Response to the video on social media ranged from support for the LGBTQ love story to a feeling that the ad was exploitative and overly emotional.

TAKEAWAY: Anniversaries are a good time to look back and reflect, and this video ad does just that. It also embraces the changes in the LGBTQ community, and society as a whole, have seen over the past 30 years. Renault positions themselves as a supporter and leader in continuing to make much-needed progress.

#7 SickKids Foundation Answers the Question, WHY?

Canada’s SickKids hospital is faced with a massive goal of raising $1.3 billion to build a replacement for the aging facility, which is cramped, dated and in need of repair. With this goal in mind, the SickKids Foundation created a musical storytelling campaign featuring a sick child singing a modified rendition of Nine Inch Nails “Hurt” as viewers tour the hospital. The tour of the hospital offers viewers an inside look at the realities that SickKids patients, families, and staff face daily.

TAKEAWAY: Great brand stories need to address the 5 Ws – who, what, when, where, and why. By giving viewers an inside look at their cause and the impact, SickKids is able to communicate just why donations are so badly needed.

#8 Disneyland Paris Flips the Script

In a departure from typical Disney park ads featuring families enjoying theme parks together, this campaign is focused on a duck. The video tells the story of the little duckling, who finds a storybook about Donald Duck and becomes enamored with the beloved Disney character.

The cute animations and sweet story captivates viewers and conveys that feeling of awe that happens when a child gets to meet their favorite Disney character.

TAKEAWAY: Disneyland Paris wasn’t afraid to try something different, and the result is a storytelling advertising campaign that touches the heart and captures the magical feeling of a Disney experience.

So, what does it all mean?

The human brain is genetically wired to love storytelling, and in today’s world of content overload, a well-told story is often a marketer’s best chance to capture the attention of their audience.

Does your brand use stories in your marketing? Take a cue from the best brand storytelling campaign examples above as you plan your 2020 marketing campaigns this year.

You can also attend one of our upcoming 2020 social media strategy summits to take a deeper dive into how to leverage social media and stories to drive your business and elevate your brand.

You may also like: Check out our post on the ultimate guide to using Instagram stories now to learn more about how to tell brand stories on one of the most popular and effective social media platforms today.