When Stories Go Bad: The Storytelling Mistakes You Should Avoid Like the Plague

Mistakes - OoopsWhilst there’s no doubt everyone has a story or two to tell, finding your brand story and developing a powerful strategy to share it with your target audience isn’t always easy. In today’s fast paced world, word of mouth matters and storytelling has become an excellent way to cultivate curiosity and get the people who matter talking about the brands and associated products or services that they love or admire.

Just like with any marketing approach however there are several storytelling no-nos that every business and fellow marketer should avoid, and in this article we’ll delve deeper into these storytelling mistakes and give you the advice you need to correct them so your story can continue and more importantly result in a happy ending for your business.

Bending the truth

There is a big difference between telling a story and merely listing a string of events. We spend lots of time researching brand stories to make sure that we are using authentic material in marketing communications. In some cases clients tell us that their true stories may not be as exciting as creating a story. This is never the case, and we never advocate bending the truth.   Fabrication, or telling lies, even little white ones, is definitely a storytelling mistake that should be avoided. Building trust with your target audience is just one advantage of authentic storytelling, and by telling half truths or untruths in your campaign you will certainly break that trust.

This rather risqué Super Bowl advertisement for Skechers Shape-ups featuring Kim Kardashian is just one instance where bending the truth hasn’t worked in the company’s favour. As a result of claiming that their product burned calories and toned thighs, Skechers was fined $40 million by the Federal Trade Commission and suffered a blow to their customer base in regards to loyalty.

Using clichés as brand stories

Clichés, like boy meets girl, the pair fall in love, break up then boy wins girl back, are played out time and time again on the silver screen. Often these films become high grossing blockbusters, but when it comes to brand storytelling, the same tired plot lines can have the opposite effect. To avoid this storytelling mistake ensure that the subject of your story is unique and meaningful.

Despite being six years old now, TOMS’ One for One campaign is certainly one that resonates in the mind as a unique and meaningful story. As well as offering an insight into how TOMS Shoes began – Founder Blake Mycoskie started TOMS after travelling in South America and witnessing the hardships of children growing up without shoes – the company’s pledge to deliver a good product from a brand that has good values is more important than ever to consumers. At last count, thanks to their ethos for helping people in need, TOMS has been responsible for giving over 50 million pairs of shoes to impoverished children, restoring the eyesight of some 360,000 individuals and securing more than 250,000 weeks of safe water across six countries. Find your authentic stories and tell them, and they will never get tired.

Being controversial for no good reason

While some companies, and individuals for that matter, make a living out of being controversial, as a rule of thumb if the story you want to tell is overly controversial, unnecessary or unpopular for no good reason then is there really a market for it? Political and social topics that aren’t linked to your industry sector or don’t correlate to your wider brand story, or the products or services at its core, should in the most part be avoided, instead focus on the art of telling a story that shows your business’ true character.

As we’ve mentioned in many of our other blogs, storytelling isn’t just an influential marketing strategy for the B2C market, there are a number of great B2B examples out there. B2B businesses are in fact at the cutting edge of the brand storytelling movement, and have been for some time. B2B businesses in particular have long been mastering the art of being controversial whilst maximising their marketing assets.

Internet security and antivirus specialist Norton’s The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet is an excellent example of how exploring cutting edge subjects, like the very thing they are protecting their customers against, can be used to highlight the importance of bulletproof hosting for businesses across all industry sectors. The documentary takes viewers to Ramnicu Valcea, a picturesque town in the centre of Romania, to uncover a dark secret. Known as ‘Hackerville’, the town is the haunt of some of the highest profile cyber terrorists on the planet. Offering an insight into a truly frightening reality, the film certainly portrays several reasons why you should beef up your cybersecurity, particularly for the larger corporations and governments that make themselves prime targets for these prolific hackers.

Ultimately, creating authentic stories around the things that really matter to your customers is where businesses benefit from the power of storytelling.