Silverpop - Emotional Storytelling: How to Make It Happen
It appears you are using an older version of your browser. This site was developed to be progressive and future-compatible. Please take a minute to upgrade your browser for an optimal experience.
Skip to content
  • Subscribe:

Emotional Storytelling: How to Make It Happen

by: Jeremy Waite (@jeremywaite)
10 August 2016

Emotional StorytellingFinding Dory recently opened in the United Kingdom. If it’s even half as successful as its predecessor Finding Nemo, it will become one of the year’s top releases. Not only did Nemo gross almost $1 billion worldwide, but it won an Oscar and is still the top-selling DVD of all-time (selling more than 40 million by some estimates). In fact, six of the top 10 DVDs of all-time were produced by Disney or Pixar.

It’s not hard to figure out why: The scriptwriters at Disney and Pixar are the best storytellers in the world. Ever since Disney was founded in 1923, it’s been creating and telling compelling stories that connect emotionally with audiences around the world.

And isn’t that the job of every good marketer? Connecting and engaging with audiences by telling compelling stories that emotionally resonate with their audience?

Marketing guru Seth Godin said not too long ago, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make but about the stories you tell.”

The problem for marketers, though, is that telling emotional stories is really hard. I think there are three main reasons for this:

1) Attention spans are really short.

I once heard futurist Jason Silva say, “If you don’t have ADD today, you’re not paying attention.” He was only half-joking, but he was referring to the biggest problem facing marketers today: Our attention spans are really short. IBM’s David Pyrzenski wrote about this recently and suggested that marketers need to create bite-sized content. David highlighted the fact that our attention spans are now less than eight seconds, so we must therefore tell our stories as quickly and compellingly as possible.

Even the subject headers of emails should be written “emotionally.” I think back to the 1960s when the original “Mad Man” David Ogilvy asked his team to spend 60 percent of its time on the headline and 40 percent on the rest of the content. His advice speaks to how customers decide within half a second whether they are going to open your email. This is why the headline is critical.

2) We don’t know what content our audience responds to.

It’s a little-known fact that almost every Pixar film uses the same template, a methodology perfected over time. Pixar “story artist” Emma Coats describes the template like this:

Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.”

Whether you love Frozen, Finding Nemo, Cars or Toy Story, you’ll find that the story fits this exact template.

Marketing is no different. Once you’ve understood exactly what your audience responds to, you need to be able to communicate it to them (quickly). You can use intelligent tools like IBM Marketing Cloud to help automate your marketing, based around a series of smart templates, but it takes people (not technology) to create that emotional content in the first place. Templates get a bad rep because some marketers think they create “transactional” content, but the right template, populated with the right content, can be very emotional.

Want your click-through rates, engagement and downloads to increase? Create more emotional content. When I was working with Facebook I noticed that the most shared content revolved around what it called “The 4 Passion Pillars” — Music, TV & Film, Fashion and Sport. Your company will have different passion pillars or key topics that your audience gets emotional about. Find out exactly what they are for each channel and build out your campaign and content calendars accordingly. 

3) People make decisions with their hearts.

The ex-CEO of ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, Kevin Roberts wrote a superb book called Lovemarks. In it, he describes how “people share emotions, they don’t share facts.” He also talks about how the best brands create “loyalty beyond reason,” which is why (regardless of price) the most loyal consumers always buy Brand X instead of Brand Y.

So we know consumers make emotional decisions, and we know that marketers are supposed to create emotional content. But what about chief executives?

Executives sign off on marketing budgets and approve brand campaigns, so winning the hearts and minds of the boardroom is key to the long-term success of any marketing team. Because of this, there’s one important statistic every marketer should be aware of:

77% of executives make major strategic decisions about the future of their business with their gut feeling.

Having access to data is a topic that requires a much longer separate post, but what PwC’s report highlights is that executives make emotional decisions concerning marketing budget, head count and technology investments. Marketers like me love taking about data-driven content (and rightly so), but we must also never forget that people make emotional decisions, even when you give them the data.

So, whether you’re writing social media content, creating your next email campaign or trying to secure more budget to buy better marketing technology, make sure the stories you tell (or the pitches you make) are as emotionally appealing as possible.

Download the “2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Report” to see how your emails are resonating emotionally compared to other companies.

More Tips for Stronger Engagement:

1) White Paper: “15 Ideas for Anchoring Your Marketing Approach Around Customer Behaviors and Preferences

2) Blog: “Customer Listening Is Awesome, But Extracting Intent Is the Magic Moment

3) Tip Sheet: “10 Tips for Adding Video to Your Digital Marketing Mix




Sign up Now!

Subscribe to IBM Marketing Cloud's Digital Marketer Newsletter!

Popular Categories

Top 5 Posts


To give you the best experience, this website uses cookies.

Continuing to use this website means that you consent to our using cookies. You can change your cookie settings in your browser at any time.
Find out more here or by clicking the Cookie Policy link at the bottom of this page.