What do you think of when you hear the word "story"? I can bet that you are imagining a paperback that you might enjoy on your next beach holiday while you sip from your glass of martini. Or something, a fable or a tale, that you have listened to while growing up. If you are from India, then you surely know how storytelling has been an integral part of our childhood and culture.

We all grew up listening to stories. As a child, mythology fascinated me. While I grew up with the stories of freedom fighters and their hardships, the stories of thought leaders who transformed society despite multiple obstacles inspired me a lot. Most of the time, the personal stories touch a chord inside my heart. And why wouldn't it? Personal stories have an emotional connection and authenticity. They are weaved into cultural and social contexts to inspire and empower people. These stories connect people to their heroes or the ones they look up to. That is why personal stories work so well.

Even though we have come so far, in terms of technology and innovations, the appeal of stories is still undeniable. Now, if you are a leader who wants to inspire people or a brand that wants to connect more with potential customers, you need to be a master storyteller.

The Role of Stories in My Life

I grew up listening to stories about my grandfather. He used to live in Fateh Jung in undivided India, and his workplace was in Peshawar. He used to run brick kilns in Peshawar in those days. During the partition, he left his home and business in Pakistan and came to India with the family to start from scratch. Little did Pitaji (as I lovingly called my grandfather) know back then that his stories of business, hard work, and dedication were actually planting the seed of becoming an entrepreneur in my mind. That is the power of storytelling.

When a story inspires you so much that it not only makes you feel good but also gives your life a new direction, you know that the storyteller is the one to thank. So, when you are a leader telling the story of your success to your audience, telling them what you have learned on your journey and how that has shaped your life so far, make sure it is captivating and inspiring enough. It should inspire them to not only like and comment on your Reels but also to follow in your footsteps in real life.

Similarly, if you are the owner of a brand, no matter what product or service you are bringing to market, your story should play a pivotal role in your marketing strategy. In my experience, people don’t trust random brands because of their promotions. People trust people. So, if your brand is humane enough to connect with your target audience, and catch their pulse with the right kind of content, your potential customers will trust you. And that can happen with the help of amazing storytelling.

Stories and Consumerism

In today’s world, the expenses of living are skyrocketing every day. Consumers are much more conscious now, and they prefer to make informed decisions before engaging with any brand. This is where storytelling comes into play.

In my mentorship calls, I keep getting questions like, "How do I market my brand?", or "How much do I need to spend on advertising for my brand so that people engage with me?" Well, I am saying the same thing here that I tell them. Given the current economic climate, of rising inflation and recession, consumers have become more sensitive about what they are buying. At the same time, global warming and challenges to the climate also play an important role in their purchase decisions.

Stories are powerful tools in that way. Stories establish a connection with the conscious and even subconscious minds of human beings. That is why subliminal messages are often hidden in stories and advertisements. A story is different from a brand narrative, which often makes an outright sales pitch to make customers buy from them. Stories are more authentic, which is perfect for creating a personal connection with the consumer.

Some of the Best Brand Storytelling

We all remember the famous Cadbury ad where a girl sits in the gallery watching a cricket match and bites on a Cadbury with a worried face. And the moment, the batsman strikes an over boundary, she comes down on the ground, dodges the umpire, and does a crazy dance on the pitch. How many women in the 90s actually found that one ad so fun, fresh, and inspiring that they also dreamed of doing something like that? In fact, her dance became so famous that people mimicked it even much later. That was a great story, I think. Women are often believed to be far from sports. This preconceived notion gets swiped away by this one ad, where this girl shows that women not only understand sports but can also celebrate them with equal enthusiasm as men, if not more. And what better way to do so than with Cadbury?

Today, the Patanjali brand has become very popular in India. If you see, they do not invest so much in brand advertising. But they caught the attention of Indian buyers with their storytelling. Modern Indian consumers are shifting more towards products that are authentic, natural, anti-cruelty, vegan, and organic. Patanjali has told them the story of the revival of our ayurveda and how that can help in healing and wellbeing. That did the trick.

So, as you can see, the story of the brand or the story in the content should be engaging and inspiring so that the audience falls in love with your brand.

How to be a Master Storyteller

The tips that I am going to share now are time-tested ones. So, pay attention to them and try to implement them where you can.

  • Choose your character. What are you? Are you a friend, an ally, or an authentic source of knowledge? Choose who you want to be depending on the buyer’s personality.
  • Connect to emotions. Today’s purchase decisions are just about brand loyalty. Connect with emotions. NRIs who miss "Ghar ka Khana", will drop by an authentic Indian restaurant, as that connects with their emotions. Someone who feels strongly about feminism is more likely to engage with brands that break gender stereotypes and perhaps, have female leadership. So, you get the gist.
  • Be original. When your competitors are crowding your potential customers, your originality will make you stand out.
  • Finally, know when to stop. A storyteller does not ask the listeners to come back again; the listeners go back for the stories.

Storytelling and influencing people are about creating an authentic narrative that makes your audience feel adequate. Those who follow you should feel, "If this man can, we can too." That is how to tell a story, and that is how you lead.