Compelling stories are those that not only move people to share and take action but also engage the audience in a way that they are willing to follow the story with more chapters. Such kinds of stories are like the marketing gold all marketers dream of, because they not only boost conversions, but also virality and customer loyalty.
There are many factors that contribute to make a story compelling:
- Honesty and transparency are essential in brand stories, so marketers and storytellers should never cross the border of truth. Confusion, deception and disappointment are very likely to damage the brand reputation with as much or more strength and virality as good stories building the brand’s reputation. Consumer communities control the brand integrity in such a way that it is impossible for fake stories to succeed.
- Characters are the key elements to create the emotional connection with the audience. So long as these characters share some of the challenges and values with the audience, the listeners are likely to feel identified with them and thus connect emotionally with the character. In brand storytelling, the main character has to be like a hero to the audience, because the hero overcomes the challenges or satisfies the aspirations that listeners have in their real lives, and the destination is just the scenario where the story takes place.
- The plot is the structure of the story that includes a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning sets the stage showing the hero’s life before the challenge appears. In the middle part, the main character struggles to overcome the challenge. Struggles should be told in all their nastiness to make the story sound real and engage the audience. After many ups and downs, the story reaches its end usually when the hero overcomes the challenge and somehow becomes a better version of him or herself.
- The goal or challenge is a crucial element of the story. It can be a personal weakness or fear to overcome, it can be a skill to develop, a mystery to understand or a transformation to experience. This challenge also entails a series of obstacles and difficulties to struggle with that set the gap between the initial stage and the desired end of the story.
- The mentor is the one who helps the hero in overcoming the obstacles and attaining the desired goal. The mentor of the brand story is to be the destination’s life-changing experience that somehow guides the tourist in his or her transformational journey of personal development.
- The moral is the final message or lesson that listeners should learn through the story. In brand stories, this should be synthesized into a mantra that works like a brand slogan. This mantra should be the first idea that comes to the listener’s minds when they hear the brand name. The moral is what gives value to the story, and thereby one of the main reasons why the listeners are likely to share it.
- Multiple chapters are a key strategy to engage the audience and create loyalty. Instead of giving away the whole story at once, delivering it chapter by chapter generates conversation about the story in an ongoing way, and provides the brand with compelling content for a much longer period of time.
- Suspense is what sets the audience in a state of continuous uncertainty that keeps them engaged and attentive to know how the story eventually triggers. Suspense may be created by adding more antagonists or by explicitly leaving unanswered questions that suggest different possible triggers.
- Realism helps people engage with the story so long as they are more likely to feel identified with stories similar to those in their life rather than science fiction or fantasy ones. Realism is shown with the skepticism of the main character’s way of thinking, and by showing the dark side of life and the nastiness of the struggle to overcome the challenge.
To sum it up, as Aristoteles said, compelling stories need to have ethical appeal, emotional appeal and logical appeal to connect with the mind, heart and human spirit of the audience.
Would you add other key success factors to make stories compelling?