Content Marketing: It’s All About Telling Your Brand Story

A few weeks ago, I wrote my first Pace blog post about social media and content marketing, and followed it up with this post about putting the audience first. Today I’m going to discuss the importance of storytelling in content marketing.

Storytelling has been entrenched in every human civilization, predating even the earliest forms of writing. It’s central to how we learn, communicate and make sense of the world. And while the way we tell stories has changed, the fundamentals remain intact.

Unlike traditional marketing practices, content marketing is all about telling your brand story in a way that engages the audience and provides them with value. We live in a digital world where ignoring marketing messages is easier than ever. In order to earn the attention of an audience, brands must go above and beyond and create content so powerful that people are motivated to seek it out and share it with others. Rather than disrupting an audience from what they’re reading or watching, the content must become what they’re paying attention to.

It’s a tall order to fill, but not impossible. Here’s one of my favorite examples of a brand that did this well:

Chipotle Mexican Grill – The Scarecrow

Chipotle is a brand deeply devoted to ethically raised livestock, family farms, and using ingredients free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) To start a conversation about their commitment to high-quality food – rather than just create another promotional ad – it had to be done in a meaningful way.

About 18 months ago Chipotle released a YouTube video titled “The Scarecrow” as part of its Cultivate a Better World ad campaign.

In it, a dejected scarecrow living in a world of processed food meanders around town, observing the sad state that his world has become. Nothing around him is natural anymore: chickens are pumped full of hormones, and cows are stacked on top of each other in factories, permanently attached to milking machines with no view of the sun. The worst part is that everyone around him is happily going about their business, buying processed food products without a care in the world. They don’t notice – or mind – that the animals are being treated poorly, or that their food is brimming with unnatural chemicals.

The first half of the video is bleak and pulls at your heartstrings, but things begin to look up when the scarecrow returns to his home in the country. There he is inspired to turn his small garden into a farm, and eventually opens a burrito stand in the city.

The scarecrow, once so down and out, becomes the hero of the story. By breaking free from a life that everyone around him is so accustomed to – but bothers the scarecrow so much – he’s able to create real change and hope for a better future. This is so much more than an ad; it’s a statement about an unfortunate aspect of the world and how many of us are so blissfully unaware that we accept it.

The success of the video, which has more than 14 million views, lies in people’s emotional responses to the storyline. The three-and-a-half-minute spot went viral across social media, allowing Chipotle to reach a wider audience and making people curious about where their food comes from and how it’s raised. At the same time, the video helped build Chipotle’s brand awareness by communicating the company’s mission to the world in an honest, relatable way.

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What are your thoughts on brand storytelling? Share them with me in the comment section below!

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