13 Storytelling Terms Explained For A Remarkable Brand Strategy

I recently wrote to a friend of mine about brand storytelling. He said, his only connection with storytelling was kids’ storytelling and everything else seemed like buzzwords. Many times when I host a storytelling workshop, people don’t necessarily know the terminology or understand how it works from a brand perspective. You may think that it’s fluff, or something that can’t work for your products. However, the truth is- online storytelling makes your content more readable and human. It helps connect and engage. Don’t let the fear of storytelling terms stop you from having a remarkable brand strategy. Discover your own mojo!

13 Storytelling Buzzwords Explained For Your Remarkable Brand Strategy BRANDANEW

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13 Storytelling Terms Explained For A Remarkable Brand Strategy

1. What is storytelling?

The art of storytelling is not new. From prehistoric times (see the history of storytelling), we’ve been sharing stories that convey our thoughts and ideas coherently in an entertaining and engaging manner. We define a hero, a challenge and also device a solution that gives everyone a happy ending to remember. Here’s a storytelling definition that I particularly like from the National Storytelling network:

Storytelling is the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination.

As a brand what can you do differently that shares conversations about your products and services, encouraging your community’s imagination?

Here’s a storytelling example from Lincoln cars that really does spur up imagination, and curiosity. You may or may not entirely like or ‘get it’ but that also adds to the charm of the story they tell. Notice nothing in the ad copy talks about the product or its features. It’s a part of the story organically while the actor just talks to himself and you.

2. Who is a storyteller?

Here’s a Storytelling definition by Merriam dictionary:

Now with digital media allowing us the ability to share and document our lives, just everyone is a storyteller. From Kim Kardarshian to Microsoft, each brand shares stories in their own way. From 140 characters to million dollar ads, they share a part of their brand persona with their communities.

The question you must always ask yourself as a personal or business brand is this: How can you make your community feel empowered and care? How can your story connect? Are you a true storyteller? How will you stay authentic?

3. Transmedia storytelling

Telling a story through multiple media as a series of synchronous content pieces on various platforms is how transmedia storytelling can be defined. Here’s the Wikipedia definition with details:

Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling, cross-media seriality) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies…

A good example of this technique is from a book- Cathy’s Book where readers found letters, phone numbers and other details in a young adult fiction novel. They could even call and drop voice mails on the number sharing their experiences and questions. Interesting, isn’t it? The key thing to remember here is that while it’s not earth-shattering as an idea, it’s remarkable for an industry like books. Remember, it requires you to think out of the box AND needs planning.

4. What is online storytelling?

Using the online media like social platforms, your websites, new sites and external web based channels to deliver a story that’s powerful and shares coherent stories is how I’d define online storytelling. Many brands and journalistic efforts have really pushed the envelope for sharing amazing new stories, brand thinking and information about causes in engaging and stunning ways. Here’s a great example:

NPR created a visual app / web presence highlighting the issues of cutting down of the Rain forests in Brazil. Engaging and visually simulating. Now imagine reading this in a 2000 page academic article. Of course it would still hold your interest, but usually stories and imagery together on the web is a much easier way to connect with global audiences.

13 Storytelling Buzzwords Explained For Your Remarkable Brand Strategy

5. Which Storytelling techniques can I use?

In film people often say there are only 7 basic stories, rest are just modifications. A brand story must be able to get the consumers intrigued and make them emotionally involved and care for the products. As a brand you need to define the emotions or the triggers for your audience. Once you know the triggers use storytelling techniques inspired from books, films or other media to share your content in a manner that allows people to engage. Here are storytelling techniques from films that you can use to inspire yourself! Remember, keep it simple.

6. Which Storytelling Books can I refer to?

Here’s a great list of storytelling books that can help you become a great storyteller.

7. What is storytelling marketing?

Using storytelling techniques to market your products is how I define storytelling marketing. The key for your brand would be to weave stories that are composed of your branding elements in a subtle and organic fashion. No force feeding but something that’s authentically a part of your brand ethos.

Here’s a great new example of an advert sharing how food connects us despite the differences in our positions, cultures and experiences. Naturally, it’s from a food brand and does not come across as shocking when they reveal it so.

8. What is visual storytelling?

Using graphics, videos and imagery to share a story often using qualitative and quantitative data as a reference is what defines visual storytelling. In the context of a brand whether it is by creating big data visualizations or using graphics that basically re-purpose your existing content, you’ve got a lot to win by using this technique. Consumers ‘digest’ visuals 60X times more than text.

A great example of amazing data visualization is this project on fracking here. Look at the power of how this data is able to move and engage the audience! Another great example of visual storytelling is the Humans of New York project. Each picture is an insights into your own thoughts!

9. What is oral storytelling?

Oral storytelling is perhaps the oldest forms of sharing a story. The audience is around a storyteller who shares and engages them with a story well told. Oral storytelling in the digital world can be shared through audio stories or podcasts.

Examples are: The Startup Podcast, Serial, The Mystery Show and others.

10. Which storytelling podcasts should I listen to?

Ira Glass. Gimlet Media. Starlee Kine. Now these are my personal favorites. But here’s Indiewire’s Storytelling Podcasts for the year 2015 that you must get hooked on to! These may sound like podcasts that are not important for your brand.

But you will notice, especially with Gimlet’s podcasts how brands are sharing their stories in between the podcasts as advertisers. I genuinely thought the MailChimp and Squarespace ads on Gimlet were fantastic in sharing the ideas of the people behind these brands. And also, the stories of customers who use these products in multiple different ways. That’s amazing and inspiring!

11. What are some great storytelling examples?

Here are some great examples from brands doing storytelling just right. You can also discover the digital storytelling trends that are likely to grow especially in the context of brands.

12. What are some key storytelling tips?

Here are some great storytelling tips and ideas that’ll help your brands.

13. Which digital storytelling tools can I use?

There are quite a few tools that you an use to create digital stories. This definitely needs a new post, but here are some examples:

  • Powerpoint/ Haiku Deck/ Keynote
  • SlideStory for adding voice narration to your stories
  • Picmonkey/ Canva/Piktochart and others for visuals
  • ACMI Storyboard for storyboard generation
  • Podcasting tools for audio stories are here
  • etc.

What are some of the storytelling techniques you’ve employed for your brands? Do share!


Upasna Kakroo

Upasna co-founded Brandanew in 2014 for the sheer love of storytelling and authentic connections. She has been blogging and documenting digital stories since 2003.