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Once upon a time: 3 storytelling copywriting examples and how to tell your brand’s story

Read Time 23 mins | Written by: Wendy Woodhead

Have you struggled with the words to represent all that your business means to you? You’re not alone. Storytelling underpins all successful marketing, so use our tips and write your future.

From business owners to marketers – there are times when we have all struggled with how to tell the stories of our companies with conviction and emotion. Every business has its highs and lows, its obstacles and goals. Understanding this can help plot a story that connects with the reader and builds brand credibility. Tips and tutorials are useful, but it also helps to see storytelling copywriting examples of the technique in action.

To celebrate National Storytelling Week, we thought we’d explain why storytelling in copywriting and content marketing is so important. Plus, we compare how three brands have taken on the challenge and guide you through the process of telling your own story.

Table of contents

  1. What is storytelling in marketing?
  2. Why use storytelling in marketing?
  3. 3 storytelling copywriting examples
    1. L’Occitane
    2. ghd
    3. Ford
  4. How to use storytelling in content marketing
    1. Do the groundwork
    2. Know your audience
    3. Set the parameters
    4. Tease out your story
    5. Review your story
    6. Test your story
  5. A final word…

What is storytelling in marketing?

Image of a fountain pen nib against white background - 3 storytelling copywriting examples - Copify blog

The storytelling technique is a powerful and effective way to connect with your customers. Storytelling has been used for centuries, and in some cultures, it’s considered the basis of all communications.

Storytelling in marketing is the process of using a story to engage your target audience.

You can tell a story verbally, orally or visually:

  • Verbal storytelling includes anything with the written word, such as about pages and product descriptions.
  • Oral storytelling employs the spoken word, and more companies are moving to this form of storytelling with video and audio marketing.
  • Visual storytelling involves the powerful use of imagery, which may be unspoken video or the use of images on packaging and websites.

In most storytelling terms, you’re the storyteller and (if you’re representing your own brand) you’re the hero of your story. Your customer is the listener or reader.

For even more engagement, you can put your reader/customer in the hero’s position by using second-person voice. For example, look at the way I opened this article:

Have you struggled with the words to represent all that your business means to you? You’re not alone. Storytelling underpins all successful marketing, so use our tips and write your future.

Of course, this depends on the nature of your business and the story you need to tell. Regardless, all forms of storytelling are incredibly moving when used well. By sharing an experience with customers, you can create a powerful connection that can influence their decisions.

Why use storytelling in marketing?

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to communicate a message. The best thing about storytelling is that it doesn’t require any new skills – it simply requires that you think creatively!

When you start thinking creatively about your journey, you tap into a range of emotions that aren’t present when you only consider your business in commercial terms. Your content can come across as much more genuine when you funnel these emotions into your copy.

Here are some more benefits you could see from employing this technique in your copywriting:

  • Makes your brand more relatable
  • Helps you connect with customers on an emotional level
  • Creates a connection between your brand and your customers’ values
  • Makes your brand more memorable, potentially resulting in more sales or customer loyalty
  • Helps you stand out from the competition
  • Helps attract the right audience
  • Creates more authenticity from you and your team
  • Works in a range of contexts, not just for outward promotional messages, but in case studies and funding proposals

3 storytelling copywriting examples

This all sounds good, but how does it look in action? Here are some examples of how companies use storytelling techniques:

1. L’Occitane

Screenshot of L'Occitane About page - 3 storytelling copywriting examples - Copify blog

The French skincare brand L’Occitane proudly wears its corporate and social responsibility values on its sleeve as the brand knows that the provenance of ingredients is important to its target audience.

When you take a look at their website, you’ll see the brand does not attempt to side-step the fact they harvest materials from one of the poorest countries in the world, Burkina Faso. However, they’ve turned the story on its head to highlight their mission to improve conditions for the local workforce:

“Burkina Faso is one of the poorest countries in the world. If we do nothing, more than 3.7 million women would still live in a state of poverty. By supporting and empowering Burkinabè women, we can help lift them out of poverty.”

Describing their involvement as “A story of emancipation”, the brand also uses classic storytelling tropes, describing their history of involvement as a timeline and picking out notable points where their story hit a turning point, such as implementing a 100% Fair Trade supply chain and when they met their goal of empowering 33,000 women. They show the story unfolding in action as they look ahead to achieving a new target.

To conjure up an emotional connection, the brand also takes the reader straight into the lives of these women, aligning their values with their own:

“By earning their own income and developing their activities, the women shea butter producers in Burkina Faso are able to improve their social status. They can contribute more to household expenses and help to pay for their children’s education. The whole family benefits!”

This is a great example of brand- and value-driven storytelling.

2. ghd

Screenshot of ghd About page - 3 storytelling copywriting examples - Copify blog

The brand of straighteners that redefined the world of hairstyling, ghd have employed the art of empowerment through storytelling on their About page:

“In 2001, three hairdressers from Yorkshire put a radical new hair styling product into the hands of women across the globe.

With the respect and loyalty of an army of devoted stylists, ghd quickly developed a cult-like status nationwide. A monthly trip to the salon was no longer the only way to have a good hair day – this could be achieved every day.”

The opening sets the scene and creates a vivid image in the reader’s mind, before using almost militant language to convey the revolutionary identity that the brand wants to channel.

The goal of the story is clear: to ensure “a monthly trip to the salon was no longer the only way to have a good hair day”, literally putting control back in the hands of the user and in the process changing their lives.

However, brand stories are complex and very rarely cemented. On their Gender Pay Gap page, ghd use more tempered and humble language to elicit a more sympathetic emotion and show how some battles are still ongoing:

“We seek to understand if there is more we can, should, and will be doing to encourage and enable opportunities for all. We recognise we have some work to do and are fully committed to supporting all of our employees to achieve their goals and ambitions.”

Not all stories need to be complete with the brand the victor. If there are still obstacles in your path, tell your reader about them. It can humanise you as a brand and, like any good hero, show that you have faults and are aware of them.

3. Ford

Screenshot of Ford About Motability page - 3 storytelling copywriting examples - Copify blog

A story in progress is one of the most interesting stories of all. On their Mobility page, motor giant Ford shows they are all too aware of the challenges posed by their industry on the environment:

“With an increasing population concentrated in cities, mobility has become increasingly complex with rising congestion and pollution. Ford Mobility is exploring innovative initiatives that aim to integrate connected vehicles, city data and infrastructure. Our aim is to deliver a cohesive and efficient urban transportation system.”

They set themselves up as the solution which creates a more caring and sympathetic brand image than a company interested only in selling more cars without any thought for the environment or the population.

Notice how they construct their paragraphs to set up the problem and then present their solution as the resolution.

All storytelling is about the peaks and troughs, and every section of your page should function as its own self-contained scene or story: with a beginning, middle and resolution.

The page in itself concludes with a resolution, looking to the future of autonomous vehicles:

“As we chart this new reality of smart vehicles for a smart world, we envision a city of tomorrow that could be holistic, organic, inter-connected…”

The brand conveys itself as ambitious and committed to continuing the story, leaving the reader with a positive, harmonious image.

How to write a brand story using storytelling in copywriting

Image of a tablet saying write without fear, edit without mercy - 3 storytelling copywriting examples - Copify blog

There’s no definitive storytelling copywriting formula to help you write the perfect brand story, but you can follow a few steps to bring yours together:

1. Do the groundwork

In order to use storytelling in content marketing effectively, you first need to brainstorm your brand’s story. This can be done by asking questions about your company’s history, mission and values. Once you have a good idea of what your story is, you can create an outline of the key points you want to hit. Then, you can start your brand story copywriting. Be sure to edit it carefully to make sure it’s clear and concise.

2. Know your audience

When using storytelling in content marketing, it’s important to keep in mind who your target audience is and what they value. Make sure the storytelling aspects of your content marketing are done in a way that’s relevant to them and that plays on their emotions.

3. Set the parameters

The story you tell can be as complex or as simple as you like. The path will depend on the constraints determined by the medium you’ll be telling your story. If you are planning a quick explainer video behind your brand, keep it simple. If you’re creating a story to accompany a bid, then you might need to get more into the details and the many smaller battles you fought along the way.

4. Tease out your story

It’s important to remember that a good story doesn’t just have a beginning, middle and end. It needs a problem, an engaging protagonist, an element of conflict and a resolution. Notice that we said tease out your story, because you don’t need to invent it. Every company has an origin story, and your quest is to find it! Take another look at the examples above. Can you discern the heroes of the stories, the problems or villains, the obstacles and quests, along with the resolutions?

5. Review your story

Once you’ve got the bones of your story, read it through. Are you hitting all the major plot points? You don’t need to get too into the details unless you’re writing for a more in-depth format, such as a business plan, but adding one or two complications you encountered along the way can create a more satisfying story for your reader. Simply jumping from start to end doesn’t create an engaging story; include a few setbacks and remind the reader what’s at stake if you don’t succeed.

6. Test your story

If you can afford the luxury, then a focus group is a great way to get feedback on which story creates a stronger emotional connection. For the purposes of this, it’s ideal to have two versions to compare. If you are a smaller company, then simply creating two opposing web pages can help you A/B test your copy. Or launch one video on social media and measure the responses to help identify if you’re on the right track.

When you master the skills of storytelling, you’ll find you can use this technique on just about anything, from brand stories and about pages to product descriptions that show your customers how you can solve their problems.

A final word…

Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to communicate a message, and it can be used in a variety of contexts beyond just marketing. When storytelling is done effectively, it can help brands connect with customers on an emotional level, makes them more relatable and more memorable.

If you’re looking to add storytelling techniques into your content marketing strategy, start by doing the groundwork and getting to know your audience. From there, tease out your story and review it to make sure all the key points are hit. Be sure to test your story before releasing it to ensure that it has the desired effect on readers.

Image Credits

Header image: Etienne Girardet

Embedded images: Art Lasovsky, screenshots courtesy of L’Occitane, ghd, Ford, hannah grace

Wendy Woodhead

Wendy is the Account Director at Copify and a qualified copywriter and proofreader. She has spent six years copy editing and copywriting for B2B and B2C clients and has experience in freelance and in-house arts marketing and digital content creation. Wendy likes to write about language and literature, digital marketing, history, current affairs, and arts and culture. In her spare time she enjoys yoga, reading and writing fiction.