100 years ago, Americans were spending half a billion dollars every year travelling to Europe. Meanwhile, the brand-new national parks in the U.S. had few visitors. Leaders in the parks movement wanted to change that.
They launched the famous “See America First” campaign, printing the slogan on every Great Northern Railway brochure and billboard. The National Park Service (and later the United States Travel Bureau’s Federal Art Project in the 1930s, which resulted in the gorgeous art deco seven-poster “See America” series featured above) used marketing to tell Americans a story about themselves: A story of pride, freedom, open spaces, patriotism, and adventure. It was a story that ignited the American imagination.
Before long, the national parks were a major tourist attraction in the United States and beyond—as they remain today. All because of marketing. All because someone told a story.
Marketing Is Storytelling.
Everything about marketing has changed. Nothing about marketing has changed.
Marketing is storytelling. It always has been, and it always will be. Marketers are people who are great storytellers. They tell stories about a brand, about a product, and about consumers.
In this post, let’s explore how we can use modern marketing channels to tell stories that are authentic and provide value for customers.
Marketing Is Connection.
The goal of marketing has always been to tell a story that connects with people. To make people feel an emotional connection with a brand or product or organization.
You can sell soap by saying: “You use soap. I have soap. Here’s where to buy the soap.” That’s probably how Ron Swanson would sell soap, but it’s not marketing. Marketing figures out what you want, and then it tells you that this soap is the key. The marketers behind Lux Soap decided to market to women. They decided those women want to be beautiful and desired. Then they used their marketing to tell a story about their soap; how it is luxurious, feminine, refined, and will make you just like a movie star. The faces of Lux Soap are mega-celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor and Myrna Loy. These beautiful film sirens don’t just say, “I use Lux Soap.” Instead, they say, “I’m a Lux Girl!” This leaves an impression because it has to do with identity. Who wouldn’t want to be Myrna Loy? And Myrna is a Lux Girl. For the price of a bar of soap, you can join the club.
Thankfully, we’ve outgrown this type of marketing. No one would fall for it anymore, consumers are much too sophisticated. Right?
Clearly there are still plenty of celebrity product endorsements, but Instagram and other forms of social media are now part of the mix, broadening the field of who we listen to. In fact, for many brands, marketing strategically through “influencers” who may never have appeared on TV or cut an album but whose millions of “followers” watching their curated lives on Snapchat, YouTube, and Instagram feel like close and intimate friends. For many millennials and Gen Z’ers, an “ad” from an influencer feels more like a recommendation from a trusted friend!
1. Find Authentic Voices.
Savvy business owners can utilize this new landscape to find authentic spokespeople for their brands. You no longer have to be a major corporation with a contract with an A-list celebrity; now you can find influencers with similar followings and work with them to get your product, organization, or service in front of highly targeted audiences.
Connecting people with products and services that will improve their lives or solve their problems is a positive thing. For marketers, it’s a privilege. At Go West, we love all of our clients and believe in what they’re doing, so it’s easy to tell their stories and help them spread the word about their businesses and organizations. The beauty of website and search engine marketing is that it’s extremely unobtrusive: You’re providing answers right at the point where people are looking for them.
2. Tell Authentic Stories.
You can also use these new channels to tell authentic stories. Marketing with integrity means telling stories with integrity. It also means providing content that people need and can use. That’s why a good blog should be written based on what viewers and customers might actually be looking for. If you are a home builder, write posts about interior design or when to buy or events happening in your area. That valuable content means people are getting something from their searches, while it also boosts your website profile. You’re getting higher in search results, AND you’re building an authoritative brand, AND you’re providing real value for their customers. Win, Win, Win.
Let me reiterate: Google always prioritizes content that is high quality. If you write comprehensive, fresh, helpful, informative posts of strong value, your customers are going to benefit, your brand is going to benefit, and your website is going to benefit.
If you’re a non-profit, you have so many more opportunities to share what your organization is doing. This promotes transparency and helps your donors feel included, like they’re part of a family. You can market in a really beautiful, unobtrusive way that helps create a family around your organization and gives you the chance to stay front of mind by inviting donors to follow you, without constantly sending mailings and making phone calls. You can tell stories about the work you’re doing more frequently and visually than ever. It’s an incredible opportunity.
The Magic of Marketing
Everything about marketing has changed. Nothing about marketing has changed. We’re still using marketing to tell stories about ourselves, who we are, and who we want to be. Marketing can tell you everything about a culture and its priorities at any given time.
That’s the magic of marketing.
Your website, your blog, your social media–all these components combine to create a brand, and that brand tells a story about your business or non-profit. It needs to be authentic, it needs to be high-quality, and it needs to be strategic. What story are you telling?