Who doesn’t love stories? We grew up on stories, we go to the movies, we read books, and we binge watch our favorite television series’. As a matter of fact, our entire culture is based on a story called “history” which is essentially a narrative record of past events. With the word “story” at its root. Suffice to say, stories are a part of us.


So how does this tie into marketing? It doesn’t always, but it should. We’re constantly being bombarded with pushy, high-pressure ads asking us to “buy this product now!” But marketing campaigns are typically most effective when they take on a storytelling approach. According to Psychology Today, consumers tend to use emotion more than information to evaluate brands. The emotional response to an ad has more influence than the content (3:1 for commercials and 2:1 for print).


Assistant Professor of Marketing at Messiah College, Keith Quesenberry, and his colleague, Michael Coolsen, published a study recently in a piece on Social Media Today about the Power of Storytelling. The piece was geared toward social media marketing, but the topic can easily apply to just about any form of marketing. In the study, they analyze two years of Super Bowl Commercials to determine which were the most liked and which generated the most buzz. They coded the commercials based on Freytag’s Pyramid – the same pyramid Shakespeare used for his plays. This theory breaks down the story into five parts:

  • Introduction (exposition)
  • Rising action
  • Climax
  • Falling action
  • Resolve (denouement).


So what exactly does this mean for you, your brand and your marketing campaigns? Let’s break down some of the basics of marketing which many of you are probably already familiar with. These are some of the fundamental rules that we, right here within our own organization, do our best to adhere to when marketing products:

  • Speak to your target market
  • Identify problems and solutions
  • Clarify your differentiation / niche
  • Use keywords
  • Include a call to action


Now take all of these ideas and plug them into a narrative where you begin speaking to your target market in a way that’s relatable. Start with an introduction to your product, service or brand. Then present a problem that can be solved by the use of your product or service (all of this can be wrapped into the Rising action, Climax and Falling action. Remember, you want the story to be relatable). Add in keywords and a call to action once you reach your resolve, and you’ve got yourself a marketing piece that tells a story.

It’s so important these days to keep in mind that the market is saturated with ads, now more than ever before. With more and more social media outlets cropping up, distributing news, advertisements, entertainment and more, folks are constantly being bombarded with content. In order to stand out in this space, we need to start delivering content that speaks to our target market. The good news is that this forces us to be creative which, in the end, can allow us to have fun and explore our own stories for inspiration.


Still stumped about how you can apply these ideas to your marketing campaigns? Social Media Examiner’s Michael Stelzner interviews NYT best-selling author of Book Yourself Solid (2010), Michael Port, in this incredibly informative podcast, “The Art of the Story: How to Captivate an Audience.” Port really breaks down how you can apply your own story in marketing in a very relatable way. It’s definitely worth a listen if you have the time.


For more examples of ads that do a phenomenal job of providing their viewers and readers with narratives, check out 10 ads of 20-seconds or under and 30 great print ads that tell a visual story, both on



Credit to: Elizabeth, our vendor partner at 4over Team