When we talk about storytelling in marketing, we're talking about telling stories to get closer to our customers. Yes, mass media advertising has been doing it for decades. But it's not the same. Storytelling in marketing has nothing to do with selling a product (at least not directly) – it's about revealing the soul of your brand so you can connect with your consumers on an emotional level.
With the democratisation of the internet and the arrival of the prosumer (a person who consumes and produces media), it has become much harder for brands to attract people's attention and reach their hearts. To stand above your competitors and form an emotional connection with consumers, it's vital that your brand has a great story to tell.
Humanity has been telling stories since the beginning of time. It's our way of connecting with the world, giving life meaning, and seeking memorable experiences. Of course, the best stories are those that arouse emotion. Do you remember The Shining by Stephen King? The story of Cinderella? An oft-repeated funny story that happened to a friend or family member might also come to mind.
Peter Guber, author of Tell to Win, suggests that the best stories have three elements in common:
- The challenge: A story attracts people's attention with a challenge or question to identify with and feel curious about. From the very beginning, it's crucial to understand who you're speaking to. After all, you reach different people in different ways.
- The struggle: The story offers an emotional experience as the protagonist faces obstacles and gradually overcomes the challenge.
- The resolution: As the story comes to a close, there should be a few unexpected twists and turns. If everything happens exactly as we thought it would, we lose attention. If you're telling a story to promote your brand – no matter how subtly – you can weave in a call to action here. A call to action could be encouragement to visit your website, book your tour, or something else you'd like the reader to do next.
How can you use storytelling marketing to promote your tourism company?
1. Discover your history: delve into the reason why your company exists
Why does your company exist? Why do you do what you do? What's so special about your tourism destination? Why is this relevant for others? When a tourist can emotionally connect with the why of your company, your brand becomes much more relevant and memorable.
Take, for example, the story of Airbnb. One popular video on their homepage has a voiceover that advises, "Don't go to Paris, don't tour Paris and please, don't do Paris. Live in Paris." From the very first moment, the story generates questions ("why is a tourism brand telling me not to sightsee?", you might ask).
Airbnb makes you ponder the difference between visiting a destination as you normally would and doing it the way Airbnb suggests: by being part of it. Do you need anything else to understand the philosophy behind Airbnb? In a few seconds, the brand has managed to connect with you. And, most interestingly, it has managed to tempt you into living an experience instead of just renting a room.
2. Use your website to tell your story
The internet has become a more valuable tool than ever to attract customers – and sharing your story can help you to pique their interest. How? Instead of focusing solely on information about your tourism products, give the reader the opportunity to dive into what's behind your company and your offerings. A family tradition? A personal goal to build a business? Countless sleepless nights?
There's also a wide range of formats to tell your story online, including videos, photos, other visuals, music, and text. Choose the ones that you're talented at, you enjoy, and which flatter your story best.
Remember that the best stories seduce and trap us. Choose a compelling call to action to involve the reader and let them in on the story. For instance, your story could build up to the idea that they visit your destination and book one of your tours online.
3. Turn your consumer into the protagonist
In his 1971 book The Role of the Reader, Umberto Eco writes that a story is only truly complete when the reader lends it meaning from their own experience. Something similar happens with the story of your company. It is only with the involvement of your customers that the story gains strength.
Use your website and social media to share anecdotes and an insight into the journey of your brand. Show a bit of emotion and make it more likely that your readers will pass on your story to others. Let your storytelling continue to grow without limits.
Have you heard of La Bicicleta Verde, one of the top tour companies in Santiago, Chile? The company (and TrekkSoft's customer!) is my favourite example of a tour company that wins at storytelling. I love the "Our Story" page on their website, especially how they share their values, reason for being, and growth over the last seven years.
So, what's your company's story and how are you going to tell it?
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Written by Lucy Fuggle
Lucy is Head of Content Marketing at TrekkSoft. She tries to read a book a week, travel solo every month, and share ideas on lucyfuggle.com. You can usually find her in Switzerland's Berner Oberland.