Experience is King: How to Use Brand Storytelling for Corporate Events
Humans have been telling stories for as long as we’ve been communicating with one another. We started with paintings on cave walls and have progressed to sharing curated snapshots of our lives with one another over social media.
Storytelling is an approach used in literature, theatre, art, and now marketing. We’re hardwired to respond to stories much more strongly than any other kind of information, so it makes sense that companies are using it as a way to engage consumers and boost success.
Brand storytelling uses an approach that prioritises emotional connection with the audience, making customers feel seen, spoken to and loyal to the brand. The experiential element of events makes them perfect for branding through storytelling, as it is an ideal format to properly connect with and involve your attendees with your brand’s purpose and values.
In this article, we explore how storytelling is used in branding for events, explain why it is important, and describe some of the best ways to utilise the approach for corporate events.
In this article:
What is Brand Storytelling?
Brand storytelling is a method used to help your target audience connect with your brand. It uses descriptive, emotive and immersive techniques to communicate your values, purpose and goals with your audience and help them to feel closer and more loyal to your organisation.
Having a recognisable and memorable brand is a key priority for all kinds of businesses at the moment, not just those in the events industry. When consumers are bombarded with messages, products and services from companies almost all of the time, it's incredibly important that brands can cut through the noise and ensure that their target audience engages with their offering.
Brand storytelling can take on a variety of forms. At the heart of this technique is communicating what your brand really stands for and wants to achieve. This can be done through marketing campaigns, branded content, messaging, social media posts, data or immersive events. If you’re sharing something about your brand authentically and creatively, you’re storytelling.
Brand Storytelling at Events
In the MICE industry, a brand storytelling strategy can be used most effectively with events. Your brand is your identity in the events sector, and you’re going to catch the most attention from potential attendees by using this as a tool to promote your event and the experience it offers.
Events are, by nature, an immersive experience. One of the things that makes brand storytelling so effective in this sector is that you can use the experiential element of your event to epitomise what your brand is about, using sound, visuals, textures and even things like taste or scent.
Before we dive into the creative potential of a brand storytelling strategy, we’ll explain a bit more about what we mean when we’re talking about event branding through storytelling.
An event is an experience, and when you implement a brand storytelling framework, you create a narrative for this experience. Instead of just attending an event where various incidents and interactions take place, your attendees are pulled into a series of occurrences within the event which all link back to your brand in some way.
Your brand is not the main character at your event however; your attendees are. Instead of focusing your efforts on promoting your image or sharing your mission, an effective brand storytelling strategy focuses on helping attendees meaningfully connect with the brand by creating opportunities for interaction and enjoyable experiences.
At a basic level, a brand might use a storytelling approach at its event to illustrate its purpose or mission. The story or inspiration behind the event might be shared with attendees in email content leading up to the event, using video and anecdotes to engage the viewer and help the brand to come across as more ‘human’.
With a more complex brand storytelling approach, there’s a story, theme or motif behind an event that links back to the brand organising or hosting it. Within this story, the characters (your attendees), the challenges they overcome and their underlying motivations, are featured and drawn on across all aspects of the event, helping attendees to feel much more engaged and connected to your brand.
You don’t just want attendees to watch and think at your events. You want them to feel.
In the MICE industry, an example might be a conference about sustainability that brings together professionals from the travel industry. The brand behind the event wants to reduce the environmental impact that travel has on the planet, so the story they are telling is about the impact that this conference could have, or what might happen if sustainability efforts fail.
Attendees at this event should be framed as the people with the power to make a difference. To immerse them in the story, their potential impact could be highlighted through all of the event branding and messaging, using real-life examples to help them feel more connected to the cause. Any event merchandise should be sustainable, genuinely useful and designed to make attendees feel like they are making a difference when they use it.
This brand story could also be pushed through the talks and activities at the conference, ensuring that these focus on achievable actions. Statistics, anecdotes and visual content should be prioritised to push the message about the impact of sustainability (or a lack of it). Follow-up communication should continue to focus on the fact that attendees have the power to make a difference.
This is just one specific example of authentic brand storytelling in action at an event. There are many different ways that you can use this approach, and they all start with focusing on what makes your event brand unique, meaningful and ‘human’.
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Why is Brand Storytelling Important?
Branding through storytelling allows brands to engage their audiences and facilitate an emotional connection. Instead of just sharing information, presenting it in an immersive story helps to catch the consumer’s attention and gets them invested much faster.
This is important because it can help brands to stand out from their competitors. When you engage a potential customer right away, they’re less likely to go and look at competitor products and services and will feel more connected to your brand immediately. Research led by Zhecho Dobrev has found that brands that form emotional connections with their customers see much higher levels of customer retention and better business performance, and storytelling is undoubtedly an effective way to inspire an emotional response.
Storytelling is also a really important technique in branding because it helps your target audience remember you. A famous psychological experiment from Stanford University that is still regularly referenced today found that, when students used storytelling to deliver a speech, 63% of the audience could remember the stories. When students only shared statistics, only 5% of the audience could remember these.
Countless studies and research papers demonstrate how storytelling has been part of human nature since we were cavemen, and this particular experiment shows that our brains are much more likely to remember stories than straight facts or information. When you use storytelling to promote your event brand, it’s going to be much more memorable than a classic advertising approach. When your brand sticks in the minds of attendees, they’ll feel more connected, talk about it more, and be more likely to return to future events.
When you use stories to try and sell a product, service or experience, you also increase the likelihood that a customer will make a purchase. Research from Headstream found that when consumers really loved a brand’s story, they were 55% more likely to buy from that brand in the future. If you utilise branding storytelling in the promotional material for your event, you’ll increase the likelihood that potential attendees will buy a ticket.
Essentially, brand storytelling is important because it helps you to better connect with your customers, establish your brand as memorable, and increase sales. It’s hard to argue with any of that!
7 Ways to Use Brand Storytelling in Corporate Events
Branding through storytelling should be used both during the event itself and in all of the communication and marketing surrounding it. You should start telling your story from the moment a potential attendee encounters your brand, and continue to immerse them in this narrative during and after the event has taken place.
Here are seven ways that you can implement a brand storytelling strategy into your event planning.
Lead With Your Purpose
The purpose of your brand is at the heart of your event’s story. Whatever you’re trying to accomplish with the event will be driven by your purpose, and it’s this purpose that you want attendees to connect with, relate to and remember. When you’re deciding on the ‘story’ you’re going to tell about your brand at your event, remember to lead with your purpose, as this is likely to be something that attendees will also relate to and connect with more than anything else.
Relate to Your Attendees
Leading on from that last point, you also really need to get into the mindset of your target attendees when you’re developing an event storytelling approach. If you want them to feel immersed and connected to your story, you need to share elements and experiences that they’re going to relate to.
A good way to go about this is by listing your target attendee’s pain points. Make one of these pain points the ‘antagonist’ in the story by presenting it as a relatable feeling or experience that your event will resolve, and then lead with this relatability across your marketing material.
Make Use of All Platforms and Formats
In order to make your event storytelling as engaging and immersive as possible, you want to share your messaging across all of your platforms and through a variety of formats. Adopt a storytelling narrative on your website, in your email content, in social media captions and in advertising material. Think about how you can use everything from the event content to the venue decor or location to add to your narrative and present a very clear image of your brand’s purpose.
Target Every Sense
Creating immersive events is one of the best ways to improve attendee engagement and is a particularly effective approach when you’re using brand storytelling as well. When it comes to the design of the event, the visuals are going to play a huge part in how you present your brand and elicit reactions and responses from your attendees. But also consider what you can do with music, food and even fragrance at your event and how this can add to the experience you’re trying to weave into your story.
Be Mindful of Attention
There’s nothing worse than a story that goes on for too long. When your priority is engagement, it’s really important to be mindful of your attendee’s attention at your event and when they’re consuming content in the lead-up to it.
In terms of marketing content, focus on ways that you can show, not tell, keep text and video content short and easy to consume, and don’t bombard your attendees with information that they don’t really need. At the event itself, remember to facilitate time for breaks, consider how attention and energy might decrease over the course of a day, and avoid creating an overwhelming schedule.
Try Something Unexpected
There’s nothing like a plot twist that you didn’t see coming in a story. It’s one of the best ways to ensure that something is memorable and that people go away talking about it.
You can adopt this mentality to your event and consider throwing in a surprise activity, a guest appearance or performance, an unexpected competition or prize draw, or just something a bit weird and wacky. Keep it in line with your brand image and the purpose of your event of course, but sometimes it can massively pay off to do something unexpected.
Keeping Connections Going Afterwards
Brand storytelling shouldn’t end just because an event is over. Whilst an event might be used as a vehicle to really push a narrative, you should endeavour to continue this after your event has taken place. Keep in contact with attendees through email, create forums where attendees can consolidate the connections they made at your event, and continue to engage with your audience over social media or email to sustain the connection that storytelling will have helped to create.
Attendee experience is one of the most important parts of an event, and brand storytelling is a technique that can really help to improve this. By creating a consistent narrative for your brand and your events, positioning your attendees as the main characters, and leading them toward useful actions or guiding them through impactful experiences, you can increase engagement, retention and brand awareness, all of which are vital to your event’s success and growth.
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