Marketing Lessons From The World’s 15 Best Storytellers

May 25, 2021 | Sean Foo

For thousands of years, storytelling has always been an effective way people share ideas and spread information.

Stories have the power to inspire us and really connect with our primal selves, they simplify complex concepts while opening our minds to new possibilities.

When was the last time you remembered a product advertisement or marketing spiel?

Probably never! 

But a well-narrated story will stay in your memory for years and even decades.

In today’s marketing landscape, storytelling is increasingly essential to relating with customers and crafting a powerful brand experience that is both captivating and intimate.

Great companies, from Coca-Cola to Apple, have used storytelling to build up a loyal following, creating relationships with their customers that go beyond just how useful their products are.

Businesses today need to go beyond the transactional relationship they have with their customers and build a deeper connection and build trust – all possible through the power of stories!


The Benefits Of Powerful Storytelling 

1. Stories help to humanize your brand

From hope and fear to anger and excitement, by tapping into your audience’s emotions, a story creates a sense of relatability that your competitors may lack. 

Regardless of the industry, it’s likely that your brand already has several competitors offering similar products or services.

When you communicate a story through your company, it allows you to stand out in the market and tap into the human side of your brand at the same time. 

2. Stories command attention and spur engagement

Before turning your audience customer, you have to get their attention and keep it before you can crank up their desire to buy!

Storytelling helps to capture one’s attention in a saturated market filled with an overwhelming amount of options. 

Stories engage with your audience, it makes them talk about your brand and share what they have learned with family and friends.

3. Stories inspire and help to get your audience behind your cause and business mission

Consumer behavior isn’t just driven by facts and data; it is also driven by emotion. 

If your business mission aligns with a customer’s values, they are more likely to support your brand. 

Whether it’s happiness, humor, or trust, creating an emotional response is an effective way of encouraging customers to engage with your brand. 


The Magic In Storytelling Also Lies In Its Delivery As Well

Every captivating story that enchants & persuades share common traits that include:

  • A setting that immerses audiences into a new realm, one that is controlled and orchestrated by the storyteller
  • A memorable cast of characters that are inspiring & relatable to the target audience
  • A compelling narrative filled with a mission, a great struggle as well as a satisfying resolution

However, the delivery is just as important, if not more essential, than the actual story itself. 

One core central message can be delivered in a myriad of ways across different channels – a story told on a blog article will be different than on a Facebook video.

Marketers need to pay close attention to which platforms they utilize and how their stories are delivered. 

Thankfully, we can stock our arsenal with the secrets of some of the world’s most successful storytellers and how they approach storytelling, and their strategies to captivate their audiences.

From Walt Disney to J.K. Rowling, here are 15 marketing lessons that we can all learn from the greats!


15 Marketing Lessons From The World’s Greatest Storytellers

1. Steve Jobs 

Days leading up to any Apple event, tech geeks and Apple enthusiasts alike would always look forward to Steve Jobs’ presentation of the latest Apple products. 

While it all seems so effortless, Steve Jobs’ presentation follows a straightforward formula that never fails to captivate the audiences: the set-up, the confrontation, and the resolution. 

Take his presentation on the iPhone 1’s reveal in 2007 done beautifully in a classic storytelling fashion.

He starts by giving his audience a visual roadmap of what to expect, followed by revealing the latest Apple product within the first few minutes. 

This immediately creates a sense of anticipation and suspense in the room. After establishing the roadmap, Steve proceeds to craft the message about why you need this particular product by focusing on the solutions rather than its features. 

Finally, he wraps up each product launch by creating an emotional connection with listeners and convinces them that they need Apple’s new product in their life. 

It was no longer just a product launch or presentation anymore. It’s theatre. By delivering stories that can create an impact on your customers, they are more inclined to support you and your brand. 


2. Elon Musk

From SpaceX to Tesla, Elon Musk has one secret to powerful storytelling: selling your mission first, then using your product as a stepping stone to realizing your vision. 

He first paints a picture in your head of a high-concept idea that seems out of this world. As soon as audiences think that it’s virtually impossible to execute, he presents you with newly-developed solutions and technologies to achieve just that. 

Sometimes you have to take your customers to the future for them to realize how your product or service can benefit them in the long run. 

Just as Musk said in his 2016 IAC presentation, “Life needs to be more than just solving everyday problems. You need to wake up and be excited about the future”. 


3. Walt Disney

From theme parks to films, Walt Disney has created countless innovations through storytelling throughout his lifetime. 

Regardless of whether you’re young or young at heart, he aimed to give audiences a captivating experience to unleash their childlike sense of wonder and “make all our dreams come true”. 

Even today, we still remember many of Walt Disney’s tales, from Aladdin and Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast, these stories all memorable by transporting readers into a ‘whole new world’.

In fact, when visitors walk into Disneyland, everything from the ambiance, the attractions, and down to the scent of the park plays a role in creating a story and overall immersive experience. 

With painstaking detail to attention, Disney makes their world come alive and places their readers within the narrative itself, as observers watching a story unfolding in front of their eyes.

Remember, effective storytelling has the power to create unforgettable experiences for anyone. It’s all in the details.  


4. Connor McGregor 

Conor McGregor is a modern marketing genius – whether he knows it or not.

While other icons on this list tell stories, Conor himself is a living controversy that draws people in with the way he lives his life.

From outrageous attires such as a $50,000 Gucci Mink coat to a constant stream of trash talk and his eventual multi-million dollar fight with Floyd Mayweather, Conor seeks attention whenever and wherever he can.

Not only does his antics give him a psychological edge over his opponents in the fighting ring, it paints him as a larger-than-life figure – that means bigger endorsements, more eyeballs watching his every move, bigger payouts, and a loyal following.

If you have a big personality, you can become a living story for your brand and business. 

From showcasing your lifestyle on Instagram to creating valuable content on YouTube, you can leverage your own personal brand, build an audience and then funnel the attention to your businesses.


5. Richard Branson

Before becoming the business mogul that he is today, Virgin Group Founder Richard Branson has had his fair share of shortcomings in the course of his career. 

From the flop of Virgin Airlines’ first initial test flight, his soda company fizzling out, and his viral marketing tactics, the list is quite extensive. Despite all of this, why are people still so drawn to him?  

The answer is simple. 

He embraces his failures and uses them to inspire other people to learn from their mistakes. Branson’s shortcomings will always be a part of his life, so why not use them as part of his story and narrative? 

Having a sense of relatability humanizes your brand and will ultimately have a positive effect on your customers.


6. Joe Rogan

From actor, television host, to podcaster—Joe Rogan has done it all. 

If you’ve ever come across any of his motivational videos or podcasts, it’s clear why he has such a massive pull among his followers. 

He uses the power of speaking directly to his audiences and has them be the main character of the story. 

While it’s clear that he’s making you the main focus, you’ll never notice that he might already be marketing a specific product or service to you. 

Using this approach makes audiences feel heard and seen, and is far less aggressive than traditional marketing techniques. 


7. James Wan 

James Wan is a prominent director responsible for all your favorite horror movies like Insidious, Saw, and The Conjuring. 

Besides the genre, one thing all of these films have in common is excellent character building. 

Instead of diving straight into jump scares and the action of it all, Wan takes the time to create compelling characters with interesting backgrounds that capture your attention even more. 

Take The Conjuring series, for example, James Wan takes the time to build up Ed & Lorraine Warren’s relationship before diving deep into the horrors and scares. 

This makes the audience care about the characters and adds more depth to the story.

Likewise, developing your brand and allowing your customers to get to know your story is what will keep them invested in your business in the long run. 


8. J.K. Rowling

Thanks to the massive success of the Harry Potter series throughout the years, J.K. Rowling is arguably one of the world’s most successful serialized storytellers

Her unique approach to writing and storytelling is centered around giving her characters great depth. 

By creating compelling personas and backstories for each character rooted in a solid plot and structure, it allows them to be more distinctive and significant in the eyes of her audiences. 

Take Hermione in the Harry Potter series, for example, she breathes lives into her by emphasizing all of her quirks from her sense of righteousness to her quick wit and apparent love of learning 

Across all seven Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling didn’t just create a book series that captured the hearts of many; she created a strong and influential brand that shaped the world of fantasy novels until this day. 

In the same way, be sure to emphasize the little character traits in the main character of your story, they instantly become more human and memorable.


9. Hans Christian Andersen

Danish author Hans Christian Anderson is no stranger to the literary world. Most of you would know him best from his children’s books like The Princess and the Pea, The Emperor’s New Clothes, and even The Little Mermaid. 

While his work was targeted at children at the time, Andersen revolutionized storytelling during his time. 

Although his work offered important life lessons for children, he also explored a healthy balance of heavier themes, with a strong emphasis on rags-to-riches stories, which appealed to both children and adults as well. 

While his work primarily appealed to (and was meant for) children, he was never condescending or preachy in his storytelling. He treated his readers as equals and spoke to their sensibilities with intelligence.

When you tell stories, while it is helpful to explain ideas and concepts, do it in a way that doesn’t insult their intelligence but assumes they are smart enough to eventually catch up.


10. HP Lovecraft 

Let’s be real: some fiction novels out there are far from realistic and too good to be true—it’s always about happy endings and predictable cliches. H.P. Lovecraft’s stories transcend that and weave in deeper themes such as fate and forbidden knowledge.

But whether you’re a fan of horror fiction or not, we could all learn a thing or two from H.P. Lovecraft. 

At its core, Lovecraft’s novels intend to encourage a sense of grounding in the grand scheme of things. Despite our intelligence and wisdom, there are far more important things out there than ourselves. 

A powerful way to captivate your audience and ground them is to shift their perspective in your storytelling. 

Make comparisons between your narrative and characters with your audience, show them that there is a bigger world out there with much to learn, explore and experience.


11. Tony Robbins

Renowned philanthropist and author Tony Robbins isn’t just an excellent storyteller, but he also built his whole career on his ability to tell a story. 

Before his current success, the inspirational story behind his humble beginnings is a struggle that many people can relate to on varying levels. 

As much as struggle was a part of his narrative, so was becoming his hero and rising above the odds. 

Stories like Robbins make us wired to root for the underdog. 

By tying in a personal tragic story to a bigger message, it makes one naturally inclined to rally behind your cause. 

Such narratives highlight the humble beginnings of a brand or company, which can bring out a range of consumer feelings like relatability. 


12. Dwayne Johnson 

Whether it’s in the wrestling ring or the silver screen, it’s hard to look past Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s charismatic charm. Apart from his dominant physique and generous smile, he sure knows how to capture his audience’s attention. 

Through his personal story, The Rock motivates his audiences and changes their overall perspective on life. 

In any motivational speech, he never fails to remember the hard times in his life and uses that as his inspiration to work toward his goals. 

Humility allows customers to connect with you. 

Regardless of how successful your brand becomes, always look back on your humble beginnings and be rooted in your values as a business owner. 


13. Sylvester Stalone 

Did you know that the story of Rocky’s struggle can be seen in Sylvester Stalone’s journey as an actor as well? 

In the 1970s, Stalone was an unknown actor who wanted to make it big. After seeing a Muhammad Ali fight, it inspired him to write the first Rocky script in just three days

But getting producers to fund his passion project was a challenging feat. 

With the help of some friends, a hand-held camera, and a budget of only one million dollars, Rocky was born and was well-received by many.  

This franchise was such a pivotal moment in his career and has spurred dozens of other projects following the success of Rocky. 

The marketing lesson here? 

If you are passionate about an idea, put your mind to it and you’ll achieve what you want in no time. 

This is the same energy that you want to approach your storytelling efforts and delivery. Infect your audience with your passion and joy, they will feel it and reciprocate.


14. Eminem 

Storytelling comes in all shapes and forms—that includes rap music. In such a saturated industry, Eminem managed to stand out among the crowd and is now one of the world’s greatest rappers of all time. 

What makes his music so compelling is the storytelling that goes behind it. One of the most common themes in his songs revolves around “struggle-success storytelling”, which makes use of underdog stories to connect with audiences. 

By being unapologetically expressive with his struggles as he was with his successes, that’s what made Eminem relatable and motivational among listeners. 

But perhaps his greatest stroke of storytelling genius is by creating recurring characters and introducing enemies in his rap songs – helping frame himself as the hero in the eyes of his fans.

When it comes to marketing, being radically transparent as a brand provides clarity and builds trust with your customers. 

You can also take it a step further by rallying your fans against a competitor by creating rivalries like how Apple fought against established brands such as Microsoft back in the 1980s.


15. Vince McMahon

We all know professional wrestling isn’t exactly real. The matches are fixed and the results are pre-determined, so why do audiences still come back for more and fill out stadiums to watch a scripted event?

It’s because of the incredible storytelling master-minded by Vince McMahon, the Chairman of the WWE (who even wrestles in the ring himself). With a powerful mix of production quality, amazing live commentary, and characters, the company’s storytelling power is arguably second to none.

The best aspect of the WWE’s storytelling is how promos and epic rivalries create not just a story, but an immersive world where audiences are just dying to know what happens next – even if it’s scripted.

Their promos don’t just stop at a five-minute video montage of each wrestler’s journey to the fight, the battle continues on social media platforms such as Twitter and even Facebook.

How can you apply this to your storytelling?

Creating great promos for your new product launch story is vital, but do not just constraint yourself onto one single platform – distribute it across various channels. 

The key here is to create hype and anticipation for the story that you are about to tell.


Strengthen your brand through storytelling techniques 

When coming up with effective marketing tactics, sometimes all we need to do is go back to basics and just tell compelling stories that matter.

Powerful and strategic storytelling is just as effective as other techniques in taking your marketing to the next level. 

All you need to do is understand your audience, find the right platforms for your brand, and be authentic in the way you deliver your message. 

Think you could use a hand in crafting your brand story? 

Contact us here and we’ll be in touch!

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