Most marketers are busy chasing the stories that they know every good product or service must have. While there is pretty extensive data on how to get the biggest bang for your buck in purely promotional product and service ads, it can pretty much be summed up like this:

Tell Better Stories!

In the long run, though, a product’s longevity depends on brand reputation.

And, this is where even better storytelling comes in. Promoting social good and CSR campaigns that identify the brand or company as part of the greater good can be the best avenue to deliver the stories consumers want to hear.

In this case, only more engaging stories are enough.

But, often clients don’t see it that way. Corporate citizenship and social good marketing are shrouded in concepts like transparency, partnership, sponsorship, and too many others that bring clients to us with a metaphorical stack of neatly packaged boxes full of transparent, clearly sponsored material offered by their partners that will compartmentalize and stagnate videos meant to creatively document their efforts.

The story goes like this:

A client presents a list of a dozen message points, each of which is more necessary, invaluable, and non-negotiable than the one before it. Every last one absolutely has to make its way into a 60 second video spot.

As producers of cause marketing and purposeful messaging communications, we welcome corporations’ desire to divulge the details of their sustainability and good citizenship programs. What’s frustrating is when the new demand for corporate transparency clouds what should always remain transparent. Corporations and nonprofits alike seem to be forgetting the one thing about people that will always stay the same:

They don’t want to be bored to death.

Telling an effective and engaging story will always trump mere facts, figures and bullet points – regardless of their quantity or how praiseworthy they might be.  Whether you are communicating through video, via a website, or a PowerPoint presentation, within any medium, a story will help to enhance your message.

Rather than listing facts about the world water crisis, this video tells the story of why participants are inspired to “run for water.”

This isn’t something that we had to wait around for advertising or technology to teach us. Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication we have. Teachers use storytelling to assist in the learning process, lawyers tell stories to help them win over juries, and parents tell stories to their children as a means of illustrating moral principles. As human beings, we are all hard-wired to love stories. Recently it has been established as scientific fact that an audience draws a far more positive reaction and lasting understanding from a story than it does mere statistics.

Despite its vintage, storytelling is more important than ever in the modern world. Today everyone has so many distractions coming at them from all angles, getting the brain to concentrate completely on one thing is almost impossible. Providing a narrative remains one of the few, surefire means of getting the brain to focus.

At present the basic principals of advertising and marketing are undergoing a profound rethinking and revision. Image and lifestyle-based advertising is slowly giving way to new efforts that try and connect to stakeholders on a more 3-dimensional, spiritual, and moral level. As speaking to an audience’s core values becomes more and more of a necessity for advertising, storytelling will become indispensable as the tool which gets us there.

The story doesn’t always have to be real.  This video tells the story of what life would be like in New York City without access to clean drinking water.

Having worked in social good and cause-related communications for more than a decade, it’s our greatest hope that this new wave in advertising spreads like mad. But as businesses begin to revise their definition of success, we feel obliged to remind us that the primacy of storytelling as what moves and motivates people is not something open to revision. It’s storytelling that can and will provide the necessary moral and spiritual connection that today’s stakeholders are waiting for.  As corporate citizenship and social responsibility continues to evolve and grow, good stories are more pertinent than ever.





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