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5 best practices for brand storytelling on social media

5 best practices for brand storytelling on social media

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There are many benefits CPG companies can enjoy through brand storytelling on social media. This method of marketing uses commercials and messages to create a narrative arc which keeps individuals invested. It can help to give a company personality, which establishes brand affinity and improves customer loyalty.

Brand storytelling does not have to be limited to social media. Brands can leverage this strategy  through both proprietary and third-party apps by creating shorter, easily digestible content. This content can speak to consumers as they’re in the shopping aisle and improve the likelihood of future sales. Whether your brand is telling its story on social media or through a mobile app the benefits are numerous, and brands can enjoy them by adhering to some standard best practices.

How Brand Storytelling on Social Media Creates Meaningful Connections

Brand storytelling isn’t just about making sales. It’s about aligning a brand with its target market. The kind of top-of-mind awareness that CPG brands need to succeed isn’t possible without establishing an emotional connection that drives consumer loyalty.   

Brand storytelling is the process of turning standard marketing into an engaging narrative. CoverGirl’s tagline shift from “Easy, Breezy, Beautiful” to “I Am What I Make Up” is an example of moving away from product-focused advertising to brand storytelling.

The old tagline, which the brand used for more than six decades, was tied to the products, rather than the individuals that actually used them. It highlighted how easy the products were to apply and how good they looked, but it wasn’t an inclusive or particularly powerful message. As a result, the brand had a hard time connecting with younger consumers who are focused on independence and self-expression.

“I Am What I Make Up,” on the other hand, is a very literal approach to brand storytelling. Rather than treating the model wearing the makeup as a prop, the brand allowed the personalities of their models to shine through. During the brand’s spots, their models—who range in age, ethnicity, and gender—discuss their personal stories, as well as why they wear makeup. The overall focus is on self-expression, rather than fitting in with a traditional definition of beauty which helps the brand’s message resonate with consumers.

While it’s too early to determine if CoverGirl’s new attitude will offer long-term sales results, it does appear to be resonating with consumers. The brand boasts half a million YouTube subscribers as well as 2.5 million followers on Instagram, which are crucial channels for their target markets.

The clear benefit of brand storytelling is the emotional connection it creates with consumers. These consumers are more willing to become brand ambassadors on social media, which can increase future sales and improve customer loyalty for the long term. Of course, that’s not to say that brand storytelling on social media is effortless. Brands must consider ways they can gain consumer buy-in for their message while maintaining a genuine and transparent persona. All best practices for this type of advertising should center on that.

#1: Let Consumers Drive the Message

One of the essential parts of establishing a brand storytelling campaign on social media is to listen to what is important to consumers. Brands may often find they already have brand equity behind their products which they can leverage online by doing a deep dive of available information. This was a strategy Kellogg’s used when they rolled out a new, and highly successful, campaign for Pringles.

One of the first steps Kellogg’s took in designing the campaign was performing a “digital audit” with the assistance of Google. The brand searched out mentions of their product across digital platforms and found a unique trend of consumers combining multiple flavors to create new ones. They built their campaign off this “Stackable” concept, even using it in their Super Bowl commercial.

One of the brand’s biggest focuses in this campaign was where the trend was born—YouTube. By focusing on YouTube as a platform for continuing the campaign, the brand saw exceptional results. They reported an overall two-to-one return on ad spend, seeing 120 million impressions and a 3% sales lift.
Digital audits can help brands discover what their consumers are saying about their products, as well as ways they can use those ideas to create a compelling story. Brands can consider working with data analysis firms to better understand their online buzz as well as the ways to best leverage the information when creating an engaging story.  

#2: Focus on the Emotional Response

Storytelling doesn’t work without emotional investment. These narratives must include a component that intrigues consumers and encourages them to watch through to the end of an ad. Some brands advertise using humor, while others focus on nostalgia and sentimentality. As long as there is a human connection to the story, brands can keep consumers engaged.

If there is any brand that knows how to manage emotions in advertising, it’s Purina. The brand is excellent at using their target market’s connection to pets to get them invested in their brand storytelling on social media. The company leveraged this in a recent charitable contribution drive, Service Dog Salute, to help raise money for Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF).

The brand partnered with BuzzFeed to provide engaging stories centered on veterans and rescue dogs coming together. From July 4th to November 11th, the stories of many of these individuals were shared on Facebook, with an invitation to watch even more at the company’s Dog Chow homepage. The company had an overall goal of raising $500,000 for charity which they quickly reached as $1 was donated by Dog Chow to ARF’s veterans program for each unique share.
Emotional storytelling is particularly vital in charitable campaigns as consumers want to know who they’re helping by participating. Purina is a major proponent of such campaigns, so they’re well-versed in creating a compelling story that drives individuals to give. Of course, that emotional response doesn’t have to be sentimental. A brand can leverage humor or nostalgia to create a connection that resonates with the consumer. As long as it matches the brand and its values, these tactics can be very beneficial.

#3: Stay True to the Product

When trying to create a branded story, brands may focus a bit too much on the narrative and forget to highlight the product. Such marketing may not connect with consumers in a way that makes sense for the brand. Even the best brands can make missteps when storytelling doesn’t fit the product.

This was an issue MillerCoors faced when they rolled out their “Climb On” campaign in 2016. While the campaign was beautifully done, with compelling and exciting stories, the problem was that the central idea of overcoming personal challenges was too serious for the product. When sales started to slump, the brand reversed its trajectory by switching back to its more humorous and “refreshing” roots. They tweaked the “Climb On” idea to be more focused on the product, which helped them recover.
Brands should be careful that the message they convey is part of their traditional branded values. Branded stories must find a way to engage consumers with the story and the products. Luckily, in the case of MillerCoors, the brand recovered quickly because they watched their results carefully and pivoted the campaign when it was needed.

#4: Monitor Key Metrics and Update As Needed

Brands must monitor metrics during their campaigns to ensure they’re able to change direction if it’s not performing. Sales lift isn’t the only metric worth focusing on. Here are a few metrics brands need to consider when using brand storytelling on social media.

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Click-through rate (CTR):

The CTR offers base engagement rates, as these are the individuals who choose to view the ad on a given platform. It can also show how traffic filters into a website, which provides the marketer with an understanding of their most important channels.

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View-through rate (VTR):

The VTR takes the CTR a bit deeper, by showing the individuals who viewed content all the way through. VTRs for advertisements are typically higher when the video is shorter as consumers often have the option to skip longer ads.

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Engagement rates:

Likes, comments, and hashtag mentions are a valuable resource for seeing exactly how an ad is coming across to viewers. More than a few brands have been able to pivot their campaigns thanks to early information obtained through social media engagement.

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User activity:

User activity is less about content and more about strict numbers. It can help brands discover when they can get the most engagement from ads. It can also help them track down issues with ad fraud. For example, a brand noticing a high number of clickthroughs during times when their audience wouldn’t likely be active, like after midnight on a weeknight, can be a clear indication of useless bot traffic used to inflate CTRs.

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Incremental sales lift:

Sales explicitly related to the marketing message compared to standard base sales are much easier to gauge now than they used to be. Before the internet, brands had to compare prior period sales to current sales to determine which were attributed to marketing. However, mobile apps and websites offer brands the ability to watch how marketing converts to sales in real time, as the user is trackable from the moment they view the promotion until they make the purchase.

The digital space gives brands many opportunities to discover issues with their branded storytelling and fix them early on to ensure the best results. It can also provide them with the chance to find the best possible platforms to gain widespread attention for their campaigns outside of social media.

#5: Leverage Multiple Platforms and Mediums to Spread the Message

Brand storytelling shouldn’t just be limited to social platforms. Brands can take the message even further, gain valuable data, and better understand audience responses by working with third-party app providers to share small snippets of campaigns.

This is a reason many of our clients choose to contact us, as we offer a valuable platform for sharing video and other branded content that tells a story. Brands can leverage rewarded video opportunities available through Shopkick to tell consumers a memorable story in the moments that matter. Rewarded video provides consumers with the ability to gain points, valuable game loot, or in our case, kicks for watching short advertisements. Through this, brands can gain recognition for their commercials and build positive brand affinity. Also, as the app allows traveling consumers to view content, they’re more likely to see branded information when they’re close to stores and expected to make a purchase.

Shopkick uniquely allows brands to deliver video content in the aisle, at the shelf, when the product is actually in a consumer’s hands through its post-scan video feature. This allows brands to tell a story in the exact moment of the purchase decision.   

There are many opportunities to be leveraged in brand storytelling on social media, provided brands create content that establishes an emotional bond with consumers. These campaigns build brand affinity rather than only offering immediate sales. By adhering to some best practices for providing genuine and engaging content, brands can increase loyalty, and over time, their market share.

Shopkick helps our partners supplement their brand storytelling on social media by spreading awareness with our intuitive mobile app. To see the results of some of our campaigns, review our success stories.



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Dima Volovik

EVP of Product and Engineering

Dima Volovik is the EVP of Product and Engineering at Trax Retail — Shopkick.

Dima Volovik is the accomplished product and engineering leader who led teams to deliver innovative and commercially successful e-commerce products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions for Amazon, Comcast, Fandango, and Universal Music. Before joining Trax, Dima was the Director at Amazon, where he led product development and Engineering for Amazon Appstore and Amazon Prime Video, CTO at Fandango, and Paciolan, head of technology at Golf Channel/Golf Now, and Global VP of Direct to Consumer Technology at Universal Music Group. Dima’s expertise includes developing consumer products, marketplaces, and enterprise solutions.

Dima grew up in Baku, Azerbaijan, where he received his MS in Electrical Engineering from Azerbaijan Oil Academy, and he currently resides in Los Angeles, California, with his family.