Marketing and branding are really just synonyms for storytelling

Been on a ton of job interviews recently where questions will range down the list of “Do you know marketing automation software?” (I do!) or “Can you use Excel?” (No doubt, son!). These things are undeniably important for any marketing/branding-type gig (I get interviews for some of those), as for really any office job in the modern era. But the thing that can sometimes be frustrating is that, in the rush to make sure someone has the right checklist of skills, sometimes we forget this central lesson: marketing is really just about telling stories. All the rest you can learn.

Here’s a new study from Nielsen that speaks to the same idea, including this quote:

“Although television advertising will remain a primary way marketers connect with audiences due to its unmatched reach compared to other media, consumers around the world continue to see recommendations from friends and online consumer opinions as by far the most credible. As a result, successful brand advertisers will seek ways to better connect with consumers and leverage their good-will in the form of consumer feedback and experiences.”

More on that concept here. 

Your brain likes stories, because clear narratives cut through distractions. If you know someone who’s a really good storyteller in your day-to-day life, chances are you gravitate towards that person in some way. The ability to tell a really good story — with context and explainers and roles defined — is an extremely rare skill. Most people come at you assuming you have an idea WTF is going on, even if you don’t. I have tons of friends like that. I still consider them good friends, but when I get talking to ’em about certain things, I do need to clarify now and again.

Check out this infographic — 92 percent of people want ads/campaigns that feel like a story. Pretty high number, no?


We’ve talked about this before with Brand ARC, but it bears repeating: the fancy stuff and the paid media buys and all that are great, but if you truly want your brand to resonate, it’s about crafting a story. That should be the cornerstone of how you build your strategy and expand your internal team.

Final note here: at the end of the day, almost everything in marketing/branding ultimately comes back to being a sale. It has to be that way — for most organizations, the goal of marketing is to drive people into a sales funnel. However, don’t forget this one key aspect: not everything you write/produce needs a sales pitch tacked within it. You can just tell a story that your consumers (or potential consumers) might value without adding a link to “Buy Our Research On This Topic” or whatever. This will help potential consumers organically find you, and eventually, they will want to enter that funnel — even though it’s hardly your grandfather’s era funnel these days.


Ted Bauer