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Using stories as powerful marketing tools

September 22, 2020
Brand strategy

There’s a lot of talk about “story” when it comes to marketing. Just Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about. But using stories as part of a marketing strategy is more than a trend. 

Stories are important because they allow us to connect with our audiences in ways that spark emotion. Anyone who enjoys movies knows that good stories have heroes that others can see themselves in. The heroes want to accomplish something meaningful, but they’re presented with challenges along the way. As the audience, we feel hopeful, worried, and triumphant as we travel through the story, because we can see ourselves in the hero’s place.

In marketing, it can be all too easy to lose sight of the story by communicating what WE want the audience to know, rather than what they want to know. When we communicate what we want to say, it’s news. When we share what resonates with our audience, it becomes a story – one that they can imagine themselves in. Ultimately, what our audience wants to hear is how they can better accomplish their goals and improve their lives with (in our case) what the U of I has to offer. 

How does this translate to a marketing strategy? You can think about it like this: You have two dots with some distance between them. One dot is the audience you’re trying to reach, and the other dot is your product or message – the thing you want your audience to know. The story is the line that connects those dots and shows how they relate. The story helps you illustrate why your audience should engage with you and care about what you want to say.