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Consumers don’t want to be sold to.

According to the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer report, advertising’s effect has diminished, and nearly 7 in 10 consumers now use one or more advertising avoidance strategies.

In a time when so many brands are focused on interrupting and selling, they are inadvertently driving consumers away.

While consumers aren’t inherently opposed to brand communication, they are suspicious of it, and this causes them to tune out traditional advertising. 

Many consumers today want to know what a brand stands for, why they should care, and what values they have in common with the brand before making a purchasing decision. The better your brand can communicate this, the easier it will be to engage with consumers and build valuable relationships. 

81% of consumers say that trust is a deciding factor in their purchasing decisions.

Storytelling is the best way for brands to communicate with consumers and drive engagement without advertising. Sharing stories can be an incredible way for brands to forge emotional connections with consumers, especially during a difficult or dark season like the one we are currently living through.

However, simply telling stories is not enough. Many brands have come to understand the power of storytelling, causing many brand stories to blend together in the mind of consumers.

The keys to effective storytelling are authenticity and differentiation.

Leadership at Network Health, a Wisconsin-based health insurance company, recognized that most health care marketing looked the same and sought the help of AE Marketing Group to help them break through industry clutter without outspending national competitors.

In 2016, our agency helped Network Health humanize its brand, in a historically disliked industry, by tapping into the stories of its own employees. We led the largest employee documentary campaign in health care history to position Network Health as a different kind of health insurance company with a style that was personal, educational, and authentic.

“The Employee Documentaries are a creative masterpiece,” said Penny Ransom, Chief Administrative Officer at Network Health. “They artfully elevate our brand and boost employee satisfaction with aesthetically remarkable treatments.”

The documentaries were not scripted. We just asked the employees questions: not about work, but about life.

There was no phone number, call to action, or kitschy slogan on-screen.

It was just a story and that was unheard of in the industry.

In 2018, Modern Healthcare and Ad Age awarded the Employee Documentaries with Video Campaign of the Year at the Healthcare Marketing Impact Awards.

While storytelling was unique for the health care industry, it can be overdone in other industries, like the non-profit space.

UCAN, a 150-year old non-profit in Chicago, provides support and resources for at-risk youths and families. While UCAN’s leadership understood that storytelling was important to drive fundraising, they sought AE Marketing Group’s help with strategic differentiation.

While many non-profits focus on heartbreaking stories to drive giving, UCAN’s goal was never to use storytelling to create pity for its youths. Therefore, through numerous storytelling projects for UCAN, our goal has always been to use storytelling to highlight the potential, goals, and aspirations of their youths. We use storytelling to show where these youths are going, not where they have been. This strategy allows donors to visualize and invest in the future of these youths.

If executed correctly, storytelling can earn consumers’ trust, showcase your brand’s point of differentiation, and gain earned media attention.