Once upon a time, there was a b2b brand that did not know how to use brand storytelling. Its blogs read like an annual report, with no compelling narrative or personality. There were no lessons that arose from hefty challenges anywhere on its person. Over time, it started to notice that friends were no longer calling, potential suitors were not approaching, and the poor b2b brand became very lonely indeed. 

Until one day,  it discovered the magic of b2b brand storytelling… 

What is b2b brand storytelling?

Before the superhero can save the day and everyone lives happily ever after, it’s important to understand what b2b brand storytelling is, and why it’s important. Storytelling is a narrative that shares information via compelling and emotive formats -  stories that carry potent messages. It’s a way for companies to share so much more than what they do, but rather the how and the why - the real value and impact of their work, in a way that people enjoy and remember. 

Stories have been shared since ancient times. Cavemen sat around campfires and shared their tales of triumph and tragedy. They alerted their community to important information - the ways of the woolly mammoth, the best food-finding locations and more. But they did so in a way that also delivered entertainment and connection -  the more memorable ones tap into people’s emotions to provide a shared experience that helps them feel connected and enlightened. 

Where can b2b brands use storytelling? 

Today’s businesses can use stories in blogs, success stories, in video - even in pithy headlines.  We can tell stories of success, but also those of challenge.  Stories about struggle and failure can help readers understand the blood, sweat and tears people endure to achieve success - rather than the Insta-worthy #blessed versions that make everyone feel under-achieving, unlucky or unworthy.  And therefore disconnected. 

 

Warm and fuzzy stories that are values-driven can make customers feel good about their purchases, or feel aligned with the values of their chosen supplier. When your brand makes people feel something positive like this, it compels customers to share the story further, leading to one of the happiest endings a business could experience - word-of-mouth recommendations, customer advocates and growth. 

How b2b brand storytelling builds trust  

Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a study on the cognitive processes we experience when we become engrossed in a story. The feeling of being caught up in a story, so that everything fades into the background, is called 'transportation'. The kicker -  when we are transported by a story, it can actually impact our real-world beliefs

Our brains are wired to believe a narrative account over a straight informational piece. This is because with facts, figures and information, we have to search our own knowledge bank for personal experience to relate what we’re reading. However, when we’re transported by a narrative, the emotional connection creates an instant change in our perceptions. If that isn't reason enough to adopt more humanising storytelling techniques, we don't know what is. 

How to do b2b storytelling  

So who is walking the talk when it comes to great b2b brand storytelling, and how are they doing it? Let's dive into some examples. 

Norton, a security technology that monitors online threats, created a documentary - 'Norton’s The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet' - which featured interviews with scammers and cybercriminals who’ve hacked seemingly impenetrable organisations like Google and the US Army. This documentary challenges the apathy many organisational buyers feel towards security, that ‘it will never happen to me’ mentality. Check it out - it's an outstanding example of tapping into audience needs, pain points, challenges and feelings towards a category to change perceptions and inspire action. 

 

While not a b2b brand, Formula 1 cleverly increased interest in the racing category with its 'The Drive to Survive' documentary series on Netflix. This show created an audience surge for the sport, and has driven down the average age of F1 watchers from 44 to 32 - a shift desired by commercial brands now seeking to sponsor or be associated with the sport.

A brand we've always loved for its brave and entertaining brand stories is Zendesk. A SaaS platform that supports customer service and communication, Zendesk understands how organisational leaders feel about customer relationships - passionate!  But Zendesk shows empathy to these leaders too - showing a deep understanding of how hard and complicated they are to manage, particularly at scale. Over the years, Zendesk's story contexts have changed from elderly couples to astronauts and beyond, but they've always been amusing and poignant in their message - that relationships are complicated.  

 

 

The lessons these b2b brands show us are many: 

  • Know your brand's archetype and tell stories that align with them. 
  • Transport people with entertaining and interesting real-life vignettes that are exciting, entertaining, emotional and challenging.  
  • Don't be afraid to incorporate emotion and authentic struggles into your brand communications. 
  • Be honest, humble and open about the real-life experience if you want to connect. 
  • Don't be afraid to step outside the lines of 'boring b2b' to be bold and interesting. 

Can my b2b brand nail storytelling?

Absolutely, and there is a tried and tested process. To get to this, you need to know your audience's fears and motivations,  show how you understand and can help them, and be aware of your brand archetype so you can adopt the right kind of powerful story. Download our free ebook to understand the fascinating world of brand archetypes - or check out our brand positioning and strategy services as your ideal starting point. 

Brand chemistry is a b2b marketing agency winning your customers' hearts and minds through inbound, brand, content, lead generation and digital strategy. Our marketing specialists achieve stellar results with the latest lead generation techniques.

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