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The Art and Psychology of Storytelling in B2B

Go on, tell us a story. At Omobono we firmly believe that we all have an interesting story to tell. And this is our guide to telling yours...

We're in the business of helping B2B brands make connections with customers, stakeholders, and employees through content & experiences. Emotional, exciting narrative content is fast becoming a tool for B2B audiences to liven up their communications.

Will you go on a quest, defeat a monster or go from rags to riches? Our actionable guide has suggestions for how to structure your story so that is has true emotional impact for your audience.

Because who said B2B had to be boring?

The Art and Psychology of Storytelling in B2B

  1. 1. Tell Me A Story The Art & Psychology of Storytelling in B2B @omobono_digital
  2. 2. Content marketing getting the most budget growth Source: Econsultancy / Oracle Responsys Marketing Budgets 2014 Report
  3. 3. Also a key tactic to address top B2B priorities Source:
  4. 4. RATIONAL CONTENT FOR RATIONAL DECISION MAKERS! B2B content has traditionally been the arena for facts & figures and general seriousness. Source:
  5. 5. Cliché-riden videos
  6. 6. Tediously patronising infographics
  7. 7. Me too blog posts
  11. 11. Let’s explore a content form that can: • Help differentiate in B2B • Build a content reputation • Tap into deep-set behaviours • Be not soul destroying creative • Get the attention we all crave!
  12. 12. NARRATIVE STORYTELLING! Your new sales spec sheet is not a ‘story’. We’re talking about plots, conflict, & characters. It’s not a marketing silver bullet. It could be another weapon in your arsenal. And it’s most useful at the top end of the consideration funnel. Source:
  13. 13. Why narrative stories? Let’s talk about a highly successful communicator – 2000+ years and still selling. An incredible storyteller. Source:
  14. 14. Rather than efficient bullet point sermons… • God loves you. • He wants to be in relationship with you. • No matter what you’ve done or who you are.
  15. 15. Source: He used parables… “There was a man who had two sons…” – The story of the Prodigal Son
  16. 16. Stories are starting to appear more B2B comms IT professionals SunGard retold their Cloud Migration offering as a guide to surviving a zombie apocalypse. Source:
  17. 17. So, what’s going on here? An epic tale about… You (Customer) Conflict Goal
  18. 18. Let’s drop the metaphor… A real fear of survival as an IT manager Screwed up cloud migration Glorious cloud goodness You (Customer)
  19. 19. What’s working with this narrative story? 1. It’s relevant in a surprising way. 2. It makes the customer the main character. 3. It empathises with the real challenges. 4. It taps into fear & survival emotions. 5. It’s a creatively rich theme. 6. It might actually be worth sharing.
  21. 21. Source: ‘Webs of Influence’ draws from psychology, neuroscience and behavioural economics to identify insights that lead to online success. Nathalie Nahai explores what happens to our brains and emotions when we engage with stories…
  22. 22. Stories tap into primal instincts Our primal brains subconsciously react to stimuli of hunger, anger and attraction before our ‘rational brains’ have a chance to assess. Source:
  23. 23. Stories make us mirror emotions Source: We mirror the emotional state of others (anger, fear, happiness, surprise…), allowing us to empathise with characters.
  24. 24. Stories build up catharsis During stories we build up emotions that need to be released… on say a call-to-action. Source:
  25. 25. Stories influence decision making They affect the foundations of rational decision making, providing a persuasive base upon which to build justifications. Source: Mercedes Benz
  27. 27. Every plot has a beginning, middle, and end. The basic Pixar plot: Once upon a time ___________. Every day ___________. One day ___________. Because of that ___________. Because of that ___________. Until finally ___________. 1. Plot
  28. 28. Research suggests there are only seven plots… 1. Overcoming the Monster 2. Voyage and Return 3. Rags to Riches 4. The Quest 5. Comedy 6. Tragedy 7. Rebirth Source:
  29. 29. Overcoming the Monster • Anticipation Stage (The Call) • Dream Stage (Initial Success) • Frustration Stage (Confrontation) • Nightmare Stage (Final Ordeal) • Miraculous Escape (Death of the Monster)
  30. 30. Rags to Riches • Initial Wretchedness at Home (The Call) • Out into the World (Initial Success) • The Central Crisis • Independence (Final Ordeal) • Final Union, Completion and Fulfilment
  31. 31. The Quest • The Call (Oppression) • The Journey (Ordeals) • May include some or all: a. Monsters b. Temptations c. Deadly Opposites d. Journey to Underworld • Arrival and Frustration • The Final Ordeals • The Goal (Kingdom, Other Half or Elixir won)
  32. 32. The Marketing Quest – Oracle Modern Mark Source:
  33. 33. Every story needs a problem to create interest, drama, and satisfaction. Without conflict and obstacles, there is no story. 2. Conflict Source:
  34. 34. 2. Conflict: Adobe Media Optimizer “Your CEO calls for an increase in lawn ornament sales. A 20% uptick in Garden Gnomes to be exact.” Source:
  35. 35. 2. Conflict: TrueMove H This Thai communications company started their 7 million viewed tear-jerker at the crux of a conflict… Source:
  36. 36. 3. Characterisation Create heroes & villains: 1. Fictional characters that mirror the goal & needs of customers. 2. Fictional customers that are just like the real thing. 3. Characterise your company, employees and/or competitors.
  37. 37. 3. Characterisation: GE – The Boy Who Beeps GE’s industrial internet offering is communicated through the story of a boy who can talk to machines… Source:
  38. 38. 3. Characterisation: Microsoft – The Garage Source: 3,600 word interactive story about the people in Microsoft’s innovation lab.
  39. 39. Placing your story in a context, which will typically include time and place. 4. Setting
  40. 40. 4. Setting: Adobe Mean Streets By simply changing the setting, Adobe were able to put a fresh twist on Marketers who rely on bought clicks… Source:
  41. 41. Instilling emotion or affinity in readers through tone, voice, and pacing. Pacing drives the action forward. Spend too long building suspense, you’ll lose interest. Move too quickly and you risk overwhelming. 5. Atmosphere Source:
  42. 42. 5. Atmosphere: Leadercast To promote a conference, Leadercast used all the awkward stops, starts, and disruptions of a conference call… Source:
  43. 43. 5. Atmosphere: Google – Cambridge Satchel Co. Google told the story of Cambridge Satchel company’s rise through their products (search, email, chat, video). Source:
  45. 45. Tapestry – Interactive Mobile Ads Tapestry mobile ads put the user in charge of tapping through the frames of a story (supports GIF files). Source:
  46. 46. Graphic Stories – Nokia Ovi Maps Taking inspiration from the world of graphic novels, B2B stories can be communicated through cartoon formats.
  47. 47. Slideshare Stories Just like a great presentation, Slideshare can be a hugely effective storytelling tool, allowing the reader to unravel the narrative with every new slide. Source: 22rulestophenomenalstorytellingpowerfulpointslideshare
  48. 48. Interlude – Interactive videos Like ‘choose your adventure’ books, Interlude allows you to create videos where the viewer chooses the narrative. Source:
  50. 50. We can help. @omobono_digital Copyright 2013 Omobono Ltd. All ideas, concepts, brand-related names, strap line, phrases, copy/text and creative concepts developed and contained in this document remain the intellectual property of Omobono Ltd until such time as they are procured by a third party. Anyone viewing this document may not use, adapt or modify the contents without our prior consent. @omobono_digital T: 01223 307000 F: 01223 365167 St Giles Hall, Pound Hill, Cambridge CB3 0AE