Storytelling in marketing: Why does it matter?

Animation of a carrot dressed in a night gown with 'A Christmas Carrot' text.
Aldi Christmas Advert still
Type: Text
Category: Industry insights

Becky Wright is currently studying MA Marketing and Digital Communications (online) at Falmouth. Becky penned this piece following her completion of the Creative Digital Storytelling module on her course. 

We have been avid storytellers for thousands of years. Now brands are harnessing the power of storytelling to convey their own narrative and connect with their customers.

Why is storytelling in marketing so effective? 

Stories help us to understand ourselves, others and the world around us. Well told stories can make us feel powerful, emotional connections to the characters that exist within them.

Great brand marketing makes you feel something and want to take action, and good storytelling is an effective way to achieve this. The emotional associations created by good advertising stay with us, creating a positive brand message and a business more memorable.

Ad campaigns that make audiences feel good, generate market share growth over the long term, so it makes good business sense to utilise brand storytelling.

What makes a good story in marketing?

Everyone has a favourite advert, even if they don't want to admit it! When you think of famous ads over the years, adverts such as Levi's launderette and Budweiser's 'Whassup' immediately come to mind. This is because these marketing campaigns told a great story that you remember.

Brand storytelling is used throughout the year, but Christmas is the time where many brands try to pull out all the stops. For the last few years, John Lewis has delighted us with their Christmas ads, which has made them highly anticipated; each year people can't wait to see what the brand has come up with. By using lovable characters and emotional storylines which pull on the heartstrings, John Lewis firmly put itself in the top spot of powerful brand storytelling.

Many other brands have tried to copy the magic, and this year, Aldi has seemed to have beaten John Lewis at its own game. In fact, the research agency, System1, has placed Aldi's advert in top position of the most effective Christmas ads this year.  

Aldi's Christmas advert features Kevin the Carrot, Marcus Rashford as a radish, plus Ebanana Scrooge and Cuthbert the Caterpillar, in a unique take on the Dickensian festive tale, A Christmas Carol.

So why has this ad proven so popular? There are a few key elements that make this brand storytelling so effective:

  • Nostalgia: We love a bit of nostalgia, especially at Christmas. Aldi's re-telling of A Christmas Carol gives the viewer a sense of comfort and we often latch onto stories that connect us to something in our past.
  • Recurring characters: The 2021 ad brings back Kevin the Carrot, who first appeared on our screens in 2016. Over the years, audiences have become invested in the central character of Kevin the Carrot and it gives the ad a sense of familiarity. Creating a character with a life of its own is a great way to make an ad stand out and using the same character repeatedly can aid long-term brand growth.
  • Humour: Emotion helps us to remember things, so it is a common tactic which brands use in marketing campaigns. Whilst the John Lewis ad tells quite a sad story, Aldi's ad is full of humour. Eagle-eyed viewers were quick to spot the tongue-in-cheek reference to the retailer's high profile legal battle with M&S; as Cuthbert the Caterpillar can be seen being arrested in the background of the opening scene.

All of these elements appeal to the right side of the brain, which means our attention is likely to be sustained and makes us want to watch the advert to the end. We are also much more likely to remember the ad, which is exactly what brands want to achieve.

According to The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, brands need to behave like entertainers rather than advertisers – they should be making ads that people want to watch, listen and talk about.

Aldi's Christmas ad has certainly been talked about. Consumers took to Twitter to share how much they loved the advert. It has garnered plenty of media coverage, all of which has extended its reach.

Aldi has extended the story off-screen too, releasing a range of soft toys characters in-store and online. The release of merchandise adds another layer to the story, making it interactive and a collector's item to drive up sales.

When the toys were released, people were queuing outside Aldi from 4am and stores had to limit the number each shopper could purchase! It just shows just how popular the advert is, and speaks to the power of storytelling in marketing.

Learn the fundamentals of storytelling in marketing and how to maximise the reach and impact of a campaign with Falmouth's online MA in Marketing and Digital Communications. Study part-time from anywhere in the world.

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