Smarter Marketing Blog

What Santa Never Told You About Authentic Storytelling


In previous blog posts, we have long stressed the point of view that a key marketing trend is that of authentic interactions with people. One acknowledged way of interacting with people, in a real way, is through storytelling. Disney does it and just look at how Santa and his helpers has been doing it for years.

How do they do it in a seemingly effortless way? We’ll use this post to examine ways of crafting an effective story for your brand – in case Santa doesn’t leave instructions under the tree.

Admittedly, marketing agencies have long used the story approach to campaigns but we believe times are changing. Instead of a brand telling a story, why would it not use all of its elements to allow customers connect with a story they want to be part of?

As we approach the Festive Season, we believe that perhaps technology is not such a threat to bricks-and-mortar retailers that everybody is writing about. This is mainly because shop owners can still offer the human touch. The one caveat here is probably the influence of weather conditions on travel.

Of course, these retailers must augment the experience for the shoppers with multi-sensory and multichannel experiences but the real challenge is to enter the world of the customer and to be a part of their story.

How brilliant would it be if brands could move people from being observers into being part of a story, why? Because us marketers have known for eons that stories activate emotions which in turn motivate people to act i.e. to get involved.

To help you visualise what we’re saying, let’s look at a potential scenario using a standard story structure:

  • The consumer is the protagonist in the story
  • The experience is what happens (the touchpoints – where it happens)
  • The competitors are the obstacles for the customer getting to what they want
  • The product or service is the reward / the outcome

The point we’re making here is that brands should have a look at how they structure their stories. It’s not about telling it – it’s about engaging customers directly in their storylines by taking them on a journey and providing a reward at the end. This reward may be for the customer or even somebody else e.g. a charity cause.

Here’s a thought – could brands help people with their own stories? Could they help people change their lives (or others) through what they buy? The thing is storytelling can make a difference so why aren’t brands using it to make a difference for their customers and ultimately their bottom line.

People might not remember your brand, but they will remember a good story.

We mentioned above that storytelling makes a difference. Let’s see how it might – using a Leinster Rugby story as an example.

Story version A – “Jim decided to come into our shop and buy a Leinster Rugby jersey. He had the option of an array of colours, sizes, and excellent cotton quality. There was also an online option.”

Story version B – “Jim is a long-time supporter of Leinster Rugby and had an old club jersey that had seen better days. The team’s on-field performance was going through a lull and supporters were getting disgruntled. To show his continued support Jim purchased a new jersey from our supporters’ club outlet, looks great and is now delighted to be part of the team’s resurgence.”

This is a made-up example, but anyway – which one will you remember most? The second one I reckon, because we provided elements that you might relate to. In version B, we tried to use the standard story structure outlined above i.e. a character, a reason why, a little conflict and a resolution.

Our example stresses the point that promoting the features of your product / service in the structure of a story doesn’t really work. Set yourself apart by incorporating your brand elements into an authentic story that people can relate to.

Here are the elements of a good story:

  • Characters – give your audience somebody to relate to so that they can empathise
  • Plot – this is the build up to the conflict which leads the audience to want to know what’s next
  • Conflict – something has to go wrong e.g. the Leinster team above were going through a lull
  • Resolution – show your customer how it was solved and the takeaway (your product)

Tips and Timesavers.

Have a look at how you are structuring your current brand story. How is your tone and are your visuals appropriate? Look at testimonials or case studies that you can use. Always have a look at whether you are creating a great story or just telling people what you offer.

Facts (product features) are useful but let’s face it they are not as powerful as stories. Anyway, stories are how we experience life. We read books and blogs, watch TV and listen to the radio. We watch sports and share stories with friends at parties – so why wouldn’t we be open to more storytelling?

The beauty about the current, connected environment is that brands have many more tools at their disposal for extending stories and for people to share them. As alluded to above, there are more opportunities to be authentic with your brand and thereby immerse people into the essence of your brand.

Here are 10 elements to consider when i) creating a story and ii) when outlining your story

           Creating a Story

  1. Enhance the appeal of the story by explaining where your brand comes from
  2. Discover what attributes your brand can credibly claim that are appealing to your audience
  3. Associate meaning to a weakness that might turn it into a strength
  4. Create a sense of exclusivity or scarcity
  5. Demonstrate the value to users
  6. Use influential users of your service/product to add credibility

    Outlining a story

  7. Be authentic and tell your story with emotion
  8. Relate your story to your customers and highlight the benefits of your product/service
  9. Take your customers on a journey through the matching of your values and theirs
  10. Humanise your story and don’t be afraid to use humour


The myth that some brands are clinging onto is that people want to hear about their brand. They don’t! They want to be drawn into an experience that’s relevant to them – not you.

This makes sense really as any story should aim to please the person to whom it’s told. Self-promotional stories told by brands are unlikely to strike a chord with the intended audience and just end up annoying them.

Here is a really comprehensive storytelling guide infographic I found on We hope you have a wonderful Festive Season.

“Thank you for reading our blog post today” – Aidan & Jim.

 Would you like us to notify you, by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here. Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we might grab a coffee, cheers. Jim – O’C&K

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