80% of people prefer brands that tell stories. Inspiring narratives engage our minds, give insight, and are 22 times more memorable than basic data. While startups don’t emphasize on branding during the earliest stages of their development, it might be important to get your efforts started. Even before shipping your first product, you should utilize all possible opportunities to grow your customer base.

One of the best and cheapest ways to do so is to emphasize on the customer experience by carving a great story. The concept of storytelling is essential for today’s brand building efforts, and can start as soon as you determine your brand’s identity.

In this article we discuss the importance of storytelling for startups, its benefits, and who is doing it right? In this article, we’re going to get a closer look at the importance of storytelling, why it works, and how to start out.

The Importance of Storytelling

On the most basic level, storytelling ties your product to an idea; it offers background information that increases its perceived value. It also gives a more human element to the ever growing availability of products in our fast paced world. At the moment, the world suffers from a lack of “human touch”, and brands step in to play the role of a trustworthy friend, or someone who shares common values.

Buyers respond better to authentic emotion

While storytelling is important because it makes a brand more authentic, it is also essential when trying to build a certain sentiment - a feeling from the buyers’ side. Customers are no longer buying simply based on need or want; much of their decisions are made based on an emotional response.

When it comes to purchase decisions, emotional response to an ad is more influencing than the content of the ad itself. In a study published in 2016, positive emotional impressions of a brand mean buyers are:

  • 8.4 times more likely to find a company trustworthy
  • 7.1 times more likely to buy from a company
  • 6.6 times more likely to overlook a mistake the company makes

Yet another study by Nielsen Media shows that ads that elicited a higher emotional response than a standard ad boosted sales by as much as 23%.

Modern-day brands are easily forgotten

A survey found that respondents wouldn’t be phased if 74 percent of brands they used disappeared. But you don’t really need data to understand this. The market is bombarded with new brands on a daily basis, and we simply don’t have time to remain aware of each and every one.

This is easy to understand when looking at the way we interact in our daily live. Those that live in a small community will probably know the names of most people they interact with on a daily basis. On the contrary, those living in central London are less likely to know the people living in their neighbourhood.

The same is happening with brands. Due to the growth of internet and globalization, we are currently the equivalent of central London in terms of branding.

As such, if brands which to capture more sets of eyeballs, they will need a more personalized connection—and this is built through storytelling. Basic, traditional marketing without emotional inspiration through effective storytelling can lead to complete dismissal.

The Benefits of Storytelling

Importance of Storytelling for Startups & Personal Brands

Let’s take a deeper look at why creative storytelling works for business.

1. Increase engagement

Most customers don’t go out looking for advertisements. As much as 86% of customers skip commercials on TV, 91% unsubscribe from salesy company emails, and 44 percent of direct mail goes in the trash unopened. You have to find a good way to get into the everyday lives of your target consumers. Storytelling makes that possible.

Stories are engaging because they connect with the values of the target audience. As such, it may be a good idea to lead with something more meaningful. You could:

  • Show a consumer how life-changing your new product was for someone, a family, or a company.
  • Tell the consumer a story about how your service was born from a dire need within a sect of society.
  • Explain to the consumer the values behind your brand and why they matter in the big scheme of things.

2. Develop authenticity

As mentioned earlier, businesses today have to face up against thousands of competitors across the globe. Authenticity is no longer created on a product level, but rather on the experience level.

And this is exactly where storytelling comes in!

A recent study that measured the effect of storytelling with insignificant objects, everyday items sold better on eBay when linked to a unique story. Why? The story increased their perceived value. A flashlight, for example, can be bought at target for less than $2. But what happens if you mention that a specific flashlight belongs to a murder suspect and was found near a high-profile murded case. The object now is tied to a story, and its value experiences a massive spike.

Importance of Storytelling for Startups & Personal Brands

This object is actually real, and ended up getting sold for ten times its original price. Therefore, simple storytelling added a layer of authenticity to objects that would otherwise not get a second look. The takeaway is simple. A good story will set you apart from competitors with similar product offering, allowing you the opportunity to sell at higher pricepoints.

3. More sales

As aforementioned, an emotional connection is one of the determining factors that affects the decision-making process. And since storytelling builds this connection, it is safe to say that it leads to more sales.

The perfect example of the importance of storytelling is the Huggies “Hugs for Healing” campaign. The campaign utilized scientific data on how important hugs were for newborn babies to thrive.

Importance of Storytelling for Startups & Personal Brands

In 2016 alone, Huggies saw a 30 percent increase in sales and a 300 percent higher engagement rate than typical benchmarks in the industry.

Storytelling for Startups - Essential Tips for Success

If you want to see storytelling work and yield meaningful gains, here are a few essential tips to keep in mind.

1. Become relatable

Look at your offer, and explore different ways that can help you connect with your audience, becoming more relatable as a result.

  • Make use of customer segmentation and profiling to really hone in on your target audience and reach their interests and concerns specifically
  • Determine how you can resolve one or more pain points of your customers
  • Examine how your product/service can be positioned as the solution

Resolving pain points is one of the best way to strategize when it comes to marketing. In essence, storytelling should do the same, but in a more vivid, personalized way. Your story should propose a meaningful problem or issue that your target audience can relate to. Then, the story should effectively illustrate how what you offer addresses a shared problem.

2. Induce emotion

Science tells us that storytelling engages more parts of the brain, including those associated with forming memories. The Ted Talk above covers this idea in-depth. When storytelling is used effectively, it builds brand recognition because it connects on an emotional level.

A good example, in 2014, Airbnb created an emotionally charged campaign centered around Carol, who used Airbnb to supplement her income after losing her employment. It was the perfect method to capture the attention of both hosts (relatability) and customers (shared values).

3. Promote your values

In research published by the Harvard Business Review, companies that were perceived as actively taking part in their stories outperformed those that simply told a good story. Those who “walk the talk” experienced a 149% growth of social media mentions while storytelling brands only saw an 87% increase. Brands that are perceived as active participants in their own story usually:

Startup Storytelling Examples

The best startup marketing campaigns are now typically enriched with a good story. Here are two storytelling brands that stand out from the pack.


Importance of Storytelling for Startups & Personal Brands

Ahrefs is a popular tool for SEO specialists, and has been around for quite a while now. While there are hundreds of similar tools in the market, Ahrefs seems to have captured that largest part of the market share, including industry-related awareness and higher-than-average pricing.

The community is very satisfied from their efforts, and they regularly host customer feedback sessions for which the send rewards to those who participate. Stickers, tshirts, coffee mugs… you name it! In many ways, Ahrefs treat its customers like friends, and nearly everyone who uses the tool has in some way interacted the core team.

So what are they doing to increase their authenticity? What story do they work on? Much like most startups, the first few years the company attempted to imitate its more successful competitors. After realizing that scaling was impossible in this way, the marketing team took a completely different approach and started promoting the idea that a tool is only as good as the knowledge of the customers who use it. Their moto? “First do it, then do it right, then do it better”. And this is how the company started growing - by directly communicating with their customers, offering free knowledge and building up a virtual friendship through a shared belief system.

In many ways, their approach to business is similar to the mindset of most entrepreneurs, which creates both relatability and a shared value system, which in turn increased the amount of users over the years.

Read more about Ahrefs’s marketing strategy here.


Popular customer service support software Zendesk developed one of the most creative marketing campaigns to spark up interest for their company. The “anti-storytelling” efforts that they implemented create a sense of relatability and draw more customers to their offer as they explain exactly what it is that they do.

Instead of talking about themselves, they created an entertaining story that talks about the “Zendesk Alternative”. The self-proclaimed rock band, is angry that a customer support company ‘stole’ their name for their company, but point our that they need to use their services to continue growing their career. In the end, the bank writes a short song about the importance of customer service.

Final Thoughts: Storytelling Brings Your Brand to Life

If you made it this far, you should now have a better understanding of the importance of storytelling. There are many reasons a startup might want to use this marketing tactic, the most important of which are:

  • Brand recognition & authenticity
  • Audience engagement
  • Increased ods of repeat purchases

We have also learned that setting up your brand with a good story involves assessment of your brand, target audience, and why your brand matters. Additionally, making storytelling work its magic involves building an emotional response around the product, target customer, and your brand. Finally, a brand story must be used as a platform for how your business functions; you must be a story-doer.

All things considered, storytelling is on track to become one of the most effective marketing tactics of the digital era. As more consumers shop online, connect with brands online, and utilize technology, it will be the brands with the best stories that stick around.