In storytelling, structure and formula are often important to creating a complete narrative. The traditional stories that you remember from your childhood are often simple and easy to compose – they have a beginning, deepening action, a climactic moment, and a resolution. There is usually a hero and a villain. And, invariably, the plot is told in chronological order by a trusted narrator.
Aware of the power of stories to hold an audience, brands have started using storytelling to connect with consumers, relying on storylines that made prospective customers associate positively with brands. Just like your bedtime stories before them, in the beginning, brand stories were simple to narrate through traditional media like TV, radio, and print. Vitally, those mediums enabled brands to tell their stories from beginning to end without breaking the all-important plot.
However, with the rise of the digital world, this has changed.
Digital has fragmented traditional brand storytelling
The ease of narrating a brand’s story has been lost. The digital world has made it almost impossible for a story to maintain its elements, disrupting the plot and shifting the control and power from the brand (narrator) to the consumer (audence). Customers can now engage with the story’s plot on their terms – whenever they want, however they want.
Today, brand stories usually fail because of two main factors:
1. The plot is constantly interrupted because of your customers’ fragmented engagement points across devices.
2. Research suggests customers are exposed to over 3500 marketing messages each day, and you’ve only got eight seconds to engage them and get across the desired message each time you have their attention.
However, these issues aren’t insurmountable. You can still tell a memorable brand story for your hotel using the following three key approaches.
1. Make your guests the heroes
Make your guest the protagonist of your story by creating a link to their lifestyles and emotions, not their wallets.
Let’s put this approach into practice. For a hotel, which piece of copy do you think works better?
“Our cheapest rates ever”
“Treat your kids with this special rate”
The second is more powerful, especially when targeted specifically to guests with children, because it connects with your customers, making them the main character in the story. Rather than your making your brand or product the focus, make your customer the hero who defeats the “villains” and solves the problem.
2. Build competitors as the villains in the story
Think Apple vs. Microsoft or Virgin Atlantic vs. British Airways—ie, creating a common enemy for your brand gives your customers something to rally around. Doing so also creates a sense of alliance between you and your customers. This brand story them often emerges in cases of challenger brands against established names.
Of course, we’re not suggesting you send your guests emails shouting about the lumpy beds at the hotel across town, and you certainly shouldn’t put out sponsored ads about how terrible you think the OTAs are. Rather, think about some of the reasons your guests might NOT book with you. You can position an ideology, a concept, or the status quo as the villain–for instance, if you’re an independent hotel, you might say, “Tired of cookie-cutter hotel experiences?” to emphasize the unique nature of your offerings. Or, you could ask in an email, “Why are you paying more for your hotel room?” to encourage past guests who previously booked through an OTA to book directly with you for a lower rate. Hilton’s “Stop Clicking Around” campaign is a great example of this tactic in action.
3. Turn your touchpoints into narrators
The final, but most tricky, part in creating cohesive brand stories for the digital era is to turn your multichannel touchpoints (website, email, on property, social, mobile) into the narrators of your story.
Your “narrators” can then help you maintain brand engagement and articulate the plot correctly from start to finish in the right order—supplying a coherent customer experience in the process.
The key to this is consistency. By continuing your story across multiple touchpoints, you’re more likely to delight guests, increasing their loyalty and lifetime value in the process.
To achieve this guest experience nirvana, you first need to understand who your guests are, and what they expect of a guest experience. A single customer view enables you to manage all customer touch points simultaneously—and to carry your customer across channels with a progressive brand story.
Once you understand your guests, you then need to understand what channels are important to them at specific stages in the guest journey.
For example, Google search is one of the first stages of the guest journey. 58% of leisure travelers and 68% of business travelers always start their travel booking and shopping with search. (Google/Ipsos Media CT, 2015 Traveler’s Road to Decision)
Google research indicates that the hotel booking path is not purely linear; future guests could be dreaming about their next trip while still booking their most immediate trip. In the study they released this summer called “How Micro-Moments are Reshaping the Travel Customer Journey,” Google suggests that it’s up to you as a hotel marketer to be present, relevant, and useful where your customers are looking for you. As a hotelier, you need to look at what traveler needs you are solving for, what his or her current situation is when seeking information, and how your brand can help. To learn more about optimizing your website for Google search, CLICK HERE to access our Hotelier’s Guide to Google SEO.
You can also leverage email at various stages throughout the guest journey to create your cohesive brand story. Automated campaigns, like a pre-arrival email, an on property welcome email, and winback emails, only require your attention upon setup. They then run based on whatever triggers you’ve set, effortlessly helping you tell your brand story, present your guests with relevant information and offers, and drive direct revenue for your business.