How do you tell a story about your product? Whatever you are selling needs to tell a story to your customer and that story needs to tie in with the customer’s world view. This means that they see value in what you are offering and your story motivates them to buy your product. It will help them solve a problem, satisfying a need, but it might speak to other stories about how they see themselves and what their values are.
If your story and your customer’s story interlink, they will feel an affinity with you. Here are 9 ways to incorporate storytelling into your products.
1. Tell a story about how it's of use
Take the humble can opener. It might not strike you as a muse for storytelling. However, for someone who needs to be able to open a can, it tells a story. It’s made to open cans easily.
If you’ve ever struggled with a poorly designed can opener then you will know how frustrating it is if it hacks away at the tin, instead of smoothly gliding round it, how the grip might feel awkward in your hand, or it’s stiff to turn.
Your can opener is a joy to use. It’s efficient, long-lasting, and has a good grip. For the person immediately in need of a can opener, this is the story they want to hear.
You can tell this story by simply listing your product’s benefits. You can take photos which show it being used or even create a short video clip of it in action.
2. Tried and tested
When someone is making a buying decision, they want to know the product is going to last them. They don’t want to have to get replacement parts, or worse, go through the process of finding an alternative any time soon.
A story you can tell is that your product is tried and tested. Show people that you have put your product through its paces and it’s going to stand up to whatever they throw at it.
This is a video from a company which tests other companies products but it’s a good example of storytelling about a product’s durability and that it’s been tested to ensure it is fit for purpose.
Here’s a company that makes furniture out of recycled material getting employees to attack it with a sledge hammer to show it is not going to be easily broken if it’s installed in a public park.
3. What does it do?
This moves on the ‘it’s of use’ story to tell stories about how people use your product. What does your product do for your customers?
This video from Ikea about the life of a kitchen tap is a great example:
You might not think about your tap but you use it several times a day and it’s part of lots of stories in your day. It played a role in the meal you prepared; the cake you made; the herbs you grow on the window sill; filling water squirters for the kids to play with in the garden. It features in your every day stories and can help create memories, like a birthday cake or a summer’s day playing outside with friends and laughter.
You could do a similar thing with the can opener, by showing it being used to prep meals.
4. Customer product reviews
Your customers’ stories about your product are very powerful. They provide buyers with social proof. They don’t need to take your word for it that this pillow will give them the best night’s sleep they have ever had, or that the office chair you’re selling will save them from a bad back. They can read stories from your customers about how they used your products and what they did for them.
Customer product reviews can tell stories about how well made and long-lasting they are. But they can go beyond that. They can inspire people to see how a product fits into their home or their social life.
Here’s a snapshot of Instagram posts from John Lewis customers who have used the company’s hashtag #LoveJL to show their wares in their homes.
5. Your product’s origin story
How did you come up with your new product? What was the need you saw? Why did the world need a new kind of can opener? No matter your product, there will be a story behind it.
When Kathy Salaman left teaching and set up her own tutoring business, The Cambridge Tutor, she found parents kept asking her how they could help their kids with their maths homework. They either struggled with maths themselves or teaching methods had changed and they didn’t know the new terminology or what was required.
Drawing on her own childhood struggles with maths and techniques she had used to help children learn maths in the classroom, she created a series of explainer videos to walk parents through each topic.
6. Tell the stories behind your product's design
Many products have design stories behind them from furniture and furnishings to clothing and cars.
Design tells many stories:
- How a product solves a problem – such as Dyson’s cordless vacuum cleaners
- How it creates usability – such as a kitchen designed for small space living or the architecture of a new development
- Aesthetic – how it looks in your home, your neighbourhood, or on you
- Identity – the statement it makes about you or the place you live
A company which tells stories about identity through design is DressCode Shirts. When designer Andy Boothman’s printer messed up something he was working on, he was fascinated by the pattern it produced. It started the germ of an idea: a clothing range for IT professionals who wanted to wear their work on their sleeves.
The result is DressCode Shirts. High quality tailored shirts with designs inspired by tech. He has even developed the Cash Cuff™, a means of paying contactlessly with your shirt cuff. One of his designs, Glitch, is inspired by that original misprinted design.
His designs tie in to the stories his customers tell about their own identity. IT is not a very visible profession but DressCode makes it something you can wear loud and proud.
7. Does your business have a social purpose?
Not all products are purely functional. If your company has been developed in response to a social or environmental issue, then you can tell this story about your product. Bamboo toothbrushes, for example, do not just tell a story about keeping your teeth clean. They also degrade much faster than plastic ones. There is an environmental story behind them too.
BeeBee Wraps are an eco-friendly alternative to cling film. As well as sharing stories about how people can use their beeswax wraps to keep food fresh, they also share stories about how much non-reusable plastic they have saved people from using and the impact that has on our environment.
8. The story of your materials
What goes into your products? Your materials have their own story. Whether you make ready meals, furniture, toys, homewares, or anything else, you will have sourced the materials or ingredients which go into them. These might have their own stories. The wool that goes in to your knitware or a renewable source of materials, for example.
NomNom Skincare makes organic skincare products for pregnant women and babies. They tell stories about their ingredients from Baobab to Calendula. Each have their own properties and a story to tell about their use and how they come together.
9. Stories about who makes your products
Who are the people behind your products? This can tie into the story of your materials. Products do not spring out of thin air, even with 3D printing. People will be involved in their creation. Whether it is your story as a maker or producer, or you have a team or employ an international workforce, you can tell the stories of the people who make your products.
An English wine bar, Grape Britannia, opened up near us earlier this year. It has its own stories as a family business but also shares the stories of all the English vineyards their supplies come from, their owners, their grapes, and their methods of production. One bottle of wine has lots of stories to tell from grape to the occasion when it gets poured into the glass.
Your products have stories to tell from their function to how they make your customers feel, the way they fit into their lives and the difference they can make to the wider world.