In this blog, you will learn 5 storytelling techniques to acquire and retain your customers, discover 11 powerful benefits of business storytelling, read about the 3 mediums of business storytelling, know the 5 elements that make a good story and read 4 great business storytelling examples.

Stories and business do not go hand in hand if we go by the traditional approach to doing business. But the grand success of some of the world’s greatest advertising campaigns in the recent past has proved us wrong. Powerful storytelling, laced with the human-centric approach of design thinking, is a potent force to not only acquire and retain your customers but also to favorably impact your bottom line.

The dictionary defines storytelling as “the activity of telling or writing stories”. The human mind is naturally wired to listen to stories. In fact, stories are a significant part of our daily communication. That is perhaps one of the strongest reasons why businesses are increasingly tapping the potent forces of stories to connect with their customers.

Let us understand how we connect the dots between storytelling techniques and success in business. 

What is business storytelling?

Stories that have meaning beyond entertainment value can be told in a powerful way to improve customer loyalty, create a strong marketing strategy, and increase profits. That is why storytelling today is considered a strong business skill that needs to be implemented effectively. Steve Jobs used the medium of stories to introduce the first iPhone way back in 2007. Brands like Nike, Pepsi, and Lloyds use storytelling to retain their huge customer bases.

It is not enough to have a product or a service alone. It is also not enough to be able to solve a problem. Your organization, big or small, needs to stand out by conveying its purpose. Business storytelling communicates purpose. Businesses with a sense of purpose are great candidates to receive customer attention and loyalty.

What are the 11 benefits of business storytelling?

Below, let me briefly list some of the benefits of business storytelling.

  • Business development

Storytelling provides the context to the customers behind your new product or your decision to expand in a new territory. Thus, it is an important tool in business development.

  • Competitive advantage

Unless customers are able to emotionally connect with the various advantage points of your products or services through storytelling, they might choose your competitors’ offers, even if they may be comparatively less efficient than yours. 

  • Customer attention and value perception

Since stories are highly structured forms of communication, they are the best ways to receive customer attention. Stories also help in enhancing the perceived value of your products and services.

  • Marketing and advertising

Storytelling can be the force behind powerful marketing and advertising strategies. I will provide you with some top business storytelling examples later in this article.

  • Employee efficiency and engagement

Making your vision, brand story, and intent clear to your internal customers is as important as doing that for external customers. Stories are the best ways to cultivate the right culture and ensure employee efficiency and engagement.

  • Decision-making

Decisions are the heart and soul of businesses of every type. Whether an employee is willing to make an extra effort to go that extra mile or a customer is deciding to hire your team for their next event, the decisions are all based on how they perceive your brand and people. Powerful stories backed by evidence of intent are significant tools in decision-making. 

  • Humanizing your brand

A business with a vision has far more loyal customers and overall profits than a business with customers having no knowledge of the business’s vision. We will talk more about humanizing your brand under the design thinking section.

  • Transferring values and beliefs onto your customers

Your customers usually end up imbibing your values and beliefs through the characters of your well-told stories. This is again automatically warranted, if your organization is based on the principles of design thinking.

  • Emotional connection with people

Through the characters of your stories, it becomes effortless for people to emotionally relate to your brand by themselves experiencing the mistakes and failures of your characters. Design-thinking-based organizations are by default geared to emotionally connect with people. 

  • Making your brand memorable

Remembering data and facts is far more difficult than remembering a story well told. That is why great advertisements and world-famous brands rely heavily on storytelling techniques.

  • Stories create purpose and drive action

We mentioned earlier that business storytelling communicates purpose. That is what drives action. This was even proved by a study conducted by the Wharton School of Business in 2007.

How can storytelling based on design thinking help businesses?

While business storytelling, in general, is focused on the human aspect of business, design thinking is entirely based on human-centered design and innovation that emphasize empathy for customers—both internal and external. Design thinking is a creative problem-solving toolkit that is based on the needs of the customers or end-users. It prioritizes customers’ needs and aspirations above everything else. And so does storytelling. Storytelling humanizes your brand.

Please read What is the importance of design thinking? to learn about design thinking in detail. In fact, storytelling based on design thinking can effectively enhance your CLV. You may read How to Increase Customer Lifetime Value? to understand CLV in detail.  

What are the 5 elements that make a good story?

Before proceeding with what makes a good story, let us learn about the 3 mediums of business storytelling.

The three main business storytelling mediums are written (such as blogs, advertisement copies, pamphlets, flyers, and outdoor advertising boards), spoken (such as customer outreach events, product launches, podcasts, radio promos, and online radio jingles), and video storytelling (such as television ads, online video ads, and YouTube videos).

Storytelling is an art, and therefore, it is quite subjective. Despite the inherent subjectiveness, there are a few ways to ensure that your storytelling gets the best chances of success. Here are these 5 elements:

  • Entertainment

What makes a story entertaining is its characters, plot, personality, culture, and wit. An entertaining story is persuasive and difficult to put down.

 Degree of personalization

Depending on your product or service, the positive effects of storytelling are in direct proportion to how much your story is personal and relatable to your customers.

  • Educational Value

Stories with educational values have higher chances of creating a sense of trust for your products and services among the customers. Being resourceful always pays.

  • Degree of methodicalness

A methodical narrative makes your stories clear and easy to understand for the customers. If an average customer can relate to your stories, then the chances of building a large base of loyal customers are more.

  • Recall value

Stories that are entertaining, educational, relatable, and told well have greater chances of making them memorable and of conjuring up positive connotations toward your brand.


What are the 5 storytelling techniques?

Storytelling is often called the world’s oldest art form or the oldest way of communication. As such, there are several storytelling techniques. Below, I am discussing 5 storytelling techniques that I found to be the most commonly used ones in a business context. 

  • The monomyth or the hero’s journey

In this style of storytelling, someone is introduced as a hero, who leaves their comfort zone to undertake a difficult journey and face extreme challenges, only to return triumphant and with some newfound wisdom.

This is a powerful technique to introduce a new product or service to customers. This technique is often useful when your brand is creating something unique that is not already available in the market.

For example, brand A is in the business of selling unique samosas with a filling of noodles inside. So, brand A launches an ad where a certain Mr. X faces constant rejection from his samosa-loving wife, who hates Mr. X’s love for noodles. So, Mr. X decides to look for a solution in his neighborhood markets in the chilling cold, only to return triumphant with Brand A’s unique samosas that are filled with noodles. And, Mr X and his wife live happily ever after!

The hero need not always be a customer. They can be a worker in your organization or their spouse or parents, who benefitted from a particular human-centric policy of your organization. The hero can also be a vendor or their family, who saved a lot of money by working with a “thinking” organization like yours.

  • Before-after-bridge (BAB)

This storytelling technique is often the most common way to win over your customers. Here, the happy ending is depicted at the very beginning followed by how “bad” the situation was in the past, and how the “bad” was turned “good” through a bridge (your product or service).

Taking the example of Brand A in the previous section, a BAB television commercial would show Mr. X and his wife happily savoring Brand A’s unique samosas filled with noodles. This will be followed by how Mr. X was constantly rejected by samosa-loving Mrs. X for his preference for noodles. The ad might end with how the bridge (Brand A’s noodle-filled samosas) helped restore peace in Mr. X’s family.

  • Attention-interest-desire-action (AIDA)

This is another common business storytelling technique that runs in the sequence of customers’ attention, interest, desire, and action.

Attention: The first part is attention, where you need to grab the attention of your customer through a quick story, picture, or video of something unusual, relatable, or controversial. Taking the example of Brand A, it can start with an animation video showing noodles going inside a samosa.

Interest: Once the attention is grabbed, the story adds an element of interest to keep the audience engaged. Taking the example Brand A, it can show Mr. X and Mrs. X happily savoring the unusual noodle-filled samosas.

Desire: This part leverages basic human nature and human aspects like curiosity, inspiration, or creativity. Taking the example of Brand A can show the sad story behind the happy ending of Mr. X.

Action: This part is the most important one where the story guides your audience to a call to action. So, taking the example of Brand A, it shows how Mr. X’s problem was solved when he procured Brand A’s samosas from the neighborhood market. So, a “buy” button, a contact number, or a store address are handed out to the customers to take action and solve their problems.

  • Promise-picture-proof-push (PPPP)

Though similar to the AIDA storytelling technique, this model adds more depth and authoritativeness to your product or service. It runs in the sequence of promise, picture, proof, and push.

Promise: It starts with a promise to fix a customer’s particular problem. Taking the example of Brand A, it can start with a promise to make your nagging wife happy.

Picture: Here, a vibrant, descriptive, and engaging picture of the problem can be depicted. Taking the example of Brand A can show how Mr. X was facing the problem of a samosa-loving, nagging wife with his preference for noodles.

Proof: This is the stage where you can provide some proof of your claims to demonstrate the benefits and credibility of your solution. Depending on your business, this part may include statistics, graphs, or cited studies. Taking the example of Brand A, it can show how Mr. X and Mrs. X were happily savoring the noodle-filled samosas of Brand A. To make it more convincing, the story might include a few more happy couples, eating together Brand A’s samosas.

Push: This part is similar to the “action” part of the AIDA model. So, in the case of Brand A, it shows a “buy” button, a contact number, or a store address.

  • Petal structure

In this business storytelling technique, the main story is structured by organizing multiple speakers or unconnected stories around one central theme or concept. Taking the example of Brand A, it can show multiple stories of couples like Mr. X and Mrs. X, who faced some problems and who got over the problems by switching to Brand A’s noodle-filled samosas.

What are the 4 great business storytelling examples?

From the above discussion, you have seen that marketers may craft their stories from any of the above basic templates or follow another technique from among many others that have not been discussed here because of their sheer large numbers.

Regardless of whatever technique we follow, design-thinking-based stories by and about people, be they your customers, employees, partners, or other stakeholders, can add the human element audiences remember.

Below I am listing four great business storytelling examples.

  • Nike

Nike has been successfully using a storytelling marketing strategy for decades. This guarantees their authentic character and brand values. Their stories raise brand perception in the public eye by talking about some of the most serious issues in sports.

In 2017, they ran a series of ads highlighting the topic of women’s equality. The stories were told in different languages. In another series of ads, Nike addressed the sensitive topic of racism. When American civil rights activist Colin Kaepernick and English professional footballer Raheem Sterling spoke up about their issues related to racism, Nike backed them. This increased Nike’s brand value and presence in the media.

From Nike, we learn that a brand that presents itself as an upholder of certain strong values or causes through excellent storytelling always gains the respect and loyalty of its customers.

  • TD Bank

The New Jersey-based American bank, TD Bank, ran an entire category of employee stories called TD Stories. In one such story, the Bank featured profiles of employees with a connection to the defense forces. In another story, they covered one of their employees who was a child abuse survivor.

From TD Bank, we learned that we need to find and tell employee stories that connect with our brand’s mission.

  • Cadbury Dairy Milk

The famous “Kya swad hai zindagi mein” ad from 1994 is a memorable ad in the Indian television industry. The remake of this ad in 2021 created even more history.

In the original ad, the story of a Cadbury-chocolate-eating girl was featured. She was watching her boyfriend play cricket on the field. When her friend scored the winning run, she celebrated the win by running past security barricades onto the field and by dancing.

In 2021, after 28 years, Cadbury unveiled a modern rendition of the iconic advertisement, featuring a reversal of traditional gender roles. This version features a cheering boy in the audience, whose girlfriend hits the winning run on the field.

From the Cadbury storytelling, we learn that storytelling with an educational or social value always wins the hearts of the masses.

  • Perfetti’s Happydent

The Happydent Palace ad achieved a remarkable feat, earning a well-deserved spot among the top 20 ads of the century according to The Gunn Report. It featured human bulbs as shiny white teeth lighting up a king’s palace.

This commercial was entertaining even if you don’t care about shiny teeth. “Happydent” sticks in your mind. Perfetti’s Happydent storytelling teaches us that an engaging story with a twist leaves a lasting impression.

Storytelling benefits brands when they find a relatable story and integrate it across all marketing aspects, becoming synonymous with the brand. For instance, if Brand B promotes gender equality, it should practice it on the website, in blogs, in stores, and in marketing communications, like highlighting female board representation.

That’s the end of this article on storytelling techniques for customer acquisition and retention with examples.

Additional resource: You may read my previous article The craft of weaving powerful stories on LinkedIn.

About the author, Ajay Aggarwal – A Haryanvi by origin, an entrepreneur at heart, and a consultant by choice, that’s how Ajay likes to introduce himself! Ajay is the Founding Partner at Humane Design and Innovation Consulting (HDI). Before starting HDI, Ajay founded the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG India. His 16+ years of professional career spans various roles in product and service design, conducting strategy workshops, storytelling, and enabling an innovation culture. He has coached 50+ organizations and 2000+ professionals in institutionalizing design and innovation practices. He loves to blog and speak on topics related to Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity, Storytelling, Customer Experience, and Entrepreneurship. Ajay is passionate about learning, writing poems, and visualizing future trends!

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