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Storytelling – The Key to Great Marketing

In the tech industry, and here in Silicon Valley where I live and work, we talk a lot about innovation. Usually innovation is associated with technology advancement. But there’s actually a lot of innovation going on in marketing as a profession. There are many examples of it – Chipotle’s recent Scarecrow campaign and Coca-Cola’s Happiness Vending Machines are just two that come to mind right now. The most innovative marketing I see today has one connection in common: great old-fashioned storytelling coupled with modern technology to help create, tell and share the story. Stories hit us at a very primal and emotional level while technology has never been more advanced to help us engage and participate.

coke happiness machine

Traditionally, emotion has not been something we’ve been trained to seek out in business. Sometimes, business has even been the enemy of emotion. We’re taught to be efficient, effective and results oriented. But, what gets us to those important goals in a sustainable way always starts with a story that is meaningful to your purpose, your brand, your company and your customers.

The Skype marketing team takes these storytelling principles to heart. We’ve just released a whitepaper on the subject sharing our learnings in Skype Marketing over the past year. In the paper we talk about some of the key elements of modern storytelling:

  • Co-creation: working with users to create avenues to tell their authentic stories,
  • Aggregation: building community where people can share and participate in stories that matter to them, and
  • Amplification: sharing the best examples of those stories with even broader audiences.

This month, we had a chance to amplify one of our user stories in a segment on the Katie Couric show. The story is about two girls, Sarah and Paige, who were brought together at a young age because they were each born with the same rare condition. Though they lived 8,000 miles apart – one in Indiana and one in New Zealand – and had never actually met in person, they forged a lifelong friendship over Skype.

sarah and paige on katie

The story is part of the Skype Stay Together campaign, which features real people telling real stories about how Skype has helped them connect in meaningful ways with friends and family even when they are physically apart. We had a principle for this campaign that could not be broken: these stories had to come from our users to be authentic.

They had to be stories users were already telling because the stories were meaningful to them – Skype’s marketing team was just there to amplify and share.

The results of the campaign, which was multi-channel but centered in the digital world, were encouraging for us. One thing that is quite important for us in marketing is that our strategic brand metrics were impacted positively at the same time we saw significant tactical metrics with ROI we hadn’t reached in any prior approaches.

At Skype, storytelling is natural because we’re the purveyors of technology that allows people to create connections and memories. The product itself is built with the vision to keep people together, whenever they’re apart. That’s not a marketing tagline, it’s a daily truth for us – people are sharing their personal stories on Skype every day!

But what if you have a brand that doesn’t naturally lend itself to storytelling? I would say, there is no such thing. Every company starts with a vision. A story. A purpose. Even when it’s not obvious, it’s there. Look at what Nabisco has been doing with Oreos. I mean, talk about a tough challenge, making a cookie that has been around for more than a hundred years come to life! But that’s exactly what the team at Oreos has done in a relevant, modern way.


I look forward to hearing what you think of our storytelling work at and staying in touch about marketing trends at  @elisasteele.

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