Four Ways Storytelling Influences Branding and Marketing
“Storytelling is about two things; it's about character and plot.”
So says George Lucas, creator of the beloved Indiana Jones and Star Wars franchises. His films, avidly adored by millions of fans, champion his storytelling definition—one that applies not only to film but to storytelling in marketing as well.
Character and plot are fundamental components of every successful marketing endeavor, too, from brand storytelling to franchise marketing. Consider examples from Lucas, specifically Star Wars, to better understand storytelling in marketing and how storytelling, branding, and marketing work together. Then, discover how a Master of Arts in Marketing can strengthen your storytelling abilities and enhance your career possibilities.
What Is Storytelling in Marketing?
In many ways, storytelling in marketing is the same thing as storytelling in any setting — giving people characters and a plot that engages them and keeps them engaged. Star Wars films, of course, have excelled in this area, creating characters and writing plotlines that people can talk about for hours.
But movies aren’t the only venue where storytelling has worked for Star Wars. The franchise’s storytelling in marketing has been wildly successful. Take a look at just a few examples of campaigns that brought character and plot together in a way that engaged millions of fans.
To promote Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Disney and Lucasfilm launched a campaign centered around fan-made videos featuring Star Wars action figures. The campaign connected fans through the characters and plots they love, encouraging high engagement with the newest film in the Star Wars universe.
Fuel Your Force
This marketing campaign promoted healthy living and wellness, encouraging fans to find their inner strength like their favorite Stars Wars characters and to engage their own “plot” of healthy living. The campaign included exercise videos featuring Star Wars characters, recipes inspired by the universe, and articles on topics related to Star Wars, like mindfulness and meditation.
This campaign successfully wove branding, or brand storytelling, with marketing. “The Force” is known worldwide as a primary feature of the Star Wars franchise and has even launched a holiday for Stars Wars fans: "May the 4th Be With You,” based on the famous catchphrase “May the force be with you.”
Leveraging such a well-known element of the Stars Wars universe for the Fuel Your Force campaign is a prime example of storytelling, branding, and marketing all working together.
How Can Branding, Storytelling, and Marketing Work Together in Other Industries?
Because the essential elements of storytelling in marketing boil down to character and plot, the basics of branding, storytelling, and marketing can be transferred to any industry. Whatever the product, service, or idea that a marketer is promoting, they, at minimum, have the opportunity to make customers the characters in the story and engagement with the product, service, or idea, a meaningful plot for those characters.
Learning about effective storytellers like Lucas and successful franchises like Star Wars can help marketers develop their character-building and plot-developing skills. A Master of Arts in Marketing, in which students often study great stories and storytellers, is a meaningful way to strengthen those abilities, discover how to create powerful campaigns, and enhance career possibilities.
Ways a Master of Arts in Marketing Can Enhance a Career
Through a Master of Arts in Marketing (MAM) marketers who want to advance their career possibilities, or professionals who want to make a career change to the field of marketing, learn core elements of digital marketing and data analytics and how to apply them to their storytelling and marketing campaigns. Consider some of the tools for storytelling in marketing developed during such a degree program.
Whether you’re a Star Wars superfan or you’ve seen a film or two, you’re likely to have a sense of the character of Luke Skywalker. You may know that he believes himself to be an orphan, that his pain runs deep, and that he longs to join the rebellion to fight the evil empire. These characteristics are unique in one sense but extremely relatable in another. The viewer may not be an orphan, but they likely know how loss feels. They may not want to battle to the death, but they know what it’s like to want to fight for something that matters.
Marketing campaigns can achieve relatability like this as well. Think about the best social media ads and commercials you’ve seen. In all likelihood, they quickly yet thoroughly introduced a character you feel for — a father trying to scrub the stain out of his child’s soccer uniform, a woman stuck in traffic on her way to a meeting, or a child playing pretend, for example.
Emerson’s MAM program equips students to examine what the target audience feels and desires so that they can show how their product, service, or idea meets the need of their audience members.
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”
“Do or do not; there is no try.”
“May the force be with you.”
For millions of people, these quotations immediately conjure images of the Star Wars franchise. These taglines, in just a few words, bring their readers or hearers into the world of Star Wars. Taglines are an important element of brand storytelling because they briefly yet clearly make a statement about the unique purpose of the product, service, or idea, which can increase brand recognition.
Through studying storytelling in marketing, MAM students can learn how to create meaningful, memorable taglines that stick in the minds of consumers.
Through compelling characters and an engaging plot, the Star Wars universe has fostered unprecedented levels of fan engagement and cultural impact for decades. While the franchise has regularly produced new films, products, and television shows, the themes of the characters’ desires and the plot’s goals have remained the same: good triumphing over evil, for example, or the power of sacrificial love.
By remaining true to meaningful themes essential to the Star Wars ethos, the franchise can explore new possibilities through creative storytelling that keeps audiences wondering what will come next. Through the MAM degree, aspiring marketing leaders can learn to do the same — identifying the core elements that comprise the heart of their brand’s story and then imaginatively developing characters and plotlines built on that consistent foundation.
While Star Wars is famous for its serialized storytelling through films and, over the past several years, television, the franchise’s knack for an episodic approach extends into its marketing campaigns as well. For example, the Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens campaign comprised a series of 20 books for audiences across the lifespan. The books foreshadowed the upcoming film, included new planets and starships, and introduced characters. Each story left readers eager for the next book and, ultimately, the release of the film.
MAM-equipped marketers can use serialized storytelling in marketing in any industry. Episodic social media posts, sequential emails, video collections, and podcast series are just some of the many ways marketers can feature characters and plots in ongoing, engaging ways that keep consumers interested.
Become a Leader in Storyteller with a Master of Arts in Marketing at Emerson College
Do you want to connect the art and science of marketing through powerful storytelling that resonates with consumers in meaningful ways? That’s exactly what students like Vanessa Pena have learned to do through Emerson College’s 100% online Master of Arts in Marketing program.
“My favorite classes have been Digital Storytelling & Branding and Social Media & VOC Analytics,” says Pena. “They gave me a good overall perspective on what digital marketing and data analytics [were going to] be. There were so many things that I thought I knew about marketing that I just really didn't.”
In Digital Storytelling and Branding, Pena and fellow students studied the differences between the digital environment and traditional marketing, how to conceptualize stories, and reporting methods. The coursework included setting message goals, data collection, and story production for various digital audiences.
Students learn how to apply analytic techniques to turn data into actionable information that they can apply to the plots and characters they develop as they engage in storytelling in marketing. For example, Social Media and VOC (voice of the customer) Analytics teaches students how to listen to consumers and generate timely insights that inform the stories they tell in marketing.
The Online Master of Arts in Marketing at Emerson College is 100% online and can be completed in as little as 12 months (using an acceleration option). Students can choose from three in-demand specializations — content strategy, marketing analytics, or social media & digital public relations. The program also includes certifications in essential tools, including Google Analytics, Brandwatch, and Hubspot.
The program does not require a GRE or GMAT. Develop your storytelling skills — learn more about Emerson’s online Master of Arts in Marketing.