Storytelling That Influences Purchase

Strategies to build the right story to influence a purchase.

Let’s start by remembering content for marketing things is not new or even recent.  None other than Benjamin Franklin used content marketing in 1732 by creating and publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac to help market his printing business.  Companies making themselves relevant through participation in, and creating new conversations among people has a long history.  What’s interesting about opportunities for today’s durable manufacturers is thinking beyond real time social or occasional blog postings and into groupings of meaning that can relate to the customer’s purchase workflow.

We will preface what follows with the assumption that you understand the principles of search and tagging your content properly as what you’re about to read is more about content types.  And let’s also make sure to have developed an editorial mission statement that’s not just objective laden but also clearly states the value of content and publishing.


An integral part of any initiative is finding the narrative theme. Narrative themes differ from brand positioning as they’re about finding the area meaningful to people that companies can participate in relevant way.  For example, don’t think about cooktops as BTUs or stainless steel but think instead about family and gathering made possible by that range. For Bissell, we don’t lead with vacuum suction power, we lead with love of pets and taking care of them. 

dogs and furniture

Bissell is now a leader across its categories and growing exponentially over others that are focused exclusively on feature, function and utility. Finding the adjacent themes – there will be more than one - that matter to your audience and can credibly be associated to your product will afford you the opportunity to engage in relevant stories that drive engagement through relevance.


Next, think about purchase not as a transaction but as a series of touches of information, entertainment and utility over a period of time.  There's more "now" as in time present across channels than ever.  A person can be physically present, on any number of online platforms, gaming, posting on social media, participating in augmented reality etc. at the same time. This amplifies the contextual quandary of delivering the right information at the right time and on the right screen. It helps if you spend the time doing the ethnographic work to understand a person’s flow throw digital / physical space, identifying where they are in the purchase mindset and understanding the screens and platforms of preference. 


Understanding context and a person’s flow through their life, knowing what themes resonate will really help to frame in story development and guide editorial planning.  Certain types of stories are better suited for relationship building, other types of stories are better for people closer to purchase decision.  Here’s some basic guidelines based on familiar marketing constructs.

Formulation of an understanding or an awareness generation / reinforcement of a brand can take effort.  This kind of story telling can be narrative theme led, be on a subject or category thought leadership and also human interest subjects.  We find it occurs best in the following formats:

  • Video a subject that is relevant to an audience and allows for the brand to participate contextually and meaningfully
  • Quizzes expound on a shared theme or subject of audience interest and brand participation
  • Articles people respect original research and data where a subject is explored as thought leadership or a personal story is explained in which the brand is an artifact of the article (not the story itself)
  • Infographics / Data Visualization many companies possess data from their business on subjects their customers find interesting. It’s a great attention-getting method to demonstrate category leadership, but in today's time starved and entertainment driven world, it needs to be engaging and allow for input and responses
  • Tools offering them across relevant channels provides a valuable utility for certain tasks at a point of making a lasting impression such as configurators, specifiers, listicles, etc.
  • Podcast an expedient way to offer up interviews and commentary on any number of topics whether originating the content or being a subject of an existing podcast

When thinking about moving people further down a purchase path of consideration and deep consideration for durables make sure to modify your subjects toward more human interest, curated content and product information.  It’s also important to adjust formats to better reflect the mindset of customers.

  • Games consider developing simple game activity that allows customers to explore an adjacency in more detail or highlight a product feature
  • News here you may want to partner with media companies, research firms, and others to develop joint or curated content
  • Influencers / Endorsement getting and building third-party trust, ideally from notable or well followed people goes a long way toward moving people toward purchase
  • Reviews along with endorsement, garnering editorial support for product along with customer reviews builds trust, as long as it’s authentic
  • Demo-Interactive / Video if they’ve come this far, people are probably ready to understand more about the product features and their benefits so give it to them as interactive tools or short subject documentaries
  • FAQs there is a need to take down any obstacles on the purchase path and some of this might be as simple as answering often asked questions in the form of short text posts or testimonials


So what drives narrative, experience and all the types and formats of editorial development?

  • The data that illuminates customer behavior.  We use several types of data from lifestyle and category trend tracking down to individual asset performance at a time and place by what type of person.  There’s a lot of choices but start by making the choice to track what you’re doing. Establish qualitative and quantitative metrics and determine story making KPIs that represent a holistic view of the customer’s experience and understand what behaviors need to change to move those metrics.
  • Consistently measure performance and focus on the behaviors, the goal metrics will take care of themselves.
  • Lastly, act on the information you’re getting.  Not everything works and some things will work better than others.  Use that insight and alter your editorial plans in real time.

In contrast to campaign models of the past, today’s publishing model involves producing stories that are really not about the company or the brand or the product but are instead about customers and their needs. Take a measured approach and build a relationship that lasts.

If you’d like to learn more or just want to share your thoughts with the author, feel free to contact Rick Shaughnessy, Group SVP, Innovation at or 312-315-0501.