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WTF is storytelling?

Wojtek Jeżowski

October 3, 2022

This question is popping up everywhere... especially on LinkedIn. OK, maybe all those professionals behind those lovely smiling photos are not screaming “WTF,” but it certainly feels like it. And it might be on your mind as well. Is this just another marketing fad, another buzzword... Does it really matter in the B2B world, and what does it actually mean?

Many great marketing minds have created countless blogs, articles, books, and podcasts (yes, countless), but we’re here to write about what we consider storytelling to be and how you can easily start using it to further your brand. 

It’s all about your audience

Like the storytellers thousands of years ago who sat around a campfire, you’re talking to someone specific. Focus on your audience. It’s about people, not products. Your clients and their needs. Don’t flood your content with messages that are irrelevant to them. Focusing on what they want to hear and how they want to experience it. 

Did you know that most B2B decision makers (regarding tech buy) in companies today are millennials?  Imagine what content they are looking for, how they consume it, and where. Imagine they are going through dozens of generic tech explainers, and they come to yours… another video that looks and sounds the same. Do you think they will be interested in watching it to the end and finding out more about your product or service? Yeah. So, why don’t you speak to them in a way that will engage them? In a way they want to be spoken to?

They are human

Treat your audience like human beings, not extensions of their organizations. Avoid using jargon and “marketing talk”. Imagine someone discovering that they are out of coffee. Would the person text their significant other by asking if “their culinary department’s budget covers the forthcoming capital expenditure at Wal-Mart as their coffee inventory is in the red”? Or would they simply ask if the other person could get more coffee on their way home? “Do you have some money for coffee?” is a much simpler message that has a chance to be remembered. 

By using language that matches your target audience, you can be certain that they will understand what you’re saying. Language is more than just words. It knows how they consume content, where they are, and what they care about. Tailored content evokes personal feelings in the target consumer, which could tip the balance in your favor!

Catch feelings

Emotions are at the core of all marketing. Emotions govern what we are repelled from and what we are drawn to. Emotions have a profound influence on the efficaciousness of our memory. And we want to be remembered. Don’t be afraid of using emotions. 

This is the moment we drop the Maya Angelou quote: 

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” 

Take this to heart and put your heart into what you do. Yes. Emotions. In B2B. Times are changing. Check out this comprehensive analysis by The LinkedIn Institute, of the use of emotions in B2B marketing.

Become an architect of stories

Learn how to build them block by block. There are many examples of story templates online, showing you how to take your story, main character, and audience on a journey. 


Let’s sketch one out now: 

You must intrigue the audience in the very beginning. A stressed office employee receives a text from his wife, “Don’t be late. We don’t want to disappoint him.” Move them forward by presenting a world or characters they can care about - he smiles and writes back, “Leaving now, I’ll pick up the cake.”

Bring in an obstacle. Illicit a feeling that he might not get what he wants: The elevator, he’s in jams. He presses the call button, but it’s broken. The clock is ticking. He has to pick up the cake, but the bakery closes in 15 minutes. He has an idea and pulls out his phone. He opens a grocery delivery app, Heroes (We pick up and deliver anything you need). He orders the cake to be picked up and pays. 

We see the delivery truck moving. Our hero tries to get out of the elevator. He’s no James Bond, but he has to try. He climbs out of the hatch in the ceiling (ok, there’s a little James Bond in him). He slides down the elevator cables into an air condition duct (I forgot to mention: there’s also a little John Maclaine from Die Hard in him).  

As he gets out, an alarm goes off. Security sees him on their monitors and mistakes him for an intruder. Therefore, they take chase. Our hero runs after him but is already in the parking structure. With the clock still ticking, he gets in and gloriously peels out. Security loses sight of him. 

We cut to The house. His wife and son sit around the table with party hats on. Neither our hero nor the cake is there. The on-screen clock ticks down to zero as… the doorbell rings! The wife goes to the door with their son and receives the cake. Just then, our man runs into the house through a window and perfectly lands in a chair at the table.

Voice over: Heroes is always on time. 


Pretty sweet, huh? 

But how does this relate to a video ad? Or an explainer video? Or a presentation? Well, look at the structure and read between the lines. Sure, the entire story has a beginning, middle, and end. But when you look deeper, you’ll see the same structure within each scene. This simple three-act structure can be used in any content you create to make it more engaging. What’s next? Each situation, idea, scene raises the stakes. Which reflects on what happens in the next scene and the next, etc. What you must remember is not to use the word “AND” in between scenes. “AND” doesn’t up the ante. “AND” just connects a listing of things. 

To make your story interesting, use the words “BUT” and “THEREFORE” between your scenes, paragraphs, or slides… Listen to storytelling gurus Trey Parker and Matt Stone explaining the power of this structure. 

That’s just a simple example, but if you want to know more about using emotional storytelling in the business world and how you can use it in your everyday work, check out this amazing podcast with Jeremy Connel-Waite from IBM.

Last but not least, be creative

WHM Creative conducted a survey of B2B buyers late in 2018 (released in 2019) in which the results were rather conclusive.

  • About half of B2B purchase decision makers find B2B advertising boring
  • 82 percent wish B2B advertising had the creativity associated with B2C advertising
  • 81 percent of business buyers believe they’d make better decisions if B2B advertising did a better job of engaging them

Creativity is effective. Creativity is liked. Likability is transformational. When content appeals to a viewer through suspense, they are rewarded with dopamine (that stuff our brains chase through chocolate, falling in love, watching your favorite movie, etc.). Dopamine also improves focus, motivation, and wait for it… MEMORY.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?  

We could go on more about other hormones like oxytocin, endorphins, etc. but in the end, this entire article boils down to one simple sentence we believe is the essence of storytelling. 

It’s as simple and yet as complicated as only 4 words.


“Make your audience feel”

I now leave you with a quote by the legendary storyteller Bill Murray


“The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything, the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself.”

Now that’s wisdom. Thanks, Bill.

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