Why Video Is A Content Marketer’s Best Medium For Storytelling

Why sto­ries help brands cre­ate stronger emo­tion­al bonds with con­sumers.

Greg Jarboe By Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Over the years, numer­ous stud­ies have found that our brains are far more engaged by sto­ry­telling than a recita­tion of cold, hard facts. Sto­ries are illus­tra­tive, eas­i­ly mem­o­rable, and allow a brand to cre­ate stronger emo­tion­al bonds with cus­tomers. That’s why video is a con­tent marketer’s best medi­um for sto­ry­telling. Per­haps, then, the best way to illus­trate this is by show­ing a few videos that tell some com­pelling sto­ries.

The Pow­er of Non­fic­tion­al Sto­ry­telling

Google Search: Reunion” was pub­lished by Google India on Nov. 13, 2013. The video, which clocks in at 3 min­utes and 32 sec­onds, has close to 12.5 mil­lion views as of this writ­ing.

The sto­ry it tells is worth retelling. The India-Pak­istan par­ti­tion in 1947 sep­a­rat­ed many friends and fam­i­lies overnight. A grand­daugh­ter in India decides to sur­prise her grand­fa­ther on his birth­day by reunit­ing him with his child­hood friend (who is now in Pak­istan) after more than six decades of sep­a­ra­tion, with a lit­tle help from Google search.

The moral of this sto­ry: Par­ti­tions divide coun­tries, friend­ships find a way.

Sainsbury’s OFFICIAL Christ­mas 2014 Ad” was pub­lished by Sainsbury’s on Nov. 12, 2014. The video, which is 3 min­utes and 40 sec­onds long, has near­ly 16.9 mil­lion views.

Inspired by real events from 100 years ago, Sainsbury’s Christ­mas advert also tells a sto­ry worth retelling. Made in part­ner­ship with The Roy­al British Legion, it com­mem­o­rates the extra­or­di­nary events of Christ­mas Day, 1914, when the guns fell silent and two armies met in no-man’s land, shar­ing gifts – and even play­ing foot­ball togeth­er.

The moral of this sto­ry: Christ­mas is for shar­ing.

These videos are exam­ples of non­fic­tion­al sto­ries. They are sup­posed to have actu­al­ly hap­pened, often at a par­tic­u­lar time and place. And they draw much of their pow­er from this fact.

The Pow­er of Fic­tion­al Sto­ry­telling

Fic­tion­al sto­ries can also be com­pelling. These take place in a kind of sep­a­rate “once-upon-a-time” world of nowhere-in-par­tic­u­lar. They clear­ly aren’t intend­ed to be under­stood as true.

For exam­ple, “The Scare­crow” was pub­lished on Sept. 11, 2013, by Chipo­tle Mex­i­can Grill. This video, which is 3 min­utes and 22 sec­onds long, has near­ly 14 mil­lion views.


Anoth­er exam­ple of a fic­tion­al sto­ry is “John Lewis Christ­mas Advert 2014 — #Mon­tyTheP­en­guin”. Pub­lished Nov. 6, 2014, this video clocks in at 2 min­utes and 10 sec­onds and has more than 22.8 mil­lion views.

Why Are Fic­tion­al And Non­fic­tion­al Sto­ries So Engag­ing?

If you go back and watch all four of these videos again, you will see that they have char­ac­ters with whom you can iden­ti­fy. Ross Hock­row, an award-win­ning film­mak­er and author of “Out of Order: Sto­ry­telling Tech­niques for Video and Cin­e­ma Edi­tors”, says:

Characters/subjects are the por­tals to every sto­ry. They are the way you get view­ers to buy into the sto­ry. The view­ers iden­ti­fy with, relat­ed to, and even empathize with the char­ac­ters. In a way, they become the char­ac­ters, or at least they com­pare them­selves to the char­ac­ter.”

All four videos also have a sto­ry arc, or plot struc­ture. This isn’t some­thing that YouTube or mod­ern brands cre­at­ed. The ancient roots of sto­ry­telling go back to Aris­to­tle, who said that a good sto­ry need­ed a begin­ning, mid­dle, and end.

Hock­row asks:

Why does it mat­ter how long the sto­ry arc has been around? In a word: evo­lu­tion. With­out sto­ry­telling, how else would you explain how and where you were chased by a saber-toothed cat through the woods? Or that some­body ate this plant and got rid of an ill­ness, but some­body else ate that one over there, which looks almost the same, and it made them sick? Humans pass on their impor­tant infor­ma­tion through sto­ries. The human mind has evolved with the sto­ry arc, and with sto­ries in gen­er­al, which remain an import of our cul­ture.”

Sto­ries have been shared in every cul­ture as a means of enter­tain­ment, edu­ca­tion, cul­tur­al preser­va­tion, and instill­ing moral val­ues. Per­haps, the best way to illus­trate is by shar­ing two more videos that tell some com­pelling sto­ries.

The first is “‘Unsung Hero’ (Offi­cial HD) : TVC Thai Life Insur­ance 2014”. Pub­lished on April 23, 2014, it has more than 24 mil­lion views.

The moral of this video: Good sto­ries hap­pen every day.

The sec­ond video is “‘My dad’s sto­ry’: Dream for My Child | MetLife”. This video is 3 min­utes and 26 sec­onds long and was pub­lished by MetLife Hong Kong on Jan. 27. It has almost 6.8 mil­lion views.

It’s the dream of every par­ent to give their chil­dren a good edu­ca­tion to pur­sue a bet­ter life. MetLife says, “We under­stand every sac­ri­fice you make for your children’s future,” and uses the hash­tag, #Dream­ForMy­Child.

The moral of this sto­ry: “Share your dream for your child, and it could become real­i­ty.”


What’s the best exam­ple of sto­ry­telling in a video you’ve seen?

Greg Jarboe

Written by Greg Jarboe

President, SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe is President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency that was founded in 2003. He’s the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and also a contributor to The Art of SEO, Strategic Digital Marketing, Complete B2B Online Marketing, and Enchantment. He’s profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes, a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and writes for Tubular Insights and The SEM Post. He’s an executive education instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the Video and Content Marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn.

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