Putting your customers front and centre of your storytelling

Read any business advice book about storytelling and you’ll know the importance of telling stories that your customers care about. And what better way to do that than putting your customers front and centre? 

There is, of course, a difference between telling authentic, interesting stories that feature your customers and producing content that is simply customer testimonials. Here are four brands who have got it right.

Airbnb

Airbnb is known for its awesome content – inspiring imagery of beautiful destinations. But the stories section of the site is where they really set themselves apart in terms of storytelling. Featuring content from people who use Airbnb – homeowners and the people who visit them – the site is filled with videos and bios of hosts and guests from around the world.

Although the stories tell the experiences that users have had with Airbnb, it’s often not the focus of the story. Instead, the stories focus on the human side of things – the people running marathons, publishing books, or simply keeping a roof over their head.

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Apple

It is, perhaps, unsurprising for Apple to feature on a list of the best storytellers. The brand is well-known for telling stories that inspire. And their Shot on iPhone campaign was no different.

Launching worldwide in 2015 with 77 photographers, 70 cities and 24 countries, the adverts featured photographs that were all shot on iPhones. According to one of the photographers featured, Jordan Ison, “the agency wanted a comprehensive questionnaire filled in” for each photograph that he submitted. “They wanted to know the circumstances for why I decided to take the photo and the story behind it. The context for the photos seemed really important to them; they wanted to know the who, why, where and what in depth,” he told Tech Crunch.

Putting their customers in the limelight in this way inspired more iPhone-ographers and the #shotoniphone hashtags experienced a popularity boom as photographers hoped their images could feature in future campaigns.

Read more: How not to tell your brand's story

TOMS

The TOMS’ story is well-known. Buy a pair of shoes and they’ll donate a pair to a child in need. But in 2007, they created an annual campaign that inspired their customers – and potential customers – to take to streets with no shoes on and spread the message of their movement, One Day Without Shoes.

From 2015, TOMS added a new element to the campaign – for everyone who shared a photo of their shoeless feet on social media with the hashtag #withoutshoes they would donate a pair of shoes to children who needed them. In 2015, 27,435 children in 10 countries received a new pair of shoes thanks to TOMS supporters who shared their feet on social media.

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Starbucks

“Meet me at Starbucks,” are words that are uttered thousands of times a day across the world. And that gave the brand the inspiration for a short film that they created in 2014.

Filmed in one day across 28 countries, Meet Me at Starbucks goes on a tour around the world, showing some of the stories that happen in Starbucks’ locations every day – from the bride getting ready for her wedding day in Buenos Aires to the child violinist practising in Seoul. The film shows how Starbucks is at the centre of so many different community groups and causes without spelling it out explicitly. 

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