Storytelling 101: Elevate Your Brand

Brand Storytelling Guide

Source : Make A GIF

What’s in it?

1. Introduction- This Innovative Guide…

2. Food for Thought

3. So What Does Storytelling Have to do with Marketing and Brand Awareness?

4. Elevate your Brand

5. Five Things to Plan Before Telling Stories of Impact for your Organisation

6. Storytelling for Brands

7. Defining Brand Storytelling

  • Gaining Clarity of your Brand Message
  • Know your Audience
  • Using Language Effectively
  • Crafting a Story
  • Ensure These 3 Factors are Met
  • Creating a call to action (CTA)
  • Identifying Storytelling Platforms
  • Sharing your Story on Social Media

8 Key Tips for Master Storytelling

9. The Science of Storytelling

10. Neuroscience of Storytelling

11.Successful Implementation of Stories in Leading Brands (case studies)

  • Airbnb
  • Google
  • Nike

12. Succeeding with Brand Storytelling

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1. Introduction

This innovative guide gives you an insight into the power of storytelling and how you can elevate your brand and engage your target audience by 10x.

Let me take you through a journey that will inform, inspire and motivate you to create your own unique brand story.Have you ever wondered how Nike, Google or Airbnb deliver and gain results, every time, by crafting their own stories?

Within this guide, you’ll learn about actual case studies from all three of them that will inspire you! You’ll also discover the best steps to pave your own way to storytelling success!

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2. Food for Thought

Stories are at the heart of the human experience.

“We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.” -Jimmy Neil Smith, Director of the International Storytelling Center

Listening to (or reading) stories helps us put ourselves in someone else’s shoes so we can see the world from their perspective, and in turn, empathize with them.

Sharing our own tales of life’s trials and tribulations is a therapeutic experience for a storyteller. Even sitting with elders, such as our grandparents, for a simple conversation can reveal a lot of beneficial stories from decades ago.

​From Aesop of Greece to Saadi Shirazi of Iran, or from Molla Nasreddin of Turkey to William Shakespeare of UK (who is the world’s best-selling fiction writer of all time with an estimated 4 billion copies of his books sold), it is a vast collection of stories that has mesmerized, entertained, and informed countless generations through the works of master storytellers.

Source: Melloo [To be Redesigned by Adeel]

For hundreds of years, travellers from North Asia would rest at a bazaar called the Qissa Khawani Bazaar (or the Storytellers’ Market) in Peshawar and tell their stories before travelling further into the Indian subcontinent.

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3. So What Does Storytelling Have to Do with Marketing and Brand Awareness?

“A brand is the unique story that consumers recall when they think of you.” – Laura Busche

Storytelling is an unprecedented medium in marketing that connects your brand with your target audience. From Spotify to Google, or from IBM to Zillow, several brands are implementing this technique in order to engage their audiences more effectively (examples of which will be given later on).

Source: HubSpot [To be Redesigned]

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4. Elevate your Brand

In order to fully understand how storytelling can help you elevate your brand, we first need to gain clarity on the definition of storytelling: which is a process, whereby facts and narratives are used to communicate ideas, thoughts, emotions and messages.

Once you understand the definition of storytelling you need to think about how you can use this strategy to benefit your organization.

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5. Five Things to Plan Before Telling Stories of Impact for your Organisation

Rohan Potdar argues that there are five fundamental things to plan before telling stories of impact for your organization as outlined in the image below:

Source: Screenshot Rohan Potdar.com

Modern day storytellers are much more than just authors and journalists. Many times they are also the equivalent of content marketers, content writers, creatives and PR professionals.

Stories, undoubtedly, evoke emotions and have the power to motivate, inspire and uplift people in order to facilitate communication between two parties.

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6. Storytelling for Brands

In the case of brands, the two parties are the brand and the customer. The brand communicates a message through the story and the customer engages with the story being delivered to them and takes action accordingly.

Source:Ignition Framework

Knowing how to tell a story, and what the ingredients of a great story are will enable your brand to gain more revenue and attain better brand visibility. Below, Fig. 1 shows a comparison of what constitutes storytelling for brands and what storytelling should not be:

Storytelling table by Tasnim Nazeer

There are different types of stories including fiction, non-fiction, informative or educational and each one has their own core message to deliver.

However, in branding, you will find that stories often reflect a deep-rooted message that either inspires, motivates or entices the reader to act on a call to action.

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7. Defining Brand Storytelling - 8 Key Tips for Master Storytelling

These concepts will be discussed in more detail in the Defining Brand Storytelling section where we will discuss 8 key tips that will enable you to master the concept of storytelling in your marketing efforts and lucrative value for scaling up your brand.

1. Gaining Clarity for your Brand Message

When storytelling is done correctly, it clearly defines your brand message and establishes what your brand is all about.

It is paramount that your story expresses the core values of your brand, mission and purpose. In order to do this, you need to pinpoint exactly what aspect of your brand message you want to offer your audience.

Source:Screenshot from Moz

For example:

Let’s say that you run an ethically based company and you want to craft a story that highlights the benefits of ethical trade.

Source : Screenshot from ASOS

Alternatively, you might be a company who is leading in innovation and you want to express how artificial intelligence is being implemented through your services and focus your story on your brand driving the future of innovation.

Source: Screenshot from Bosch

No matter what the business or industry, there are countless angles you can draw upon to tell your story effectively. What’s most important, is to make sure that you and your content marketing team are clear on what message you want to convey and what you want to achieve from conveying that message to your audience.

Focusing on what makes your brand unique, and gives you the edge over other brands, can really help to showcase the benefits of your brand by subtly expressing them through the message of your story.

Clarity, for example, is just one factor of many that sets successful businesses apart from ones that are struggling. It also helps to ensure that your whole team is consistent in weaving your brand ethos into your copy, which must be done habitually throughout your marketing efforts.

2. Know Your Audience

Every business has a target audience, which they want to sell to or persuade to take a specific action or set of actions.

When using storytelling as part of your marketing campaign, you need to be aware of who you are trying to engage.

Source: Vector, Artist: Robuart (royalty free image)

Is the audience of your story a parent, a business owner or a healthcare professional? It is imperative that you make the audience (and their pain points) a significant part of your story and by doing so you can create a story that puts your audience in the picture.

An effective way to do this is to include a relatable character, that reflects your target market, when telling your brand’s story. You must be able to make the audience see themselves in your story in order for them to want to take action and purchase your product.

It may benefit you considerably to conduct target market research which will help you pinpoint the needs of your audience and gather key information in creating your story. In addition, you can craft a detailed buyer persona’s for your business to help create representations of your audience and aid in your overall marketing efforts and campaigns.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE: How to write a story for your buyer personas

The more research you conduct on your target market the more likely you will be able to create a service that meets their needs and which will enable you to run a successful marketing campaign using storytelling as an innovative technique.

3. Using Language Effectively

The language you choose to use in your story is critical to how well the story is received. You can evoke emotions, influence and inspire by choosing the right words to use. Some of the best brand storytellers rely upon short action verbs (such as act, move, play) to get the story moving.

Source: Nike (Just Do It campaign video)

Ensure that the language used within your story is relatable to your audience and is not too formal. Some of the best stories are told as if you were having a conversation with another person, as it provides a form of informality to the audience.

One thing that will help you relate to your audience is to speak their language.
As Eugene Schwartz once said,
“I write with my ears”.

You will often see that public speakers use the technique of storytelling to grab their audience’s attention and get them engaged with the message they are trying to convey.

The science of storytelling uses language in such a way that it spurs the imagination of those who are reading about it, listening to it or even watching as your brand story evolves. Alliteration, or the use of memorable grammatical nuances, is a powerful way to make a brand statement that really stands out.

Source: Screenshot from Dunkin Donuts

Using alliteration helps to give an indelible rhythm to your words that can also be translated into names, products or services to make them unforgettable. Some successful examples of this include, ‘Dunkin’ Donuts’, ‘Best-Buy’ and ‘PayPal’.

Source: Screenshot from PayPal

Another key technique is to use conversational language in your stories to create a sense of comfort in engaging with your audience which can make the story more believable. Take Amazon’s Alexa, for example, which is known for its wildly popular wake word “Alexa”.

Source: Screenshot from Amazon

Marketers have to think very carefully about the language they use to convey their brand message as it is a crucial component of a successful campaign.

4. Crafting a Story

Crafting a story takes a special skill set and is often considered by industry leaders as a form of art.

Apart from the relatively basic concepts of a beginning, a middle and an end, marketers also have to think about presenting both a problem and its solution.

Justin Lokitz, who is an author at Designing Better Business, highlights the importance of using a storytelling canvas to help craft your story. You might even benefit from using a canvas, like the one below, to craft yours!

Source: Designing Better Business

Some of the most effective brand stories involve a conflict and resolution scenario, which is something that brands need to take into account when crafting their copy.

Openers play a key role in brand stories and can help immediately draw the reader, or listener, of your story right into it.

An opener is literally the first sentence of your story; or the way you begin it to gain your audience’s attention within just a few seconds.

Case in point, if we look back at how early children’s stories commenced, many of the openers traditionally started with the phrase “once upon a time”.

While this may be an outdated way of starting a story in this day and age, it adequately sets the scene up for the reader to let him know that there is more to be discovered and that the story has only just begun.

Contemporary and effective openers should start with sentences that make you want to know more and ask questions such as how?, what?, and why? Once the opener is set, you can add depth to your story by narrating it through relatable characters.

Depending on your core message you could choose to add a level of entertainment in your copy by including witty lines that would make your story memorable.

You may want to include new information into your copy, ensuring that the story not only informs but also educates your audience on the message that you are trying to express.

It is important to remember that when brands express stories “less is more”. There is no point in creating a long exhaustive story which will cause the audience to lose interest relatively quickly in comparison to a short and catchy story.

5. 3 Key Factors a Brand Story Needs

The three key factors of a successful brand story are:

1) An introduction to relatable characters.
2) A problem that needs to be solved.
3) A viable solution.

The process of, first ,setting the scene by using characters that your audience can relate to, immediately encourages engagement.

Audiences can be easily distracted as they are constantly bombarded with information to consume from various sources.

In order to avoid the distraction, make sure that the first few seconds of your introduction to the main character grips your audience and makes them want to watch or read on further.

You can do this by presenting a conflict that your character is undergoing.

For example, if your brand wants to portray a message about education and sells educational apps that are affordable for all then your story may want to start with a character who can’t afford to go to school.

The conflict of not being able to get educated and the solution that your service could bring would later be expressed within the story. A problem, or other interesting point, that is presented by a character within the opening sentences of a story is known as a hook.

A relevant and real problem that your target market has needs to be identified and expressed within your story. This will create a conflict that will move your story on and make the audience want to know how it is resolved.

The solution should be stated in the final part of your story to bring about a conclusion to your narrative. It will enable your audience to feel a sense of ‘closure’ and satisfaction; knowing what needs to be done in order to overcome a challenge or solve the problem.

6. Creating a Call to Action

The Call to Action (CTA) refers to the steps that your brand wants the audience to take after consuming the story that you have presented to them.

If you want your audience to subscribe to your newsletter, for example, your CTA may be “subscribe here” or if you want them to purchase a product your CTA may be “purchase here”.

The CTA is normally adopted at the end of the story and is most often carried out in a manner that is non-intrusive, but direct.

Many brands use this technique at the end of their social media videos, such as when the presenter or narrator says “Subscribe down below” or “To keep updated click the link below”.

Source: Screenshot from Constant Contact

Source: Screenshot from Productive Muslim

It is important to consider the objectives of your brand story, as this will guide you in developing the action that you want to achieve through your marketing content which conveys your brand story.

If the objective of your story is to foster communication pathways between your brand and the customer, you may want to include an action such as “tap the button to share”.

The more people that share your brand story, the more brand awareness will rise. Eventually, you will see an increase in customer engagement.

7. Identifying Storytelling Platforms

There are a variety of platforms that you can use to share your story. The main platforms are in either a digital text, video or audio format where you can upload your story on your website or share it on social media channels.

The image below shows a variety of innovative platforms that digital storytellers can use:

Source: Medium

The storytelling platform you choose should be appropriate for your brand and outreach. Many brands find that conveying stories through digital platforms is the best option in order to reach a wider audience, both locally and internationally.

It is important to take into consideration the creative aspects of your story and whether you will be presenting your story through the eyes of a character or having a narrator tell the story while using visual representation.

Additionally, you may want to have your brand story in a written format; for online or print purposes. Written stories enable you to be descriptive and use words that leave room for the reader to imagine or interpret each of the scenes. This way, the story stands alone without the use of visuals, videos, etc. However, you can still get creative with it by using fonts and images within your written story.

Most importantly, you don’t necessarily have to take a “blank paper” approach when creating your brand story. Take a look at the competition for inspiration! Seriously consider what other brands similar to yours have done to convey their brand stories and whether they have used digital or written mediums to convey it.

Whichever option you choose, make sure that you have researched the most effective format for your story so that you can reach more people and amplify your brand.

8. Sharing your Story on Social Media

Social media is one of the most lucrative platforms to share your brand story through sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Source: Screenshot from Instagram Business

There are a variety of different social media platforms that enable you to upload your video or written content to engage your audience.

According to the leading research company Statista, in 2019 there were an estimated 2.77 billion social network users around the globe, which is up from 2.46 billion in 2017.

As you can see, social media gives you an unprecedented platform to engage billions of people around the world and share your brand story across the continents.

Social media users love visuals which is why many companies make sure that their main focus in telling their brand story relies on visual and creative elements. This is in addition to the language and words used.

Compelling narratives, captivating visuals and relatable and emotive stories are the keys to engaging audiences on social media and a must have for all brands who want to grow their business effectively.

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8. Benefits of Implementing Brand Storytelling Techniques

The benefits of implementing storytelling as a technique for marketers to utilise cannot be understated.

Source: Just Learn WP credited to PR Mention

Storytelling is a fundamental driver of growth and understanding, especially when it comes to brands and the way they want to interact with their customers and followers.

Some of the main benefits of storytelling is that it enables a brand to show some personality to convey the ethos of the company and what it stands for.

Conventional copy, on a business website, does not enable a brand to get creative or convey their core values to their audience. Yet, storytelling does.

In addition, using stories helps your brand take the lead and gives it an edge over other competitor brands as you may be better able to inspire and motivate through the story that you tell.

One of the key advantages of using stories within your branding and marketing is that you can intrinsically link your brand to the story by making it the protagonist of the message.

Consider this:

“How did you brand or service help someone to overcome a challenge? How did your brand enable someone to identify and find a solution to a pressing problem that they may have been experiencing for a while?” - Tasnim Nazeer, Journalist

These are key questions that your brand needs to address in order to establish itself as a leading part of the story and give prominence in taking your audience on a journey.

The journey is conveyed through your story. You’re creating a narrative which takes your audience through a process that leads to a problem being solved. The end result is that your brand comes out as the winner since you’ve proven how it can benefit the consumer in some way.

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9. The Science of Storytelling

Source: Fast Company

The science of storytelling is an interesting concept to grasp and is one that brands should pay close attention to. In Fig. 2, the image depicts exactly how storytelling affects the brain.

Recent research reveals that 100,500 digital words are consumed by the average US citizen on a daily basis. In addition, 92% of consumers wanted brands to make ads that felt like a story.

This shows that audiences are much more likely to engage with brands that have already implemented storytelling techniques, in comparison to those who haven’t.

Consumers want to engage and relate with the content that they are given. Thanks to the research behind The Science of Storytelling, brands are able to see just how important this technique is in creating interactions with their customers.

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10. Neuroscience of Storytelling

The brain plays a pivotal role in our absorption of information and how we process messages, news and information. It is a long-held theory that when we converse with one another our brain is more alert to the language and words that we use. This, in and of itself, is a powerful medium for interaction.

The brain processes images 60 times faster in comparison to words. This reiterates the fact that visuals play a significant role in our daily lives. In many cases, we associate certain visuals with an event or life experience.

Source: Cushman Creative

Interestingly, branding and stories that implement compelling visuals are more likely to be remembered than those that use no visuals.

Storytelling directly affects the brain as it us to reflect on movement and the way we go from point A to point B.

In other words, storytelling enables our brain to consider the beginning and how we move from it to the middle and then later the end, or conclusion.

According to a report by Marketing Land, neurology plays a key role in our understanding of storytelling and the way we process images. Neuroeconomist Paul J Zack carried out experiments that highlighted the role that the hormonal secretion oxytocin plays. Zack believed that neurotransmitters are transmitted from the brain in order for us to reciprocate an action.

Based on the research that Zack conducted, he found that when participants experienced trust they reciprocated with prosocial behaviours. In addition, Zack learned that participants tended to focus on stories that were significant to them or that they felt they could understand.

This shows a definitive link between neurology and the way our brains consume information and react upon stories that we are immersed in.

Zack’s experiments also leads to the conclusion that our brains are susceptible to responding to a story’s movement from a problem to a solution. Neuroimaging reveals that the human brain becomes more alert through the use of metaphors in stories, which cause the audience to react with empathy and emotion to a brand story that is significant to them.The brain processes a metaphor as if it were imagery and enables us to form comparisons with the language we use and real life experiences.

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11. Successful Implementation of Stories in Leading Brands (Case Studies)

If you are looking for inspirational brands who have successfully implemented the technique of storytelling into their marketing efforts, then take a look at the examples below:

Airbnb

Source: Screenshot from Airbnb

Airbnb uses compelling visuals and effective storytelling techniques that appeal to their audiences through their brand stories which they create in video form.

The company knows what their audiences want, which is to travel to new places and gain new experiences. They’ve successfully tapped into their customer’s desires and needs.

Airbnb are leading the way as innovators with their brand stories and visuals. Case in point, on New Years Eve 2015, the company created an animated video to announce that 550,000 people rented properties around the world for that specific occasion. It was a staggering leap from only 2000 rentals in the previous year.

Airbnb’s latest video tells a poignant story by immersing travel seekers with families from different homes to show how people are ,essentially, making a home from home.

The excellent use of compelling narratives and visual content makes Airbnb stand out from competitor brands. The success can also be attributed to their thorough research into their target market and the relevant aspirations that their clients were seeking to tap into.

Google

Source: Screenshot from Google ATAP

Google are pioneers in the development of their stories and the many subsidiaries of platforms they own. One such example is their dedicated Google Spotlight Stories platform for clients.

Google also runs a ‘Year in Search’ video which is released every year and is compiled by using Google data to showcase the terms that people search for the most.

The Year in Search video has been successful in engaging audiences and staying relevant to what users want. One of the main reasons that Google often gets top engagement with their campaigns is the fact that they use a lot of data and research to reflect the needs of their users.

The company also tends to use relevant events and visuals that are significant to their target audience to spur emotions and raise more engagement whilst staying current on trending stories.

Google is known for its creativity and, on the home page itself, you will see a new design of the Google logo on special occasions. Known as a “Google Doodle”, it usually commemorates a historical figure, a holiday or other special occasion.

Visuals play a significant role in Google’s marketing and there is consistency in branding throughout all of Google’s services which provides continuity when the audience views it and that makes the brand more memorable.

Nike

Source: Screenshot from Nike

Nike have always been known for creating captivating visual campaigns and their marketing efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Nike’s Equality campaign, for example, drove unprecedented engagement through their brand story of being a force of positive social change and equality for all. This is a clear example of a brand that goes beyond their own product line and looks into the needs of its target audience and the issues affecting them.

The brand cleverly creates a collective movement through the use of the equality campaign so any customer who buys the trainers will also be proud to support the movement for equality.

This in turn, evokes emotions from all who see the story campaign and for those who believe in the serious issue of achieving equality.

The shoes are simply seen on the feet of the protagonists in the video, but there is no selling involved whatsoever in the story.

The selling is done through the message of the company’s ethos and the associations that Nike has as being a positive trailblazer in creating strong and powerful movements that support worthy causes.

The company continues to use colourful visuals and video content to reach their customers around the world and scale up their brand both in the US and internationally.

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12. Succeeding with Brand Storytelling

There are many ways to develop and craft a powerful brand story as discussed within this guide. You can also take inspiration from success stories of the aforementioned brands who are achieving significant results through their marketing efforts.

Whether you are at the start of your brand journey or have already implemented a marketing strategy, you can accelerate your brand awareness, identity and profitability through storytelling.

We have seen that some of the most successful brands such as Nike, Google and Airbnb have gone on to achieve and innovate in their respective industry sectors.

This could not be achieved without effective marketing strategies being in place and the use of stories to get people to take action.

Entrepreneurs or marketers, who want to succeed in growing their business must remember that there needs to be a clear focus on what your product, service or company can offer and the value that it could bring to your customer.

How does your company solve your customer’s problem?

This is one of the first things you need to consider before crafting your story as getting the foundation right is key to creating a successful campaign.

Often, entrepreneurs overlook the fact that many consumers are purchasing for a need to be met. The need could be a range of things such as wanting to beautify themselves, satisfy hunger or learn something new.

Irrespective of the need, it is up to the company to show how best they can overcome the problem and take the customer through a journey which expresses it. This journey forms the major part of your brand story whereby you are taking your customer from one place to another.

Many times brands will use comparisons such as a ‘before and after’ or a ‘rags to riches’ story that shows a transition from one state to another and a noticeable movement.

This movement needs to be expressed clearly within your brand story and it will help engage your customers and pave the way to achieve more brand engagement.

Social media should also form part of a brand’s marketing strategy; playing a significant role in sharing your brand story whether that be through audio, visual or written form.

You may want to share your brand story in a post on your official business page, on a video posted online on your website and on social media or through an audio file uploaded with an image to social media.

There are various ways of presenting your brand story as discussed earlier in the guide but it is important to focus on the one that can bring in the most views and appeals to your target market.

If you feel passionately about a cause and it correlates with the ethos of your company, you may want to consider openly supporting it just like Nike did with the Equality campaign.

There are many brands who have found success in supporting the causes that relate to their target audience or which their brand demographic identifies with.

This is another route that could be considered for your marketing campaign, however, it should be noted that the cause that you wish to champion should hold some relevance to your brand message, ethos and values.

An example of this, for a company that produces ethical goods, is a brand story that supports fair trade. The company’s story could focus on the development of organic food or supporting farmers or agricultural workers in developing countries.

If you develop information technology (IT) products or services you may want to focus on supporting causes related to innovation, digital development or education.

These are just a few takeaways to get your mind thinking about how creative placement can be used to share your brand story effectively while also supporting projects that can better the community at large.

As discussed in this definitive guide, there are many ways to reach audiences around the world and tap into their emotions through relatable stories.

By understanding the fundamental links between neurological processes that enable people to consume stories and immerse themselves in them, you are one step closer to developing a brand story that would be evergreen and memorable.

Once you identify the process that a person goes through when engaged in a story, you are more likely to be able to tap into what could potentially make a great story for your brand.

Additional Sources:

Best Website Design Company Blog - Results-Driven Web Design. (2018). 21 Creative Tools List for Video Storytelling & Brand Marketing. [online]Available at: https://www.fatbit.com/fab/21-creative-tools-video-storytelling-brand-marketing/ [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

Digital Marketing Institute. (2018). 6 Storytelling Trends Marketing Leaders Should Know About. [online] Available at: https://digitalmarketinginstitute.com/en-gb/the-insider/20-09-17-6-ways-brands-can-boost-their-storytelling [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

Craig, W. (2018). 5 Essential Elements Of Powerful Brand Storytelling. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/williamcraig/2018/06/12/5-essential-elements-of-powerful-brand-storytelling/#6d9a2e7961a3 [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

JP Phillips, D. (2018). The Magical Science of Storytelling TEDx Talk. [image]Available at:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj-hdQMa3uA [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

Karia, A. (2013). Storytelling Techniques from TED Talks. [online] Akashkaria.com. Available at: https://akashkaria.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/TEDTalksStorytellingTechniques.pdf [Accessed 20 Nov. 2018].

Vaughan, P. (2018). How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template]. [online] Blog.hubspot.com. Available at: https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/buyer-persona-research [Accessed 15 Nov. 2018].

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