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How to create effective emotional storytelling videos

Video marketers can trigger emotional responses with storytelling.

4 min read

Digital Technology

Using video for storytelling


Effective advertising is all about communication; conveying your brand’s message in a manner that’s clear, memorable and will resonate with the target audience. In order to communicate successfully, video marketers can trigger emotional responses with storytelling.

Stories can be incredibly powerful for brands, because as humans we’re hardwired to engage with them; it’s how we learn, it’s in our DNA. This is what makes content marketing so powerful, and the reason why so many brands are using it in their marketing mix. Video is the most powerful medium for delivering these messages, because you can replicate the human experience on film, instantly conveying whatever story you want to tell.

The more your audience can identify with your characters, the greater the emotional response, and the more effective your content will be. Video also gives you control over your story’s pacing to create a strong structure, another key element to successful storytelling.


What are you trying to say?

Before deciding on your video’s content, you must identify your message. Emotional storytelling works best when it’s used to convey a single, simple message, so you must refine your message until it’s short, clear and succinct.

Identifying the right message requires an understanding of what your brand means to consumers; do they see your brand as a convenient way to save money, as an aspirational life goal, a reinforcement of family values or a symbol of popularity? Understanding what motivates your audience to buy is key to creating an advert with which they can identify. People share interesting information with their friends, so quality content reaches beyond the initial audience and gains ‘earned views’.

For example, if you’re a bank trying to drum up new customers for a current account you might struggle to engage viewers by listing your bank’s record of stability and the competitive interest rates on offer; instead, you need to humanize matters and tell a story that people can relate to, just as Santander does in this ad on YouTube.

When deciding on your message, remember that you must identify what really motivates your customers. Keep your market research rooted in reality and introduce a little mild cynicism into your methodology: it would be nice if customers bought your product because they love your company, but if your discount pricing is their real motivation to buy you’ll need to create a message that focuses on this instead.


Convert your message into a human story

Successfully communicating your message to your target demographic depends on creating a story, and the two ingredients you need to succeed are a human element and a narrative structure.

The human element of your story is the character with which your audience identifies. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a central protagonist: this advert for Airbus Space & Defence introduces a human element by associating the future of the world with today’s children. Watch the ad on YouTube.

The narrative structure is what drives your audience’s engagement, by creating a recognizable story. This doesn’t mean you ought to begin with “once upon a time…”, but rather by  posing a question and offering a resolution, supported by content in the video.

This Volvo V60 Polestar advertisement demonstrates how combining a strong human element with a narrative structure can make for engaging, emotional storytelling. Watch the video ad on YouTube.

The structure is created by showing the young boy’s imagination clearly captivated by something with ‘superglue tyres that roars like a dragon’, and revealing that it is his father’s car is the story’s resolution.

The audience is positioned to identify with the child’s father in this story: the message is that it’s possible to have a family car that performs well (and impresses your young son). By showing the impact that the V60 has on the relationship between father and son, this commercial creates a powerful emotional impact that couldn’t be achieved without telling a story.

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, advertisers need to stand head and shoulders above the crowd to make their message heard. Emotional storytelling is the key to engaging with the audience and making your brand’s message memorable, so it should form the cornerstone of your video marketing campaign.

For further insight on standing out from the crowd, please download our free video marketing ebook.

Jon Mowat is the founder and managing director of Hurricane Media, a team of Bristol-based online video marketing specialists. You can connect with Jon on LinkedIn.