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Storytelling in advertising – a story of success

We might think that storytelling is reserved for novels, but it can play an effective role in advertising campaigns. This is something that the most successful brands utilize frequently. Let’s take a look at one major brand that did this exceptionally well.

“3,2,1…action. A black and white emperor. London 1844, the foundries churn out change, there’s far more smoke than air and in this giddy town, far more working heads than places to lay them down.
You want your own roof? You better have pinstripes and money to spare.
Fortune favours the fortunate; small change there.
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, who thinks they matter? Mr Cooper does. “Help each other and we all get up the ladder” Mr Cooper says, “we all get a share, we all get a vote, we’re in the same boat.”

Stand together and build. A nation of helpers, a nation of houses with hopers inside. A currency of kindness; Nationwide.”

The above poem was written by Jo Bell, a freelance poet, who features in Nationwide’s advert. It’s rare to see a poet in an advert for a leading provider of financial services. So why did Nationwide’s unconventional choice work so well?

Utilising the power of poem

Jo’s poem is the latest advert in Nationwide’s ‘Voices of the people’ ad campaign which first launched in September 2016. Instead of using typical financial spiel, Nationwide commissioned freelance poets like Jo to create attention-grabbing, memorable adverts through storytelling. By using poetry to celebrate the voice and stories of ordinary people, Nationwide made the concept of a building society even more relevant to the new generation.

Three other adverts highlighted community issues through poetry. Hollie delivered a poem about motherhood, underlining Nationwide’s credentials as a trusted children’s savings provider. Loneliness was tackled by Sugar J Poet in his poem ‘Face to Face’, which emphasised Nationwide’s commitment to continued investment in its branches and staff. Finally, Matt spoke about the importance of family traditions and a place to call home, promoting Nationwide’s first-time buyer scheme.

Sara Bennison, Nationwide’s Chief Marketing Officer commented that: “These ads provide an opportunity for Nationwide to go back to its roots in a powerful, authentic and thought-provoking way while giving people a voice on the things that matter most in their lives .”

Immersing the viewers

The clever use of storytelling helps the audience find common ground with Nationwide’s brand. This is something of a rarity in the financial services world these days; Salesforce’s 2016 research suggested only 32% of UK millennials believe their bank offers products to help them deal with the financial challenges they face.

This is how Nationwide’s campaign utilises the power of storytelling to its advantage. Viewers are drawn in by the emotional, evocative language and the poets’ powerful delivery. Even something as dull as a first-time buyer scheme becomes utterly compelling. As a millennial myself, I felt like Nationwide understood and empathised with the challenges faced by many of us.


Because of the effective use of compelling storytelling.

The rationale behind the words

Poetry was effective in this particular campaign for Nationwide, but it’s not the answer for every brand. Adverts must have a level of authenticity to them, and Nationwide’s overall brand statement of building enduring personal connections with its members aligns itself well with the intimate nature of poetry. After all, poems help us to share ideas that struggle to see the light of day in other forms.

I believe storytelling can always help to bring a brand and its values to life, but the task is identifying the most appropriate format. How can your brand use the power of storytelling to make itself a bestseller?


See more from Stratton Craig

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Create a content strategy that works for your brand

Did this hit the mark? Our appraisal of HSBC’s campaign