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4 Business Storytelling Examples That Break the Problem-Solution Mold

Marketers often craft their stories from the same basic template: a person (or organization or industry) faces a challenge, a product or service offers a solution, and the problem gets solved.

While that formula may give readers or viewers the information they need at that moment, it rarely keeps people watching, reading, listening, or sharing.

That challenge-solution framework might be the first (and last) choice for many marketers, but it’s not the only option. Stories by and about people – employees, partners, and other stakeholders – connected to your brand can add the human element audiences remember.

Get inspired by these examples of companies telling compelling business stories that keep people coming back for more.

Stories by and about people connected to your brand add a human element to your #ContentMarketing that audiences will remember, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent @ContentCal_io. Share on X

F1 racing drives new audiences

In any race, the obvious story covers who wins and who loses. But that isn’t enough to engage viewers beyond the event itself. Formula 1 racing realized this and began bringing viewers behind the scenes with the racers, teams, and governing body in its Netflix docu-series Drive To Survive.

As Sports Illustrated explains: “Drive to Survive provides a behind-the-scenes look at the circuit that uses the world as its playground, highlighting the action and providing context to the storylines that emerge both on and off course. There are harrowing moments (like Romain Grosjean’s fiery wreck that almost cost the Switzerland-born driver his life) and complicated decisions displayed (like Pierre Gasly getting sacked by Red Bull and bouncing back to win at Monza with AlphaTauri).”

Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, tells The New York Times: “I think it’s got to be the single most important impact for Formula 1 in North America.

Viewership has proven the truth of that assessment. ESPN tells Sports Illustrated the average viewership for the 2021 season to date is 931,000 – 53% higher than the 2020 season average. As ESPN’s John Suchenski told SI: “Having additional F1 content out there that reaches a wide and different audience helps create awareness and interest, and hopefully incentivizes them to tune into the races.”

Takeaway: Taking viewers (or readers) behind the scenes can be a great way to attract an audience and grow their interest in your brand.

#ContentMarketing that takes viewers behind the scenes (like @F1 #DriveToSurvive) can be a great way to grow interest in your brand via @AnnGynn @CMIContent @ContentCal_io. Share on X


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TD Bank connects colleagues to mission

TD Bank devotes an entire category to employee stories on TD Stories, its recently created content hub, and smartly ties those employee stories to its missions.

In November, for example, the site featured profiles of employees with a military connection as part of National Veterans and Military Families Month.

TD Bank content hub, TD Stories, features a whole category devoted to employee stories.

As the intro to the stories explains, the bank aims to “build upon our commitment by creating a community where all active duty, reserve, former military and services members can share their experiences, grow their careers and raise awareness of veteran matters to our colleagues, customers, and communities.”

One of the stories highlighted Donna Christian, who spent decades as a military wife and connecting with veterans and joined TD Bank earlier in the year as a customer experience coordinator.

Another story features Kim Davis, a senior contact center manager in charge of credit servicing. Kim bravely shares how she learned she was adopted, found her birth mother, and discovered she was conceived when her mother was sexually assaulted. In her story, Kim talks about how TD Bank’s new Nonprofit Board Education program helped her learn what to expect when she took on a board position at a nonprofit to help sexual assault and child abuse survivors and their families.

Takeaway: Don’t limit your storytelling focus to company executives. Work with people in customer-facing roles so readers or viewers will see people they do business with. Find and tell employee stories that connect with your brand’s mission. 

Ernest Packaging turns to the E-TEAM

Ernest Packaging turned their employees into the E-TEAM, a lineup of characters like Cornflake, Porterhouse, and Lotus Dragon, who combat packaging challenges in action-packed episodes:

The kitschy, medium-high production value videos stand out in a traditionally staid industry, and the employees’ willingness to step out of their traditional comfort zone surprises (and delights).

But Ernest Packaging doesn’t stop there. The characters also come to life in “side-by-side” interviews with their real-life counterparts to explore the details of what they do and how they help their customers.

In this video, company president Tim Wilson and his alter ego Cornflake explain the company’s role in supply chain management:

In another video, vice president of client relations Brian Porter and his alter ego Porterhouse talk package design and production:

Takeaway: Have fun and be creative. This parody of the A-Team television show is entertaining to watch, even if you don’t care about packaging. While the E-TEAM episodes act more like commercials for Ernest Packaging, the side-by-side interviews illuminate how the company would benefit viewers in more detail. And the use of company executives as the E-TEAM characters is a fun twist since – you wouldn’t expect the company’s president to play a campy, action-adventure role.

You wouldn’t expect an exec to play a campy role in #ContentMarketing, but that’s what makes the A-Team parodies from @ErnestPackaging so fun, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent @ContentCal_io. Share on X

Johnsonville shows who gets the sausage made

Do you know the idiom about not wanting to see how the sausage gets made? Johnsonville, the No. 1 sausage maker in the U.S., apparently knows it, too. The company’s stories avoid showing the actual sausage making. Instead, they take viewers inside the company in engaging ways.

In one video, Johnsonville tells how it became the No. 1 sausage brand not with sales figures but with stories about the people and events that made it happen. The narrative begins with the couple who opened a mom-and-pop butcher shop in the unincorporated town of Johnsonville (which had changed its name from Schnappsville years earlier). The story follows the twists and travails on the winding road they followed, culminating in their 75th anniversary. But the most interesting parts, the video description promises, come in the middle, “where a series of decisions, made differently, could have altered sausage history forever.”

The video has been viewed almost 2 million times on the Johnsonville YouTube channel, which has only 4,460 subscribers:

That’s a testament to Johnsonville’s talent for creating engaging content.

Takeaway: Origin stories about your business, product, or employees’ paths offer great fodder for memorable content. Share the twists and turns and unexpected and mundane challenges. Your audience is likely to remember the narrative when they’re searching for vendors or buying products. I know the next time I see Johnsonville brats in the supermarket, I’ll mentally replace the company name with “Schnappsville” and think of the young couple who started it all.

Hard work pays off

Take audiences behind the scenes (and bring employees out from behind the scenes). Doing so results in content that goes beyond the usual business storytelling template.  And that can be the start of a beautiful relationship.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute