What is Storyteller Marketing?

People would rather be told a story than be told what to do.

When was the last time you remember seeing an ad that told you to “Call Now” or “Click Here” and you called then or clicked there? 1995? Never?

Okay, so when was the last time you remember hearing a story and thought “Wow. That just changed my life.” Did you then go on to change your life, or at least view things differently? Whether or not you realize it, chances are you did. Which means chances are you’ve felt the impact of storyteller marketing.

“Marketing is storytelling.” – Seth Godin, author of All Marketers are Liars (2005)

Organizations from every industry in the world have used storyteller marketing at various points in time to frame their purpose, scope, and reach. It just so happens that more industries than usual are using it today, from automotive, to education, to online media, to manufacturing.



Why? Much of it has to do with the social revolution that content marketing brought on. But if you really want to know why storyteller marketing is so vital today, you must first read a story.


On January 3rd, 1996—over a year after the Internet was privatized—Bill Gates published a column on Microsoft’s website, decreeing “Content is King.” In what would only take a few short scrolls, Gates declared (in “Hear ye, Hear ye” fashion) that the Internet would become a boon to publishers everywhere, predicting that on the information superhighway, the value of “information and entertainment” would reign supreme, and that “Those who succeed [at monetizing its value] will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products—a marketplace of content.”

What happened over the next 20 years bore out his prophecy. Where initially the private Internet served as a two-dimensional billboard for advertisements that were based predominantly in brick-and-mortar businesses, it would become a multi-dimensional space for the exchange of goods, services, and ideas: an online marketplace based on the concept of creating a global village where any transaction could take place.


“Thanks to neuroscience, we’ve learned [that] no rhetorical tool is more effective than the story. We know why stories work, how they work on the brain, and, best of all, we know the formula.” – Carmine Gallo, author of The Storyteller’s Secret: How the World’s Most Inspiring Leaders Turn their Passion into Performance (2016)

Circa the year 2000, banner advertising gave way to paid content, while new and complex software became a hot commodity. Online businesses started to need people who could explain the purpose of their product, software, or service to those who weren’t tech-savvy. That is, they started needing people to tell their stories. And they started needing a new medium with which to do it.

What they got initially was news coverage, like this CBS story from 2005 on a little startup called Facebook. Along with Google, Facebook would climb its way to the top of the list of the largest Internet companies and become the medium that online brands would need to spread their story.

What online businesses got next were full-time, in-house brand managers to explain the value of their company: Chief Storytellers, Explainers in Chief, Content Managers, and all other manner of creative role titles in between that refer to someone who tells a company story. It would be the job of these professional explainers to condense and simplify a company’s message into a few short sentences that were so easy to understand that even a five year old could watch, read, listen, and say “I get it.” Or maybe even “I want it.”


“The content marketing revolution signals more than a mere marketing fad. It marks an important new chapter in the history of business communications: the era of corporate enlightenment.” – Alexander Jutkowitz, author of The Content Marketing Revolution at Harvard Business Review

By 2010, an industry had grown up around feeding the demand for creating and telling a brand’s story. By 2013, even small startups were grooming themselves to join the ranks of new media publishing companies that were paricipating in a social revolution, a marketing movement in which storytellers have come to play the most integral role: to tell an informative story with every word, image, and video on this side of the screen.

And so it came to pass that the art of telling a brand story—and of doing it in a way that places a company firmly within the context of broader social, political, and ethical movements—became not only popular, but essential to surviving as a predominantly online businesses in the twenty-first century.

The rest, they say, is history, waiting to be written.

How will you be part of the storyteller marketing revolution? Tell us at j.r.jacksonian@gmail.com