A study finds it's more important for digital marketing to tell a great story than deliver a strong sales pitch.

How often do you find yourself straddling the line between selling and marketing your brand? It’s tough to find the right balance with web content, because on one hand, you want to provide the kind of information that interests them and tells a longer story about why your business is the right partner for prospects. Yet you have to answer for your department’s numbers at the end of the quarter, and that might require you to give leads a little bit of a shove toward the end of the funnel with a punchier call to action.

A side-by-side comparison of two Facebook marketing campaigns makes the case that brand storytelling – not selling – provides the real wins.

A study to settle the scores

Facebook Ad studyAdaptly, Refinery 29 and Facebook partnered for a study to see whether Facebook users were more likely to act when they saw:

A) Nothing – a control group was not targeted with any brand content

B) sequence of ads over the course of twelve days that essentially walked people through the sales funnel, first providing content for brand awareness, then showing a message meant to inspire consideration and finally a CTA.

C) A series of three ads for four days each that contained bottom-funnel CTAs (a picture of products with a “Sign Up” button).

Facebook ad study 2

The outcome: Storytelling wins this round

The sequenced ads increased subscriptions 56 percent and got 87 percent more view-throughs (Facebook’s version of a click through). In aggregate, the group that received the brand “story” provided significantly higher conversion rates than the audience with the straight-CTA approach.

Facebook ad study results

Notably, the sales-focused approach generated more sign-ups and view-throughs on the first round of distribution, but fell far behind the sequenced content when users were shown other variations of the ad. Perhaps viewers experienced some sort of fatigue with the ads, and those who were interested clicked or signed up on the first exposure.

Some argue that storytelling always wins

Storytelling is ingrained in culture as a way to spark memories and recall important events. It’s one of the biggest factors in virality because a good story is something viewers will want to know about, talk about and share. This principle works in brands’ favors  – not just in social campaigns, but in every piece of content they publish. When you create messaging that resonates with customers’ values and perspectives, you stay top-of-mind and win customers in the long-term. 

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.