Storytelling Works: How to Capture Hearts by Leading with the Customer

During this summer's Marketing & Mentoring Summit in Dallas Dan Weaver, Sr Director, PR and Communications, UCHealth, and Khemari Cook, Director of Marketing, TaxSlayer LLC led a panel discussion on creating amazing storytelling that really works. They shared valuable real-life experiences that have launched their companies to the forefront of their respective industries via successful campaigns that simply shifted the POV to the consumer.

Storytelling can be one of the most powerful ways to breathe life into a brand and create a tangible connection with an audience. However, companies tend to make the mistake of putting the focus on themselves when building out that narrative, highlighting what makes them better rather than how they make the lives of consumers better. The message is the right one, but the subtleties lie in getting the correct point of view.

Here is how we crafted two different brand narratives while remembering the very people we are serving.

UCHealth Shifts the Focus to Patients

Dan Weaver,
Senior Director of PR
and Communications,

The medical industry has historically featured marketing campaigns with an internal focus generally based on doctors, facilities, rankings and top notch facilities. During a research-driven rebranding project, our team found that we need to focus instead on our customers and patients both to stand out among health care competitors and to deliver on our new brand promise of truly being people-centric.

Thankfully, it hasn’t been difficult to find amazing patient stories. UCHealth’s nurses and doctors have impacted people's lives in unimaginable ways, and many of these patients have been excited to share their experiences. We set out to tell the stories of their extraordinary lives in accurate, emotional and even surprising ways while minimizing traditional health care visuals of doctors and hospitals.

Our brand simply wouldn't exist without our patients, but surprisingly, most brands in our space haven’t been telling these stories.

When UCHealth decided to go after a rebrand that was customer-centric, we enlisted our own, encouraging doctors and nurses to share the remarkable patient journeys they've interacted with.

One such journey was with a teenage cancer patient named Peyton. At first, we had no intention of taking her story public, we simply wanted to create a great experience for her. We found out that she was a huge fan of the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning and arranged to have him call her on the phone while she was admitted at one of our hospitals. Once Peyton got better, she and her family wanted to share her brave story to help inspire others. Local and national news outlets quickly picked up on our pitches. The story of Peyton and her mom then became one of UCHealth’s two brand campaign: 90 spots, helping communicate UCHealth’s focus on patients.

Local and national audiences connected with the story because it was emotional, surprising, and didn’t use actors. Peyton and her mom were simply themselves in a way that touched people’s hearts. Our other spot shared the story of a transplant patient. Our approach was to show that these individuals are far more important than the brand itself. Focusing on patients and minimizing UCHealth – that’s at the very heart of UCHealth’s new brand and what we stand for.

To bring together other similar stories for the rebrand, the UCHealth marketing and communications team gathered over a dozen outstanding patient stories and, with the patients’ permission:

·         Leveraged local and regional market reach with individual patient stories in print and OOH.

·         Pitched patient stories to local and national outlets as earned media stories.

·         Involved the patients’ doctors and nurses to give interviews and first-hand accounts to news outlets

The result has been nothing short of amazing, allowing us to continue building a dialogue with the people that we are serving.

TaxSlayer Aces the Customer Story

Khemari Cook,
Director of Marketing,
TaxSlayer, LLC

Similar to UCHealth, the marketing team at TaxSlayer also realized that its niche was flooded with similar marketing messages. The category had “huge monsters” shouting the same idea at the same time, through every channel - we needed to stand out.

Our main challenge was figuring out how to breaking through the clutter with a differentiated voice. When digging for ways to approach this obstacle, we realized that people saw taxes as something that was impeding their lives. Time spent doing taxes is time that is being taken away from them - precious moments that they’d rather be spending with family & friends.

To solve this problem, we started a campaign called ‘Not A Second to Waste’ showing important life moments that people should be spending their time on rather than taxes. Something out of the box and different like this was a risky move because we are in a seasonal business and have a small window to make an impact, but it paid off.

Our simple shift in the narrative created out a different message that actually resonated with consumers. It was one they have been wanting to hear because it was finally about them. We decided to take the emphasis away from tax data and put it instead on life events.  To make it work, our marketing team found data and real consumer stories to share. Using actors to tell these stories, we proved that to be authentic you don’t necessarily have to film audience members.

Internally, we also had to "rebrand" and become customer-obsessed. We embraced ‘curb appeal’- where everyone in the company was inspired to make an impact in each individual consumer’s life. That could be through outstanding product offerings, reliability, software that always works or attentive customer service representatives.

We managed to change the dialogue in a niche that is very competitive and often considered boring, demonstrating that even the most technical of offerings come down to people. The next step is moving deeper into the customer’s story, and we want to do this by:

  • Telling stories via data-based, customer-oriented videos, showcasing the confidence and impact that well-done taxes can have for the average American.

  • Creating landing pages to support the videos and their unique stories.

  • Continuing to encourage our customer-centric shift and rebrand.

  • Building impact-driven customer service questions and processes.

Good storytelling hasn’t changed. Emotional triggers, empathy, authenticity and personal benefit are still the building blocks and triggers of the story. Consumers, similarly, haven't changed in their need to seek personal connections that are real to them, leaving brands with the opportunity to craft stories that bring together brand and customer via solutions that impact their lives far beyond a transaction.