Design thinking

Storytelling vs Storydoing: Customer Experience Is the Differentiator that Matters

Eline Ermens & Anna Hellmer

In today’s society, using storytelling to create brand loyalty simply isn’t enough. Here we explore how storydoing can help companies build brand loyalty by creating engaging experiences.

Imagine that you have two friends.

One tries very hard to be cool – he has a flashy car, keeps the lawn neat and brags about listening to the latest music. But you know that this “coolness” is mostly talk. He seldom initiates anything himself, but simply parrots what’s popular at the moment.

Your other friend is humble but admirable. She records her own music, stands up for what she believes in and has opinions. She’s the type of friend you go on adventures with. You create things together. She boosts your confidence not by pressing you into a mold but by enforcing your values and activating you.

Which friend would you prefer to spend time with?
Which friend do you trust?
What if these friends happened to be two competing brands?

Many brands that try to differentiate themselves through storytelling still find it difficult to reach their customers across a multitude of available channels. Simply talking to customers through investment in advertising, content and media isn’t enough to build a true relationship. Although a story that’s written or told can be important and compelling, the real value for customers lies in the total experience they have with your brand. Relationships aren’t built on shallow talk; they’re built through shared values and experiences.



So the idea of storydoing – creating an experience that engenders brand loyalty, something that your customers feel a part of – is the only differentiator that matters.

Actions speak louder than words

We can all write blog posts and tweets about the revolutionary things our brand can do or has done in the past, but until our customers see it, feel it and become a part of it, they won’t fully buy in. The written word certainly has value, but taking a single step doesn’t get you to your destination. You have to follow up by doing what you say you can do.

Red Bull is the perfect example of a company that embraces storydoing. The brand’s tagline is “Red Bull gives you wings,” and rather than creating TV commercials and blog posts about the benefits of the energy drink, they invest significant time and energy into creating experiences consumers can engage with on a deeper level. From bike races to airplane acrobatics, Red Bull creates enormous engagements that monetize their marketing efforts

Co-creation Both Internally and Externally

An integral part of storydoing is creating an ecosystem where everyone within your organization is engaged. When employees are engaged and passionate about their work, your customers will have a great experience, which in turn drives business. By making employees feel like they’re a driving force behind your company’s mission, you’ll provide customers with something uniquely valuable. Ultimately, engagement shifts up the value chain. Employees join a mission with purpose and customers feel a sense of belonging as together they co-create value with the brand.

Just look at Airbnb, a company that’s taken some of its most popular rental listings and modeled all the meeting spaces in its offices to look exactly like those homes. Airbnb demonstrates that it values both customers and employees by paying homage to the former while allowing the latter to enjoy the company’s main value proposition every single day they come to work.

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Technology evolves. How we use technology changes along with it, sometimes very rapidly. But our personalities remain largely consistent over time. We still want the same things: the same comforts and adventures, the same conveniences in life. Only our behaviors change according to the technology that’s available and relevant at any given moment.

Consequently, while your technology, product or service may evolve, the concept of storydoing and creating experiences that consumers can take part in will always be integral to creating brand loyalty and long-term engagement, regardless of your industry. People forget campaigns and short-term activations after a while. But by building on customers’ core purpose and values, brands can grow together with them to create long-term relationships that benefit both.


1. Invest in customer experience as much as you invest in what you’re selling.

2. Empower your employees and co-create with customers – their awesome experiences fuel more growth and value than money spent on advertising or marketing to new prospects.

3. 10-10-10 Rule: Create value both in the short- and long-term. How does your experience deliver in the first 10 minutes, 10 days, 10 months from now?

4. The point of doing anything is to do it together. Create a domino effect that really delivers on your mission. What will set you apart is the ultimate experience of your individual customers.