Healthy believers: Stories that sell

Storytelling is an effective way to reach healthy believers – consumers with a strong belief about food’s importance to health – and motivate them to choose your product. But how do you tell a story? We have found out.

5 March 2020 •

This is the sec­ond and final part in a series of arti­cles on healthy believ­ers – Consumers with strong con­vic­tions about what is the right healthy food. In the first arti­cle, we saw that this cus­tomer seg­ment con­sists of self-real­iza­tion, eth­i­cal, sci­en­tif­ic and tra­di­tion­al con­sumers. Four sub-seg­ments with dia­met­ri­cal­ly dif­fer­ent notions of what is healthy food and drink. In this arti­cle, we will explore how you can use sto­ry­telling to reach them and moti­vate them to choose your products.


In mar­ket­ing, sto­ry­telling means that you – exact­ly! – tells a sto­ry. You bor­row meth­ods from the art of sto­ry­telling and apply it to mar­ket­ing communication.

Storytelling is often used to tell the sto­ry of a brand and its lega­cy; what it stands for, and maybe what it doesn’t stand for.

But sto­ry­telling can also be used for oth­er pur­pos­es. For exam­ple, to express the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a prod­uct, or to express the consumer’s expe­ri­ence of using the product.

Storytelling can also be used to engage poten­tial buy­ers by high­light­ing an impor­tant topic.

The point of the sto­ries is that they should get poten­tial con­sumers to expe­ri­ence that the brand stands for the same things as yourself.

Crash course in storytelling

Three things are fun­da­men­tal in sto­ry­telling: sub­ject, con­flict and plot.

A Subject is some­one or some­thing that engage the spec­ta­tor. It is often the main char­ac­ter that dri­ves the sto­ry for­ward. It can be a human, a dog, a flower, or just about any­thing, as long as it trig­gers the recipient’s empathy.

The term Conflict sounds more dra­mat­ic than it needs to be. It can be a chal­lenge, a prob­lem, a bar­ri­er or some­thing that pre­vents the sub­ject from reach­ing the ‘next level’.

The Plot is a result of events that the sub­ject expe­ri­ences in his quest to resolve the con­flict. It is the very act of the sto­ry. Roughly, it always fol­lows the same pat­tern. The sto­ry begins with the sub­ject being intro­duced togeth­er with oth­er things nec­es­sary to under­stand the sto­ry. Then the con­flict is intro­duced, which grad­u­al­ly increas­es until a cli­max, after which things start to set­tle. When the con­flict is resolved, the sub­ject reach­es the ‘next lev­el’ and the sto­ry ends.

Storytelling is a pow­er­ful method. That has been shown by research in psy­chol­o­gy and is sup­port­ed by research in neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy.

YouTube video

Examples of storytelling

Uber Eats offers a touch­ing exam­ple of sto­ry­telling. In a short film of cin­e­mat­ic qual­i­ty, they tell the sto­ry of a food deliv­ery boy on a scoot­er being late an evening when the rain is pour­ing all over him. When he final­ly reach­es his des­ti­na­tion he rings on the door to deliv­er the food. You can’t guess what hap­pens then…

YouTube video

Another exam­ple worth men­tion­ing is the Scarecrow from 2013, by the American fast-food chain Chipotle. It is about a scare­crow who leaves his farm to start work­ing in a dystopi­an food fac­to­ry. Outraged by what he sees in the fac­to­ry, he returns home to the farm, inspired to sell bur­ri­tos with a sign with the prompt ‘Grow a bet­ter world’.

YouTube video

The Scarecrow is almost a mas­ter­piece. But some­times it’s not enough. The brand must also live up to its promis­es. Chipotle has expe­ri­enced this the hard way; they have strug­gled after sev­er­al out­breaks of E. coli bac­te­ria and sal­mo­nel­la due to poor food management.


Uber Eats and Chipotle’s films are very ambi­tious. But sto­ry­telling can also be quite simple.

Take advan­tage of all the mini-sto­ries that you and your col­leagues share with each oth­er in the cof­fee room, at the lunch break, over a beer dur­ing after work or at the cor­po­rate party.

Communication con­sul­tant Per Torberger calls these frag­ments snip­pets in an episode of Kntnt radio. He encour­ages lis­ten­ers of the pod­cast episode to gath­er snip­pets and then use them to cre­ate stories.

The snip­pet can be details, state­ments, events, meet­ings – yes, real­ly any­thing. Think about all the things that are con­stant­ly hap­pen­ing in your busi­ness. Colleagues talk to each oth­er, sales­peo­ple go to cus­tomer meet­ings, prod­uct devel­op­ers get inspired at a con­fer­ence, ideas are born and some become real­i­ty while oth­ers nev­er leave the draw­ing board.

Let’s look at an example.

Reality television

In the mid­dle of nowhere, in the south­ern Swedish coun­try­side, there is a vil­lage with a few hun­dred inhab­i­tants. The only attrac­tion is the church in the mid­dle of the vil­lage. Established in 1829 on the wall of a church from the 13th century.

But the vil­lage is not famous for its church.

Next door to the church is a dis­count depart­ment store that attracts up to 30,000 vis­i­tors each day. With such an influx of peo­ple, whose only goal is to buy a lot and cheap, amus­ing sit­u­a­tions quick­ly arise – per­fect snip­pets for sto­ry­telling. The pop­u­lar depart­ment store has found a mar­ket­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty of a life­time, and togeth­er with a Swedish TV chan­nel, they make a real­i­ty series with the same name as the small munic­i­pal­i­ty: Ullared.

For more than ten years, the real­i­ty series has rolled on Swedish tele­vi­sion. In the TV series, we get an insight into every­thing that goes on – in and around the depart­ment store. The employ­ees’ tasks, pri­vate lives and every­day chal­lenges, the camp­ing vis­i­tors and their shop­ping, the CEO Boris who stands on top of the roof every morn­ing look­ing out over the ever­last­ing queue min­utes before open­ing, and much more.

It is a myr­i­ad of snip­pets that togeth­er nar­rate the over­all sto­ry of the pop­u­lar dis­count depart­ment store that almost all Swedes and many from neigh­bour­ing coun­tries have a rela­tion­ship with.

Storytelling for healthy believers

Storytelling is an effec­tive way to reach con­sumers and cre­ate an under­stand­ing of what a brand stands for. It can deter­mine con­sumers’ choic­es. This is espe­cial­ly true when con­sumers are dri­ven by a strong con­vic­tion. They choose brands that are con­sis­tent with their per­cep­tion. Therefore, sto­ry­telling is espe­cial­ly good for food com­pa­nies who want to moti­vate healthy believ­ers to choose their par­tic­u­lar products.

But it is not pos­si­ble to appeal to all healthy believ­ers with the same sto­ries. There are far too large dif­fer­ences between the dif­fer­ent sub-segments.

To suc­cess­ful­ly mar­ket a brand with the help of sto­ry­telling to healthy believ­ers, the sto­ries need to match their con­vic­tion. It must not sound false. Let’s look at what it real­ly means.

Corona typewriter on a table-unsplash

Storytelling for self-realization consumers

Storytelling for self-real­iza­tion con­sumers builds on the sub­jec­tive expe­ri­ence. Therefore, it is close at hand to tell a sto­ry that starts from a cer­tain person‘s point of view, and his or her expe­ri­ences and world­view. The tonal­i­ty should encour­age enjoy­ment. In order to cre­ate con­fi­dence in this seg­ment, one must, there­fore, com­mu­ni­cate a holis­tic mes­sage of well-being and health. It is as much body as soul. Therefore, do not for­get the spir­i­tu­al dimen­sion of the story.

Stories for self-realization consumers

  • Confirm that self-real­iza­tion can con­tribute to high­er purposes
  • Affirm the pro­duc­tive aspects of the good of life
  • Don’t ques­tion what the con­sumer holds true; treat it as fact
  • Don’t ignore people’s sto­ries about themselves

Storytelling for ethical consumers

Brands that appeal to eth­i­cal con­sumers under­stand that per­son­al choice has a polit­i­cal dimen­sion. To appeal to eth­i­cal con­sumers, one should take a stand – as long as one takes the ‘right’ posi­tion – if one wants to get close to this group. Companies doing so know that they will not appeal to every­one, but the prof­it can be a loy­al cus­tomer base that will hap­pi­ly defend the brand’s state­ments and opinions.

This opens up sev­er­al pos­si­ble sto­ry­telling options. If you have a lot of snip­pets in the orga­ni­za­tion that show­cas­es sus­tain­abil­i­ty, ethics and respon­si­bil­i­ty, you can right­ful­ly choose to tell a sto­ry from the company’s perspective.

But it is also con­ceiv­able to choose the oth­er option; telling the sto­ry about a sub­ject fac­ing a prob­lem to be solved, or a chal­lenge. For exam­ple, relat­ed to issues such as envi­ron­ment, injus­tice, ani­mal care, or anoth­er rel­e­vant issue that engages.

Storytelling for the eth­i­cal con­sumer is large­ly about being here and now. What are the red hot issues right now? Where do we stand? Are we able to take action? These are ques­tions that should be asked all the time.

Stories for ethical consumers

  • Be trans­par­ent
  • Take a stand
  • Don’t ignore the future of the world
  • Don’t hide the polit­i­cal aspect of food

Storytelling for scientific consumers

Brands that appeal to the sci­en­tif­ic con­sumer must have good anchor­age aca­d­e­mics and research. The tonal­i­ty should feel sharp and cut­ting edge. If the prod­uct is an advanced sports drink for long-dis­tance run­ning, the brand should make the con­sumer feel sophis­ti­cat­ed and professional.

It is impor­tant to con­stant­ly remind the con­sumer about the product’s prop­er­ties and attrib­ut­es in a clear and con­crete way. If you drink this you will be the best, fastest, most durable, main­tain a con­sis­tent ener­gy lev­el, and so on.

In order to appeal to this seg­ment with the help of sto­ry­telling, it is in order to be con­crete and evi­dent. One way is to use snip­pets that high­light pro­fi­cient peo­ple and experts. Then build a sto­ry based on their knowl­edge, opin­ions and experience.

Stories for scientific consumers

  • Introduce experts whom con­sumers have con­fi­dence in
  • Emphasize the impor­tance of achievement
  • Don’t over-sim­pli­fy; con­sumers do their own investigations
  • Don’t under­es­ti­mate the rit­u­al aspects of discipline

Storytelling for Traditional Consumers

Brands that appeal to the tra­di­tion­al con­sumer are not afraid to open the gates and show­case the work envi­ron­ment, pro­duc­tion process­es and ani­mal man­age­ment. It’s actu­al­ly a must.

The tra­di­tion­al con­sumer is not inter­est­ed in hear­ing about prod­ucts with ‘new for­mu­la’, ‘new flavours’ or sim­i­lar. Simplicity is the keyword.

They are also sen­si­tive to mes­sages and sto­ries that do not feel sin­cere. It must be authen­tic. Tell a sto­ry and tell it flat out, but stick to the truth. Remember to empha­size the local, fam­i­ly and her­itage that you now are in hold of. The tra­di­tion­al con­sumer is not par­tic­u­lar­ly will­ing to buy glob­al and large-scale prod­ucts, but is will­ing to com­pro­mise if food and drink orig­i­nate from a par­tic­u­lar coun­try or region; olive oil may be from Italy and mus­tard from France. Again – tra­di­tion and authenticity.

To appeal to this seg­ment with the help of sto­ry­telling it is close at hand to make full use of snip­pets. If the com­pa­ny or prod­uct has a gen­uine and excit­ing his­to­ry, it can be uti­lized to the full by gath­er­ing sto­ries and anec­dotes from the company’s history.

The risk, how­ev­er, is that it can be per­ceived as unimag­i­na­tive and pre­dictable. It is a rel­a­tive­ly com­mon way of sto­ry­telling in order to express tra­di­tion, secu­ri­ty and authen­tic­i­ty. It is there­fore per­haps more excit­ing to tell a sto­ry about a sub­ject that is fac­ing a challenge.

Stories of traditional consumers

  • Anchor inno­va­tions in traditions
  • Tell sto­ries that are easy to con­nect with
  • Don’t hide your every­day activ­i­ties; Instead, show it to the audience.
  • Don’t ignore cul­tur­al and his­tor­i­cal context.

Read more

In two arti­cles, we have explored four types of healthy believ­ers and looked at how food com­pa­nies can use sto­ry­telling for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es and attract­ing new cus­tomers. The main source of the arti­cles is the Global Gamechangers 2020 report from the Healthy Marketing Team.

If you want to know more about sto­ry­telling, healthy believ­ers, gen­er­a­tion Z (which we have writ­ten about in anoth­er arti­cle) and oth­er things food pro­duc­ers should keep track of 2020, you should order your copy of the report. If you use this link, you will receive a 20 per cent dis­count. You also get last year’s report for free.

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