How Stories Drive Growth: Skype

By Jennifer Aaker, Debra Schifrin
2014 | Case No. M348A | Length 39 pgs.
Stories play an important role in business. They are a powerful tool for persuasion and useful in the context of understanding customers, building brands, and leading teams. This case explores how stories can drive the growth of a company, focusing on Skype, the voice-over-Internet-protocol (VoIP) service used by 300 million people around the world to make free or cheap video and voice calls. In 2012, Skype needed its customers to transition from using Skype only for important “milestone” life events to using it on regular basis. To advance that goal, Skype created a new marketing strategy, promoting stories about customers using Skype for “everyday moments.” Focusing on stories was a real departure for a company that had relied on its massive amount of data analytics to create strategy and learn about its customers. Skype developed criteria for determining which customer stories would be the most impactful, generated and harnessed those stories, and used the best four stories to launch a successful video marketing campaign in 2013. The company was able to measure the impact of the story-based campaign within the categories of reputation, reach, and engagement. Moving forward, Skype had to determine how to amplify or market the stories in a way that served its business goals. It also had to make hard choices about how much of its resources to devote to storytelling as a marketing tool. Internally, the company was building a storytelling culture, which was driving teams to be more aligned and committed, and bringing employees closer to the storytelling approach on a regular basis. Yet the company had to balance the storytelling culture with showing and presenting business results. Skype’s leadership wanted employees to know when and how to share or listen to stories.

Learning Objective

The learning objectives are for students to:• Gain insight into what makes a good (or bad) story in business. • Better understand how to use stories to gain strategic advantage and further business objectives. • Acquire practical tools to hone and focus stories.
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