Science of Storytelling

Why and how to use it in your marketing

Psychology today highlights the influential role of emotion in consumer behaviour in four points and makes a compelling case for storytelling:

· Functional MRI neuro-imagery shows that, when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions (personal feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).
· Advertising research reveals emotional response to an ad has far greater influence on a consumer’s reported intent to buy a product than does the ad’s content—by a factor of 3-to- 1 for television commercials and 2-to-1 for print ads.
· Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that the emotion of “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an advertisement will increase a brand’s sales.
· Studies show positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgments, which are based on a brand’s attributes.

“Research shows our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories”
“A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.”

That action is exactly what marketers work so hard to achieve. If you struggle to write narrative content, these six tips will help you incorporate sophisticated storytelling into your digital marketing efforts:


Develop a true understanding of your target audience.

This goes deeper than a one-page “buyer persona”. You must speak to your customers and ask why they bought from you. What drove them to start searching for a solution? How did they find your brand? What questions did they ask your sales team? Once you understand their answers, you will be able to create material that truly speaks to your audience.


Identify emotional drivers

Through your conversations, identify emotional drivers your buyers experience. This emotional analysis will help determine what your customers truly care about and how to tap into that passion.


Prioritise authenticity

Prioritise authenticity as much as possible. Highlight stories from employees, customers and other industry folk. Don’t shy away from using details like names, settings and positive outcomes. The more relatable your story is, the more your audience will respond.


Use the strengths of your channel

Whether you are using Facebook, a blog, Twitter, direct mail or even a billboard, use the strengths of your channel to tell your story appropriately. From two words to 140 characters, create a story that’s shareable across your channel of choice.


Give your stories credibility.

“No one says facts and figures should be completely eliminated from your storytelling,” Aaker says. “When data and story are used together, audiences are moved both emotionally and intellectually.”


Encourage user-generated content

Share different perspectives of your overarching story. Try hosting a contest, managing a hashtag or interviewing industry leaders to create third-party content with storytelling flair.

If, as marketers, we continue to use neutral words and phrases that lack narrative, the minds of our buyers will continue to simply process and forget them. Stories stimulate the mind; it is now in our job descriptions to send consumers on journeys that lead them to solutions that solve their problems and, hopefully, boost our bottom lines.

Transmedia Storytelling Model


How Narrative Cuts Through Distraction Like Nothing Else

Humans live in a storm of stories. We live in stories all day long, and dream in stories all night long. We communicate through stories and learn from them. 

We collapse gratefully into stories after a long day at work. Without personal life stories to organize our experience, our own lives would lack coherence and
meaning. Homo sapiens (wise man) is a pretty
good definition for our species.
But Homo fictus (fiction man) would be about as accurate. When it comes to marketing, a company like Coca-Cola gets this. They know that, deep down, they are much more a story factory than a beverage factory. No matter what they’d like us to believe, Coke’s success isn’t due to some magic in their fizzy syrup water. Coke excels because they’ve been clobbering the opposition in the story wars for more than a century. People want to see themselves in the stories Coke tells. Coke understands that their customer is a member of the species Homo fictus, and that they will succeed or fail based largely on the power of their storytelling.
"The challenge is clear by now, Intrusive, interruptive,
self-centered marketing no longer works the
way it once did, and its effectiveness will only continue to diminish in the social age. The question is what will replace the legacy model. There’s a one-word answer: stories." Story is the answer for two reasons, both of them backed by compelling science. First, because people are naturally greedy for stories, they have a unique ability to seize and rivet our attention. Second, stories aren’t just fun escapism—they have an almost spooky ability to mold our thinking and behavior. The science behind the attention - seizing power of stories, leaving their molding power for a follow-up post. Brands play in an intensely competitive attention economy.

"The challenge is clear by
now, Intrusive, interruptive,

The problem isn’t just that attention is a woefully scarce resource relative to demand, it’s that it’s also shattered and scattered around. We can’t blame our smart phones or other modern technologies for our short attention spans. The human mind is a wanderer by nature.

“People do not buy goods & services. People buy relations, stories & magic"

The daydream is the mind’s default state. Whenever the mind doesn’t have something really important to do, it gets bored and wanders off into la-la land. Studies show that we spend about half of our waking hours—1/3 of our lives on earth— spinning fantasies. We have about two- thousand of these a day (!), with an average duration of fourteen seconds. In other words, our minds are simply flitting all over the place all the time.
So this is the most fundamental challenge we face in the attention economy: how do we pin down the wandering mind? How do we override the natural tendency for a mind to skip away from whatever we are showing it? By telling stories. In normal life, we spin about one-hundred daydreams per waking hour. But when absorbed in a good story—when we watch a show like Breaking Bad or read a novel like The Hunger Games—we experience approximately zero daydreams per hour.
Our hyper minds go still and they pay close attention, often for hours on end. This is really very impressive. What it means is that story acts like a drug that reliably lulls us into an altered state of consciousness.
To illustrate why, let’s run a thought experiment. Imagine you are living in Paris in 1896, and you’ve been invited to see something that you’ve heard about but never seen. You walk out of the bright hot streets into a cool, dark theater, and there’s a white screen that opens up in a dazzling explosion of light—like a window thrown open on an alternative universe. You are watching one of the first films screenings in the world.
And what you see through the magic window is terrifying. The film is by the Lumiere brothers and it is called The Arrival of a Train. Go ahead, watch it now —but brace yourself! Arguably, this is history’s first horror film.

While the brain watches a story, you’ll find something interesting —the brain doesn’t look like a spectator, it looks more like a participant in the action.

Don’t bother watching the whole thing. Nothing
happens. A train arrives at a station and people mill
around. Were you terrified? Well, according to film lore, the first audience for this film was so terrified that they shot out of their seats and stampeded for the exit. They did not want to get run over by that train. Film historians believe this story of chaos in a Parisian theater is probably exaggerated. But whether true or not, the story communicates the same idea. 
"We" know the story is fake, but that doesn’t stop the unconscious parts of the brain from processing it like real. That’s why the audience for a horror film cringes in their chairs, screams for help, and balls up to protect their vital organs. That’s why our hearts race when the hero of a story is cornered—why we weep over the fate of a pretend pet like Old Yeller. Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them.
But this all leads to a bigger question. Most of us think of stories as a way to pleasantly while away our leisure time. Is there any evidence that story is actually effective in influencing us —in modifying our thinking and behavior? Yes. Lots. 

The four essential keys of brand storytelling


Find Your Brand’s Story Elements

Whether it’s a stray bit of gossip, every story contains a few indispensable elements. To effectively convey meaning, a story must possess an alliterative trio of aspects.

· Character: In the case of corporate storytelling, the protagonist will likely be the consumer, who navigates some crucial desire or challenge with your help. Your brand can be a trusted sidekick, but don’t try to hog the spotlight.

· Conflict: Intrigue requires tension, and any good story will include opposing forces. What obstacles do you help your customers conquer? How does your brand support consumers in the pursuit of their aspirations?

· Conclusion: The best endings demonstrate change. How has victory in conflict altered your consumer’s circumstances for the better? How has your brand changed the consumer’s perspective about what’s possible along the way?


Build Your Brand’s Storytelling Arc

Just as all good stories possess a few essential features, they also progress along a recognizable trajectory. After all, a compelling story describes something happening, not a static set of facts.
This narrative movement is what storytellers call an arc or the advancement of a story’s stages. While literary story arcs vary significantly – running the gamut from comedy to tragedy – effective brand narratives tend to adhere to a tight sequence.

· The Objective: What goal does your brand aim to accomplish on behalf of customers?

· The Problem: What stands in the way of making that purpose a reality? Which obstacle represents your greatest challenge?

· What: What key insight or conviction defines your brand’s approach to that problem?

· So What: What does your brand’s insight or conviction mean for the wider world?

· Now What: Given your brand’s mission and its importance, what are you doing to make change happen?


Kick-Start Your Storytelling With Headlines

Once you define your story’s essential elements and arc, you’re likely eager to communicate these principles to current and would-be customers.
However, even the best ideas can seem like duds when communicated poorly. Conversely, we’ve all experienced what great storytellers can do with
otherwise banal material – even when they describe an ordinary occurrence, we hang on to their every word.
One hallmark of talented communicators is their ability to package essential ideas in simple and alluring terms. We refer to these commanding statements as headlines, both literally in written communication and figuratively in spoken storytelling.
When greeted with a clear and intriguing headline, your audience won’t struggle to find the right point of entry for your story. Rather, they’ll be immersed in your narrative instantly.
When writing headlines for your brand’s story, ask yourself these questions:

· Does your sentence work out of context? If a stranger stumbled across your headline unprepared, would it make enough sense to keep them reading?

· Does it make you want to learn more? Is your headline clear enough to pull your audience in, while also indicating there’s more interesting information to come?

· How easy is it to understand? Is your message hampered by jargon or ambiguous terms that will alienate your audience?

·Are all the words necessary? Is your headline bogged down in language you could really do without?


Make Your Brand’s Story Seen

No marketer is unfamiliar with the power of images in principle: Any presentation or advertisement that relies on solid blocks of text alone is unlikely to impress. But the power of graphical content in storytelling hinges on function, not beautification for its own sake.

Just as the story serves to organize data in digestible and memorable forms, images can represent facts in holistic harmony. For instance, recall the last
few slide presentations you witnessed: Are you more likely to remember isolated figures exactly or the general slope of a graph?
This thought experiment demonstrates that images can be an especially effective means to present relationships between data.

By leveraging each visual presentation when appropriate, you can convey a complex array of data economically. But remember that in graphical content, simplicity rules supreme. As with your headlines, consider how your graphs can be stripped of peripheral elements that could obscure the true story you’re trying to tell. 

{ Brand is the most powerful yet least understood business strategy }

Disrupt. Grow. Change. Repeat.