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Why our brains love stories and why storytelling is so important in marketing
“We tell our friends stories at work, over dinner and drinks and, later, maybe we relay those stories again to new audiences. Humans live in stories every day and dream in stories all night long. We are all storytellers and story listeners.”
Once upon a very, very long time ago, companies would release products with a tried and tested formula: deliver a bombardment of attention-grabbing advertisements across print, radio and TV. At campaigns end, tally up eyeballs and ears plus the all-important sales figure and you have your success or failure figure.
But times have changed
Today businesses are competing in crowded digital spaces as they face dwindling audience attention spans, an extensive amount of information available online and people's newfound willingness to undertake their own research before committing to picking up the phone or whipping out a credit card. Throw into this mix the proliferation of social media channels that rise and fall faster than one of my home cooked souffles and you can begin to see the challenges faced in today's complex marketing world. Being heard and commanding attention as you jostle about with the competition can be a mighty challenge. So, what can brands do to rise above the noise?
Stories are all around us
Most of us would fondly remember story time as a small child, or perhaps we now share stories with our own children and watch as they take delight in the twists and turns of their favourite picture book. We tell our friends stories at work, over dinner and drinks and, later, maybe we relay those stories again to new audiences. Humans live in stories every day and dream in stories all night long. We are all storytellers and story listeners.
Storytelling allows us to understand and connect with the world around us and helps us feel like we are a part of something. It is an important, memorable and valuable social tool.
In fact, studies show that we are wired to remember stories much more than data, facts, and figures.
- Stories stimulate the brain and even change how we act in life. Source
- Storytelling releases the chemical dopamine in the brain that helps with memory and accuracy. Source
- 92% of consumers would prefer media messages to sound like a story. Source
Stories are powerful
Just as visually arresting design makes for more memorable messaging, a well told story stirs the imagination and, when done well, leaves an indelible mark on your audience.
To me, the power of a good story cannot be ignored and is central to a well-planned and executed content marketing strategy. By incorporating stories in your messaging you will build stronger relationships with your customers, create a thriving community of loyalists over time and attract new audiences along the way.
An essential tool for brands playing in the competitive attention economy, storytelling caters to the wandering mind. By offering stories brands can cut through the distraction with narratives that draw in your audience. In fact, many brands have really started to master the art of storytelling on digital platforms and are experiencing impressive results for their efforts.
There's absolutely nothing new about storytelling: It's been around since mankind first started communicating. So, while technologies will continue to evolve at a rapid rate, great storytelling will always allow you to capture an audience and this is a fact that is unlikely to ever change.
Storytelling in the Digital Age : Some Noteworthy Examples
OPSM | Penny the Pirate
Penny the Pirate recently hit the market and it's a truly literal example of brand storytelling. Combining the story of a young girl's quest to become captain of a ship with clinical eye tests, this smart idea ticks many boxes. During the story, parent can record their child's eye screen results, then feed the results online to determine if they require a eye consultation.
Available in a hard cover book and as a free app download, this campaign is receiving global attention and pulling in the awards.
Taubmans | Colour My Story
Taubman's "Colour my story" invites consumers to tell their colour story. The goal was to engage and encourage consumers to be truly inspired by colour and share their favourite photos to receive a personalised colour swatch matching their image. Rather then the brand tell their story, Taubman's created the platform and let consumers show how colour inspires their paint choices.
Ikea | Beds
As the third in Ikea's The Wonderful Everyday series this video tells the story of a woman's dream as she moves from one uncomfortable bed to another. Eventually she finds the perfect bed. Her bed - the one that she wakes up in at home each morning.
Visually arresting and beautifully told, this story definitely elicits an emotional response.
Metro Trains | Dumb Ways to Die
The offbeat humour, catchy tune and cute little animated characters came together in perfect harmony for this compellingly titled video, Dumb Ways to Die.
86 million video view and counting, the message that getting hit by a train is a dumb way to die reached out to millions and became the most awarded campaign in the history of Cannes. Enough said. This is modern story telling at it's very finest.