When I talk to companies about storytelling, I’ve gotten used to the same response—a skeptical look that says, but our product is too serious for that. Storytelling sounds like it’s for children.
Storytelling doesn’t equate to fairy tales, although fairy tales are tools in the same way that a brand story can be. They use a plot to illustrate and drive home a point (the moral) in a way that will be memorable and build a connection with the listener.
Serious brands from every industry are embracing storytelling to connect with their target audiences, and it isn’t just the creative types that are driving this shift. In a world of abundant choices, what makes us choose one product over another? When quality and price are equal, it more often comes down to an emotional or values-based decision. When it comes to influencing these types of decisions, there are few things more powerful than storytelling.
As humans, our brains are hardwired to respond to storytelling.
What happens when we experience a story?
Stories initiate a process called neural coupling, which helps the listener transform what they’re hearing into their own experience. If the story elicits an emotional response from the audience, the brain will release dopamine and make it easier for the listener to accurately recall the story and surrounding details. A story can engage multiple areas of the brain, leading to greater recollection—in fact, messages delivered through a story format can be 22 times more memorable than facts.
From a brand perspective, stories can do something even greater. When people experience a story, they feel something. That neural coupling process helps them internalize the story and experience their own emotions based on it. That feeling—that emotional reaction—then gets connected to the source of the story (your brand).
Storytelling is a powerful tool to create compelling connections to a brand, and as we all know, with great power comes great responsibility. Telling your brand’s story isn’t as simple as writing up an “About us” page on your website (although that’s important too). It’s about finding the true essence of your brand – who are you as a company? Who is your audience? What do they care about? What do you want them to feel when they interact with your company? These (and more) questions are all integral to defining the foundation of the story you need to tell. That foundation needs to remain consistent even as the plot points of your story vary, essentially telling the same story in different ways.
Consistency is key. Building a lasting connection and an emotional response from your target audience takes time, and the last thing you want to do is confuse your audience by broadcasting incongruous messages.
Check out how these major brands are using storytelling to build real connections with their listeners:
Volvo strikes an emotional cord to drive home the importance of their vehicles’ safety features.
The Unlimited video series uses famous athletes to share their stories, inspiring others and creating memorable connections between athletic success, perseverance, and Nike.
Ok, so LEGO has taken storytelling to a new level. LEGO movies anyone? Their instagram account has also done a wonderful job of sharing their brand story and using storytelling to captivate their diverse target audience.
Airbnb understands that the experiences of the people that use their service are their brand story, and highlight positive, often inspirational guest and host experiences from real people to support their “belong anywhere” story foundation.
Buying a car, buying shoes, buying toys and arranging lodging are all considerably less personal than purchasing food at a surface level. Food is a basic necessity, and it’s intrinsically story-driven, personal, and emotional—making storytelling even more important. Stay tuned for our next blog post, which will focus on storytelling at the heart of food.