Everyone loves a good story. Today, marketers are focusing on stories to reach the masses. While good marketing incorporates storytelling into their marketing plan, great marketing is when customers tell the story for you.
Marketers target specific audiences and selling an item in the form of a narrative is an effective marketing tool. Marketing researcher Jennifer Edson Escalas found in 2007 that test audiences responded more positively to ads that showcased a product in a narrative than one that argued against another product. Escalas’ study supports the notion that people more easily accept ideas when presented as a story. Thus, narratives drive sales.
A brand can become more durable and long-lasting if it approaches consumers through storytelling. In an experiment done by Air Miles Reward Program in Canada, researchers asked a group of rewards members to tell the stories of their experiences with Air Miles Reward Program and how it felt to be rewarded. Researchers found that it’s not the reward itself, but what people did with their rewards, that was most meaningful. Consumers can view an advertisement for a swing set with smiling children. The children in the advertisement are happy and, for any parent, they want the same for their children. The happiness brought on by the purchase is why the consumer will buy.
People become more engaged when they are being told a story. Why? When simply listening to a presentation, the language processing areas of the brain, Broca’s and Wernicke’s, are activated. These are both located in the left hemisphere of the brain, with Broca’s area is responsible for language production and Wernicke’s area is responsible for language processing. These same parts are activated when we hear a story but any other part of the brain we would use when experiencing something is made active as well. For example, if a friend tells us about a great cup of hot cocoa, your sensory cortex will light up. Uri Hasson of Princeton University stated, “By simply telling a story, the [speaker] could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”
With the same parts of the brain active, it is possible to synchronize them or to at least feel the same sentiments as the storyteller. Every human brain is wired to work in this way. Over time, we have evolved as a species to think in a narrative form. Our brains make connections between the cause and effect, which is a broken down and simplified version of a story.
When we tell stories, listeners also become engaged through psychological realism “recognizing emotions and believable interactions among characters” according to Jeremy Hsu. Connections to oneself are made through this recognition process. In a 2004 study performed by Melanie C. Green from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, found that past life experiences and prior knowledge allowed for the listener to have a “more immersive experience” due to familiarity.
Use storytelling to your advantage. A brand that manufactures backyard swingsets brings families together through playtime and a child’s happiness. Encourage customers to share their pictures, videos and personal stories to bring this experience to reality. Once consumers make the connection, the behavior will follow.ReTweet