These days, you can find any information you could want online. Thanks to Google, instant gratification has become a daily feature in our lives. What has become more rare, however, is human connection.
That’s why connecting with consumers more deeply as human beings has become more effective. It’s not enough anymore to simply share the logical reasons why your brand has something special to offer. To cut through the noise of today’s oversaturated markets, you also need to weave emotion and empathy into a narrative that captures and holds their attention.
Why a narrative?
- Storytelling has been shown to increase oxytocin production in the brain, which encourages people to feel more empathetic and willing to participate in a shared, cooperative experience.
- Audiences naturally engage more with emotions, ideas, and values over products and services.
- A memorable brand story gives consumers a stronger impression of who you are and what you stand for, ideals that are more likely to inspire loyalty.
Storytelling is always at the core of what we do for our clients, and we’re passionate about helping organizations realize the power of its impact. Below, you’ll learn more about the neurological impact of storytelling on the human brain, the basics of brand storytelling structure, and how positioning your customer as the hero positions you to win more business.
Why Our Brains Love Brand Storytelling
Recent scientific studies show that storytelling has a measurable impact on the brain, particularly the synthesis of oxytocin. Oxytocin is a hormone released by the pituitary gland, sometimes referred to as the “love hormone,” as it can be released by things like touch, music, and exercise, which produce feelings of well-being.
“Oxytocin is produced when we are trusted or shown a kindness, and it motivates cooperation with others,” says Paul J. Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies and a professor of economics, psychology, and management at Claremont Graduate University. “We found that character-driven stories do consistently cause oxytocin synthesis. Further, the amount released by the brain predicted how much people were willing to help others.”
Zak’s team has also gotten insight into what makes stories effective at spurring oxytocin production, finding that a story must first grab and hold the audience’s attention by creating tension. When the characters experience tension, the audience’s ability to empathize and get transported into the story increases. If you’ve ever felt like working out or taking a karate class after watching an action flick, this is why. This may be because our attention to the story at hand sharpens as more tension arises. Our senses heighten as we get swept more and more into the story, imagining ourselves in the hero’s place.
If you can present your consumers with a story that places them in the center of the narrative as the hero triumphing over daunting obstacles to achieve their goals, you can capture their attention and empathy. You’ll have the opportunity to show them (not tell them) how you can help them defeat their villains and change their lives for the better.
Brand Storytelling Structure
Another reason storytelling is so effective is that it helps our brains organize information in a way that’s easy to understand. Stories put everything in order to prevent the audience from getting confused and tuning us out.
Because effective storytelling has been studied and practiced for thousands of years, it can be distilled down into a definable and repeatable structure. This structure is highly effective at helping brands simplify their message and use their opportunity to communicate with the audience to its fullest potential.
In Building A StoryBrand, Donald Miller identifies seven essential parts to storytelling:
“A character who wants something encounters a problem before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a guide steps into their lives, gives them a plan, and calls them to action. That action helps them avoid failure and ends in a success.”
Miller says that customers are most interested in how your brand will help them to survive and thrive. Once you understand their needs, desires, problems, fears, and goals, you can place them in the center of this storytelling structure as the hero conquering their foes with you by their side as a trusted expert and guide. Just remember — they are the hero, not your brand!
Using Brand Storytelling To Win Business
People want to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, and helping them do that is a vital way to cut through the noise and differentiate your brand. By focusing on their goals rather than your own, you position your brand as a wise guide that can help them overcome their challenges and thrive.
Once you’ve identified your ideal customer/main character, you need to define the problems they need your help solving. Focus on internal problems, the kind that keep your audience up at night — the primary villain, the dragon they need to slay. In what concrete ways do these problems present themselves in daily life? How does it nag at them mentally throughout the day?
As their empathetic and authoritative guide, you should be able to articulate how your brand can help them vanquish their villain. That means you’ll need to present yourself as wise, showing your expertise through case studies and testimonials to demonstrate how you’ve helped others. You’ll also need to show empathy and that you thoroughly understand their challenges.
Now that they’ve got a trusted guide on their side, they need a plan of attack. That’s where calls to action come into play. Don’t be coy — tell your audience exactly what they should do to fight their villain and come out on top. Articulate how this action will help them to achieve success and avoid failure, transforming them from the striving hero to the ultimate champion.
Unleash Your Inner Yoda
Do you want to unleash your brand’s inner Yoda, guiding customers toward their Luke Skywalker moment? Learn more about storytelling in our free guide to narrative marketing, where you’ll find a full breakdown of each step from StoryBrand.
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