Stories activate our brains like nothing else. When we hear information in its rawest form - as facts or statistics - only a part of our brain gets to work, turning those facts into meaning.
However when we hear a story, every part of our brain that relates to that part of the story - sensory or motor cortex, for example, ‘lights up’ - as we consider taste or movement within the story. Leo Widrich, Buffer co-founder, wrote brilliantly about this in The Science of Storytelling.
Stories Move Us
Facts provide us with information. Stories connect with us and then inform us, rather than the other way around, and in recent years, charities have changed their fundraising approaches to reflect this. In her research Deborah Small and others found that “...if organizations want to raise money for a charitable cause, it is far better to appeal to the heart than to the head. Put another way, feelings, not analytical thinking, drive donations.”
Stories connect with the part of us that cares. Facts - on their own - get in the way, whilst our rational self tries to figure out what does this have to do with me.
Stories Engage Us
Stories rather than statistics - even when those statistics are quite shocking - are more likely to impact us. Stories engage us because, most significantly, they enable us to identify with the facts.
“It’s all about putting together a simple, emotionally compelling message,” Small says. “The best way to do that is in the form of a picture or a story, something that purely engages the emotional system.”
We want to know how the story is going to work out. We want to know how the journey went, from poverty to recovery or failure to success. We especially want to know if we can do anything to make a difference.
Stories Connect Us
Of course this has implications far beyond charitable organisations. Brands have been using storytelling as a 'technique' for decades - in the use of words and images, advertising and packaging. However in recent years it’s taken a much broader and significant position, perhaps with the rise of content marketing. This has literally provided companies with more ‘space’ to create a story around their products or services that consumers can interact and engage with.
Storytelling is so powerful that it provides the opportunity to make a deeper connection and contribute something meaningful to the marketplace.
This could just be a lucky break for marketers. Some might say a cynical or manipulative way of getting your brand into the hearts of consumers? And yet, storytelling is so powerful - we search for meaning or narrative even when it isn’t there - that doing it well provides the opportunity to make a much deeper connection and contribute something meaningful to the marketplace.
Stories Provide Us With An Opportunity
Consumers are not passive receptacles any longer. If they ever were. We’re no longer 50’s housewives intrigued by the latest time-saving device. Almost every product and service available to us today is subject to scrutiny via social media or online reviews. Companies actually seek our feedback on what they offer, hoping that it’ll be good, and where it isn’t they are responding quickly to re-set the story about their shortcomings or poor customer service.
Because, whilst the consumer has never been better equipped to test the story they are being told, businesses have never had a better environment in which to communicate their story. By whatever means best suit you and your customer, you have the opportunity to invite us into the story, and if you're doing it well - consistently and authentically - we will re-tell your story for you.
So what would you consider your organisation's story? And is it the story your customers are telling about you?
If you're not sure, you don’t know what your story is or how to tell it, get in touch. We'd love to help you tell your story.