Storytelling is not a new buzzword in the marketing industry, and I’m assuming that this isn’t the first article you’ve read on the subject. Despite its popularity, I’m surprised how many brands are yet to pick up on this powerful content marketing ploy. Is this because marketers (or their decision makers) still don’t see the value in storytelling, or they just don’t know how to execute it?
What is Storytelling?
Storytelling is a type of content marketing that uses narrative. It shares emotions, characters and ideas specific to particular moments. Storytelling isn’t confined to the books we read and the shows we watch. We experience stories every day in a variety of forms, from viral videos to fictional bloggers. A lot of the content that marketers publish is nonfiction. Storytelling, though, may include fictional and nonfictional elements.
Benefits to Storytelling
Here are six reasons you should never underestimate the power of storytelling
1. Stories are processed differently.
Marketers’ goal is to be top-of-mind when consumers want or search information. Stories are processed and stored in our brain differently than other types of educational, data-driven content. Think of it like a “left brain” and “right brain” scenario. This means that marketers have another avenue for embedding its brand’s message in buyers’ thoughts.
Stories require you to solve the equation. An audience will watch and listen scene after scene in anticipation for the next sequence of events. This provokes an emotional attachment, because their ideas are silently yet fiercely working against a problem. This allows a person in the audience to learn something new about him or herself.
Have you ever read or listened to a book and found yourself thinking about it hours, or even days and weeks, after you’ve finished the story? This typically happens because 1) the story was incredibly interesting 2) it was told in a way that connected us to its reality 3) we were able to bond with the characters.
2. Stories fuel our imagination and help us understand the world.
Stories fuel our imagination. It’s through imagination that we discover and innovate. Stories are not restricted to facts and the status quo. Their purpose is to highlight unconventional ideas and challenge our way of existence.
When our imagination is engaged we are able to connect to ideas and people more deeply and meaningfully. One of my favorite authors, Tim O’Brien, once wrote, “A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.”
Stories leave impressions. They help us communicate things that cannot be expressed though hard data. They go deeper than mere facts and help us find purpose and meaning that otherwise may be overlooked. Stories are complex and share motives, fears, and information typically omitted from other forms of content. They remind us of our humanity and make us feel alive.
3. Stories create experiences.
Digital storytellers have the gift of using language, art, data and technology together to develop a very real and entertaining experience. This is why stories, whether you’re reading a book or watching a movie, make your heart race and palms sweat. Our minds and bodies physically react to stories.
Experiences live with us long after an event happens. Storytelling invites an audience to participate in an idea or movement rather than watch as a bystander. This is an enormous benefit when you consider how people engage and remember information. We are self-centric beings, and we favor information that involves us.
4. Stories create memories.
The magic about memories is that they help us recall experiences and knowledge through various stimuli. For example, I can smell chlorine and be reminded of my childhood summers. I can hear a song and reminisce about a past relationship. Share stories with your audience so you will be able to trigger memories of your brand.
Memories occur because a moment was experienced through multiple senses. Let’s consider, for a moment, the ingredients to creating a memory. First, you’re mentally engaged. Second, you’re engaged through multiple senses. (You hear a conversation, smell the aromas in the room, and feel the objects surrounding you.) Third, you’re emotionally invested. (Perhaps you’re feeling romantic, nostalgic, anxious or afraid.)
Stories highlight the elements which we use to create memories. These elements, when brought together, create an experience that we can see, feel, and touch in our imagination. They draw us into a reality and let us experience that existence for as long as we are willing to stay.
5. Stories build community.
Stories connect us to people and ideas. Stories originally told thousands of years ago stand as the foundation for worldwide communities and belief systems. They’re how we make sense of the past and anticipate the future. It’s through stories that we experiment. Stories give us something to create, share and experience together. A story can bring the most unlikely people together in camaraderie. Consider Nike, Apple, TOMS, Red Bull and others that capture lifestyle. They invite the audiences to participate in the story.
6. Stories drive action.
A big differentiator of storytelling compared to other content strategies is how it allows for interpretation. Educational content always has a thesis. Take this blog post for example. You knew once reading the title exactly what the article would be about. A story, on the other hand, allows for interpretation. The message is intertwined through the narrative so that the person reading, viewing, or listening may come to his or her own conclusions. The moral or lesson is rarely provided in black and white. This forces us to think more in depth about the message so it sinks itself deep within our minds in ways that raw data cannot. This is why people are less resistant to stories and are more willing to share them with their network.