Those Who Tell The Stories Rule The World

“The greatest art in the world is the art of storytelling.”
~Cecil B. DeMille

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
~ Philip Pullman

I spent the summer of 1984 with my grandparents in Mississippi, as I did every summer until I was a teenager. This particular summer, my great-grandmother came to visit from Los Angeles at the same time that I was there. I was 13 and she was 94. And blind. What I remember most about that summer, outside of Carl Lewis and Mary Lou Retton kicking butt in the summer Olympics, is listening to my great -grandmother tell me stories. A 13-year old boy, raised on Star Wars and Indiana Jones, captivated by the life stories and lessons of a blind, 94-year old woman.

There is nothing better than a good story. Whether it is delivered via a book, movie, theatre stage, or my favorite way: person-to-person, a good story has the power to inspire us, move us, and emotionally connect us with a person…or a brand.

In marketing, we know that a good story has magic. Storytelling has the ability to tap into people’s emotions. This isn’t hyperbole; studies show it to be true. In connecting with, or persuading, a customer, storytelling is infinitely better than data alone. In fact, the way that our brains respond to straight data versus a story is dramatic.
When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains (scientists call this Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area) work to decode the meaning of the words and figures. When we hear a story, on the other hand, not only do the language parts of our brains begin working, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were really experiencing what we’re hearing or reading about becomes activated as well. If you hear a story about a meal that someone enjoyed, your sensory cortex activates. You can imagine enjoying that meal yourself. I think about lifting weights all of the time, so my motor cortex lights up. I can feel the barbell in my hand, even sitting at my desk. It would be pretty cool if we could actually get a workout in like that instead of going to the gym, right? ☺

Science has also found that through stories, a storyteller’s brain, and the brain of the listener synchronizes. Scientists at Princeton University looked at brain scans (fMRI) of storytellers and listeners and found that the most active areas of the brains of the speakers and listeners matched up; they were in sync, or coupled. The extent of brain activity synchronicity predicted the success of the communication – so connecting with your audience more makes you more persuasive. The best way to make use of this science is to know your audience, and how your product or service can help them. Tell them that story. Show them that story. The brands that you know and love are master storytellers. Nike, Apple, Wendy’s, etc., all harness this science. When you see a Nike ad you want to work out, and guess who has the equipment that you need? Just Do It. When you see a commercial of Wendy talking about her late father Dave Thomas starting the restaurants in her name, while also showing you visuals of their great burgers, you connect to the family story as well as imagining how good that burger tastes. Hey, let me grab my car keys-we’re headed to Wendy’s! Afterwards, a Nike commercial may inspire us to grab our Nike equipment to go burn off those calories!

At C.W. Harris Chicago, we pride ourselves on first understanding your brand. What is your “Why?” Why does your company exist? What is the inspiration that drives your brand? No, we are not talking about your profits, we are asking what problem does your brand solve in peoples’ lives? Who does your product/service help? How do we connect your brand with your target audience so that you are on their minds?
Let’s build that synchronicity.
Let’s capture that truth.
Let’s tell that story.

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C.W. Harris Chicago is a full-service branding + multimedia marketing agency that connects your brand to your target audience through the telling of your inspired story.

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Christopher Bridgeman
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