Revealing the Science Behind the Art of Storytelling

Blog Revealing the Science Behind the Art of Storytelling
7th April, 2020

Everybody knows that stories are an important part of the way our minds work. From the very start of our lives we are bombarded with stories, from the simplest children's picture books, to fairy tales, cartoons, YA fiction, and on to novels and movies.

So, it's no surprise that we come to interpret the world in the same way. We try to fit the actions we take into the narrative of our lives, and respond to those who do the same. We interpret facts we hear from others into stories, too, to help us understand and process them.

In this blog, we'll be looking at the importance of storytelling in content marketing, but also with a bit of science thrown in. As we'll see, companies that learn how to tell stories are often the ones who live 'happily ever after'. Let's find out more.

Why stories are like catnip for our minds

Although we try to make sense of everything as best we can, life doesn't always fit neatly into stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end. So how have we come to acquire the ability - and even the compulsion - to make it so?

Part of the reason lies deep in human history. When we lived in small hunter-gatherer groups, stories formed a repository of knowledge about plants, animals, weather, disease, and humankind. This couldn't be written down, so it had to be stored in tales that were handed down the generations.

In time, our minds came to adapt to the need for stories. As researchers have found, a neurotransmitter called oxytocin is associated with telling stories. It seems that, when we are drawn into a good story, our body creates oxytocin to stimulate cooperative behaviour and empathy.

In other words, stories help to bind us together as societies or communities. But they also prompt us to take action, whether that's sharing food, fighting an enemy, or - and here's the important part - making a purchase.

The principal may be ancient, but it still applies; when we tell stories, we capture attention and create potential customers. Without a good story, people will be much less easy to attract. But, what makes a good story?

Make it shareable, keep it simple

First off, a great story is one that can be enjoyed by almost anyone. It shouldn't be too complex to remember. In fact, the most successful stories are incredibly simple, with structures that make them easy to tell and retell again and again.

These days, we can see examples of this almost wherever we look. Instagram is full of marketers who have learned how to tell simple stories about what they wear, how they accessorise, where they travel, and what motivates them.

Often, it's just a matter of finding the right image, and captioning it with a few words of explanation. As brands like Dannijo have demonstrated, if each image follows on neatly, and maintains a consistent theme, and the emphasis is always on telling engaging stories, people will respond with enthusiasm.

Make the message about more than money

As we noted earlier, the roots of our thirst for stories tap into a natural need to cooperate. Telling stories isn't solitary or selfish. By its very nature, it's a social activity, which aims to create a shared response among listeners or viewers.

What does this mean for marketers? As you probably know by now, branded content succeeds best when it goes well beyond product descriptions or technical explanations.  Some brands engage in "femvertising"  and link everything they do to women's empowerment. Others connect their core products to the environment - linking their brand to a sustainable, hopeful future.

These strategies are not just ways to create a responsible image. Stories built around them tap into our desire to share and make a difference. Done well, these stories turn purchases into socially meaningful actions.

Tell a story that matches your brand's ambitions

You're probably telling yourself a story right now, and hopefully, it's a tale about how to incorporate stories into your brand strategy! The truth is that from tech giants like Apple to aspiring start-ups, everyone is telling themselves stories. The question is, are they telling potential customers stories that capture the imagination and encourage them to convert?

greatcontent wants everyone to capitalise on the potential of storytelling. We're here to help weave narratives that can't be ignored. If you want to get more in-depth information, check out PaulCamper's talk about "Matching SEO and Content Marketing". It should offer some handy pointers to start thinking about. Or, get in touch with our team. We'd love to work on your brand story.

Text: Sam Urquhart

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