Despite all the distractions of modern life there’s nothing we enjoy better than a good story, a skill practically all of us learn at a young age, whether from our parents, grandparents, teachers and peers, delivered to us sat around a camp-fire, in a lecture hall, over a pint of the good stuff with friends or by way of an immersive IMAX 3D experience, good stories always stick.
With the rise and rise of social media interaction corporations are increasingly required to create compelling ‘shareable’ content to feed the demand from an increasing number of channels that consumers are using to find and interact with the labels, products and services they demand. To this end the art of storytelling is fast becoming a fundamental part of how you can successfully engage with your customers and cultivate your following.
In the pursuit of the perfect narrative scientific research is delving into the history and the finer details of how good stories can and do change our attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, and why our brain loves a good yarn.
The importance of storytelling lies in its power to explain and our brains have long been wired to look for the story when making sense of the world around us. In ancient civilisations those that could explain and most notably embellish the actions of the Gods in times of flood, famine and war would draw the largest and most attentive audiences, helping to elevate their positions in society and assume positions of authority, thus the rise of priests, judges, rulers and ultimately Alan Sugar, sorry business leaders.
For those in business today stories can be told using video, arguably the single most engaging format for audiences and one that’s fast becoming the preferred way to absorb information. But there’s more to just telling a good story than high definition video – if you want a narrative that’ll elevate your brand, motivate, inspire and help spread your message the key is in our biology, in particular the hormone oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a powerful neurotransmitter most commonly associated with relationship building and parent-child bonding. It is produced when we are trusted and shown kindness from others, it helps to motivate us to cooperate with others by enhancing a sense of empathy. Research carried out in the U.S. that involved accurately measuring oxytocin release aimed to understand more about the neurobiology of storytelling and why stories can motivate voluntary cooperation.
Results showed that for stories to motivate people to cooperate in helping others they must maintain attention by building tension during the narrative; if they are successful in doing this they’ll not only be more likely to stimulate empathy with the characters but for their audience to mimic the feelings and behaviours of those characters when the story ends. This explains why people are more willing to donate money having watched a charity video.
With an increasing number of businesses making use of video the neurobiology of storytelling is particularly relevant when understanding what will successfully drive and engage your audience. Wrapping your companies USP’s in a character driven narrative that can display how you can, or alternatively have improved the lives of the characters will help to stimulate empathy from your viewers resulting in a much better understanding of those key messages. Furthermore they will remember them for longer.
Many brands and organisations have already seen the benefits of how compelling a well constructed narrative can be upon a target audience, from encouraging people to give generously on Red Nose Day to telling the tale of a startup business. If you want to motivate, persuade and be remembered start with a story of human struggle and eventual triumph. This is what will capture people’s hearts – by first attracting their brains.