Try this at parties. Say something, anything, but then add this little phrase:
“According to brain science.”
You’ll notice everyone will agree with you, no matter what you say. It’s like a party trick. Seriously, say any old crazy theory and add that phrase. I tested this theory recently at a niece’s birthday party with…
“According to brain science, reading makes you smarter.” Every single person agreed.
“The lack of sleep makes you tired, according to brain science.” Again, everyone nodded in agreement.
“According to brain science, sasquatch sightings are up by 45% since 2012. Thanks Obama!” Followed by vigorous shouts of approval, Aunt Janet frantically citing some rather suspicious research that gets everyone all worked up; complete with crazy Uncle Willy firing his gun towards the sky, and old Grandma Robinson taking her cane and beating the innocent piñata to a sugary pulp- leaving the children just standing there stunned and blinking.
See. That’s the power of brain science.
In this installment we’re going to discuss how storytelling and digital marketing play together and why stories are so effective. All while using brain science, so that nobody can dispute the ideas.
So, let’s get to it.
Why storytelling and digital marketing?
Simple. Storytelling is the most effective and oldest communication method possible. Digital is the most efficient and newest communication method possible. Combine effective with efficient, old with new, and you’ve got something special. As a general rule:
The Best of Old + The Best of New = Lovable, Interesting & Compelling Stuff
Old + new is great for fashion.
Old + new is great for office decor.
Old + new is great for transportation.
Old + new is great for…love. Maybe a bad example.
Old plus new makes things great. True in life (mostly), and true in the new age of marketing. Digital Storytelling enables communication that is creative, effective and efficient. Doing so by incorporating the best of the old plus the best of the new. So…
Storytelling + Digital Marketing = Lovable, Interesting, Compelling & Effective Communication
Why are stories effective?
Short answer. People love stories.
Long & complicated answer. When we hear a story, multiple areas of the brain start to light up. The language processing parts of our brain activates, as do those controlling our senses of smell and movement. An active brain is an alert and focused brain.
Stories not only get the hearer’s attention, but help make a positive chemical impact. When we hear a touching story, the neurochemical called oxytocin is released. This is the chemical that makes people feel safe and approachable. It motivates trust, cooperation, connection and empathy.
Additionally, we’re hardwired to gravitate towards a good story. We love to follow a narrative from A to B and then get some sort of payoff at C.
“…a truer nomination for our species than Homo sapiens might be Homo NARRANS, the storytelling person.”
– Henry Mankell, New York Times
John D. Niles also argues in his book, Homo Narrans, that the distinguishing feature between man and animal is our ability to tell, hear and enjoy stories.
“It has been said that next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.”
– Khalil Gibran, Poet
We don’t just crave stories in general- we are continually living inside a story we’re telling ourselves. We rehearse these stories and tell them to others. For example, when we’re upset at someone else, we look for allies in our version of the story. We even tinker with the story until we get the response we want, like, “Oh, you’re so right. That idiot should never have done that to you.”
“We don’t simply love stories, we tell them to others and to ourselves, Todd is exactly right about this, as usual.”
– All the Scientists
How’s this connect w/ digital marketing?
We tell stories in our heads, we do it in person and we do it online. Just watch the social posts of those around you, and watch the story they’re telling about their day, their life events and their lives in general. We all do it. Every single one of us. We love hearing, telling and participating in interesting, intriguing and dramatic stories. We have since the dawn of time and we’re not going to be changing anytime soon.
A very common and subtle example:
Is this example too simple? Perhaps. Do we simply want to look better in the eyes of others? Of course we do.
Do we tell stories to others and ourselves that are exaggerations or selective edits of our real life? Are we acting out the stories we see in our minds? Can products and services play a role, positive or negative, in these stories?
In our modern world, a few minutes on the internet is like a walk through a carnival. Hundreds of freakish sideshow performers beckoning for our attention, begging for it. Swallowing swords, blowing fireballs and contorting themselves to get it. Getting your brain focused on their message is like gold and they’ll do whatever it takes to get it. Your attention is the desire of every person, business or brand that we come in contact with every single day. Sideshows are cheap, gimmicky, temporary and frankly hard to come by, unless you happen to know a bearded lady with webbed feet.
Telling effective stories, on the other hand, allows you to break through the clutter and get your message heard. Not just any old story, but one that plays well with the story a person is already telling themselves.
In the third installment of this series, I’ll look at traditional storytelling in marketing and compare it to a more nuanced process of storytelling that gets to the stories people believe about themselves.
Coming next…Digital Marketing 3: Scene Inception.