WHERE’S PAPA GOING WITH THAT AXE?

 

How do you get attention in under 10 seconds in a noisy busy world? How do you bring people close into your brand? And how do you keep them coming back for more?

In a word: storytelling.

Human beings are hard wired to respond to storytelling. We are fundamentally social creatures, and storytelling is a powerful way to help release oxytocin (the feel good chemical that promotes connection and empathy) as well as dopamine (a sense of reward and optimism). Should the story take a dark turn then cortisol the stress hormone is released, eventually to be overcome by dopamine when things get better for the all important happy ending.

We like to pretend we are rational creatures, but the reality is that our limbic or system 1 brain controls far more of our responses than we know. Daniel Kahneman’s excellent book Thinking, Fast and Slow’ shows clearly that we must learn to lean in to our instincts and not over prioritise the rational or system 2 brain. Both have a role to play.

The classic entrepreneur storytelling arc is brilliant for bringing consumers on side. There’s normally a baddie (big companies doing things all wrong), a hero (the founder of the new start up) and some highs and lows along the way. At the end of it all, we are in the shoes of the entrepreneur and happily tapping our cards to support them in their struggle against the establishment.

What are the emotional stories you could be telling about your products or organisation? How are you able to connect in a human way to others? You don’t have to be a start up, but you do have to be able to articulate a proposition in a way that builds empathy. Nike Run Club is what happens when people who understand every day athletes help connect them in a way that’s meaningful to them and enables them to share their stories.

innocent is widely acknowledged for breaking packaging norms and talking in a normal way to people. From the outset that was a brand that told proper stories at every single opportunity, and told them powerfully. The yes and no bins, the moment of piling up some boxes outside a shop to peek in after hours and see if any of the first smoothies had sold, these were tales were real. They resonated. And they kept people coming back for more. The stories were the reason I quit my job in a fancy agency to go in house for a smaller pay cheque. Stories work.

Jennifer Aaker, a professor at Stanford, takes this even further in her research. Not only are we less likely to connect without a story, we are less likely to remember. So if you bombard your potential consumers with facts, they simply won’t remember any of them. Wrap up some facts in a brilliantly told emotional story and then you have a chance of being remembered.

Is storytelling at the centre of your brand and your NPD process, or is it an afterthought? Are you reviewing your stories regularly to edit them and make them as powerful as they can be? Do they still resonate and make emotional connections with the people you want to be buying your products today and tomorrow? Some fashions come and go, the desire for humans to connect and tell stories isn’t going anywhere.

We should all try to be a little more like Charlotte in EB White’s eponymous children’s story.

“It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.”