Humans have shared information by storytelling since the beginning of time. Why? Because our brains are wired to respond to stories. This isn’t woo-woo or fluff… this is about science and the evolution of the human race.
As humans, what we think, feel and do is the sum of the stories we tell ourselves. So we actively crave stories as a way of teaching us about our place in the world.
They’re the glue that holds us together.
And that applies to brand stories too. The stories customers tell themselves about our brands determine how they see you, and whether they want to engage with you and buy from you. Stories humanise your business or your brand in a way that straight data and facts just can’t.
So it’s not surprising that they’re powerful.
The brain science of stories
When we listen to stories, every area of our brain is in play. If you’re the listener, your brain will light up exactly as it would if you were experiencing things in real life. When you feel empathy for the storyteller, you feel the emotions as if it were actually happening to you. Ever cried at a movie? That’s why. Your brain was responding as if you were the protagonist. It’s what psychologists call neural mirroring.
Now compare that to when you’re listening to data or a presentation. Here, far from using the whole brain, only two small areas of your brain are activated and we feel very little emotion (except maybe boredom!). So without story, it’s not surprising that we forget so much of what we learn – our brains aren’t fully engaged when we hear/see it.
OK, so we’ve established that stories are vital. In life and in marketing.
But when should we use stories to our advantage? Well, the truth is that a well-told story can be used just about anywhere.
We can tell brand stories when we want:
people to feel something,
to believe us,
to help them “get it”
or to share information.
And don’t fall into the trap of believing that stories need to be long. They don’t. They can be just about any length.
In fact, Ernest Hemingway reputedly won a bet by writing an emotion-driving six-word story:
For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
You can tell a story in a title, in a tweet, or in a single line. What matters is the impact they have, not how long they are.
But wait. There’s another important point here.
To be effective, not just any story will do. You need to write good ones. Ones that captivate your reader by meeting the story expectations they’re wired for (Lisa Crone, Wired for Story).
The problem is that most people don’t know how to do this.
So let’s get to that now.
How to write effective brand stories
Good stories have more impact on your customers’ brains than any rational fact. It’s reputed that stories are 22 times more memorable than stats alone.
So before putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, it is worth taking a moment to ask yourself these 5 key questions.
- What point are you trying to prove?
- How will you grab your customer’s attention?
- How does the story you’re telling connect with the world of your customer? Why should they care?
- What emotions are you trying to evoke?
- What action do you want people to take?
These parameters will help you keep focused on a story that will make sense to your audience, and keep their attention until the end.
And now you can start to write.
It almost goes without saying that all stories need a main character. But make sure you use characters your customers can relate to. This could be your founder, the customers themselves, an expert, or a recognisable figure.
Now you have a protagonist, your story needs a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.
So start with the context. Who’s involved, and why should your reader care? What’s the issue? This will hook the audience in and get them curious enough to read more.
Next comes the conflict. This is crucial in any good story. What is the character fighting against? What’s standing in their way? Any good story always includes some form of conflict – and you need to get to this fast or your audience will lose interest. In marketing, you could well be talking about the pain point that your customer experiences themselves.
What is the resolution? What do you want your audience to take away from the story? It pays to be clear about this – don’t leave them guessing. You need to make sure they understand the point that you’re trying to make.
When you use start by taking the time to ask yourself what your story is trying to achieve, and then ensure your story has the 3 essential elements (context, conflict and resolution), you’ll soon be resonating with your audience and compelling them to take action.
Now the last step… don’t forget to share your stories wherever you can. You’ve done the hard part. Now you need to remember to promote it – on your blog, on Medium, through LinkedIn articles, as stories you tell at networking events and on your podcast. The more you share, the more engagement you can expect.
Whatever your business, one thing is certain: customers don’t buy from just anyone. They buy when they feel a connection and trust in a brand. Storytelling helps them to do just that.
So, brand storytelling isn’t merely important. It’s critical to cut through the noise and capture hearts and minds. And that’s vital to delivering business impact and profitability.
What stories are you telling?
Want to write a brand story to will transform your business? Book a free discovery call today and start getting better marketing results tomorrow.