Storytelling: No Piece of Cake

Hombre lee un libro sobre el espacio.

Stories are an intrinsic part of the human condition. In fact, human history is, to a great extent, the evolution of the ways in which we tell stories. From the first cave paintings 64,000 years ago to the most recent episode of The House of the Dragon (which, by some weird coincidence, both took place in Cáceres, Spain), stories have always been part of who we are and how we communicate.

And, even though any marketing expert will tell you that “storytelling has always been part of the profession”, it’s actually a skill that, according to LinkedIn, has gained importance in the last 8 years.

Ever since then, courses, content, gurus and data have boomed, placing the art of storytelling among the most important tools for business. It’s no longer enough to make use of traditional advertising tools or having a good SEO strategy — brand strategies must be cemented upon an exquisite storytelling.

So, for boomers, for those who prefer numbers to words, those who don’t follow the trending buzzwords or for those who think that storytelling belongs in kindergartens or bedtime stories: Why is it so important? No need to go all the way to Cáceres to find out.

Benefits and the Importance of Storytelling in Business

From an overall perspective, stories are a powerful weapon in every communicator’s drawer. This is true across industries and contexts. It doesn’t matter whether your company is private, public or non-profit… It’s all the same! The goal of every efficient communicator is to persuade or influence. That’s where stories come into play as the main mechanism through which we receive values, culture and other teachings from a very early age.

Stories are part of who we are. It is through them that we connect ideas and people. They are the vehicle through which we forge connections and understand the world. That’s why our brain intuitively understands that the stories that we share are a fundamental part of the ties that bind us together.

This understanding permeates the social and cultural aspects of life and finds ground in the corporate world: it is the stories that brands and leaders tell us which makes it possible for our relationships to be constructed and nurtured in order to guarantee success. Are you still wondering why? Let’s take a look at four of the reasons:

Stories Captivate Us — Or, The Death of Pop-Up Blockers 

We, the marketing professionals, are intruders. I think we all agree that nobody, or almost no one, is looking for ads. In fact, we’re pretty much avoiding them at all costs. 

Still, when it comes to business and you’ve got some business KPI to fulfil, you seek ways to communicate your value. This implies performing some miracles to amuse users — or at least getting them not to hate you.

Stories are a way of achieving just that. As a first approach, anyone would be more inclined to read or watch a story instead of a list of characteristics of a product or service. Leave the benefits of the product for when you’re closer to closing the deal. To break the ice, tell me something interesting.

An Interesting Story Sells A Lot More 

As rational as we like to consider ourselves to be, reality tells us that most of our decisions are made with our emotions. This doesn’t mean that we don’t pay attention to reason, but the brain uses rational arguments to justify its emotional decisions. And this is true also for purchasing decisions.

For example, when there are similar products from different brands, consumers are forced to trust their least rational criteria, like instinct or “feelings”. This means that the brands that have worked on their emotional connection to users will win the sale. 

In fact, in many cases, consumers choose inferior products because of their instinct, or “something they can’t explain” (those are your emotions, Watson). 

Seek Differentiation: Story Over Product 

Truth is, most competing companies advertise more or less the same benefits on more or less the same products or services.

Also, trending marketing terminologies usually permeate all industries. Yes, apparently both shampoo and hummus can be “fresh and vegan”. That’s why limiting ourselves to describing characteristics or benefits is not a differential.

But there’s something that is indeed unique — the story behind each brand, the people that make it up and the values that drive them forwards. This can only be communicated through the use of storytelling.

Being Part of a Story Is Much More Attractive than Shopping (Even If, Ultimately, It’s All the Same)

It’s much more interesting to be part of a story than to be part of a transaction. If you don’t trust us, ask Disney — they have built a whole multimillion empire based on stories.

Designing and building up a story around a brand allows you to create a community and a culture. But, be careful! That culture has to permeate the whole organisational structure in order for it to be genuine and real. There’s no room for fake news.

When consumers buy from a brand that has a storytelling culture, they no longer feel like they are acquiring just a product; they feel they are becoming part of a team or a family, so much so that it defines or influences their own personality. It’s enough to take a look at a group of Harley Davidson bikers to understand that there’s something going on that’s larger than bikes.

Summing up, if you’re a marketing professional, or an entrepreneur, or you want to persuade someone (maybe your next tinder match to hang out?), a good story is your starting point.

Storytelling is key to activating the brain’s right hemisphere and letting our imagination flourish. Pamela Rutledge, PhD in Psychology, explained it like this in Psychology Today:

“When we activate the imagination, we become participants of the narrative”

What does this mean? That our brain can’t tell the difference between a real experience and a good story. That’s why stories have an immense power to influence, persuade and connect. If we’re capable of coming up with good stories and telling them to others, we will be able to connect with our audience in a way that no ad-blocker will be able to stop.

Article written by Inés Azpúrua & translated by Benjamín Jabiu

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