4 Reasons Why Storytelling Builds Audiences

Brand Storytelling


February 2018

Introduction to Brand Storytelling: Part II

In the first post of this series, we talked a lot about brands and stories. We defined brand storytelling as how you share your story with your audience, broke down the different types of external and internal stories that surround your brand, delved into the difference between your brand narrative and your brand story, and helped you determine who you are as a brand.

Now that we’ve laid down this groundwork, you may wonder what the big deal is about brand storytelling and why it’s so important to understand all of these stories and how they interact with one another. I could jump into how storytelling is the most powerful of all communication. I could tell you how humans have been telling stories since the beginning of time. I could even reference caveman and go into how they first communicated with each other by telling stories via cave drawings.

But, I won’t.

Though true–storytelling is powerful–it still begs the question: how does that relate to your brand and the products or services you offer?

Brand storytelling builds active and engaged audiences.

1. Stories command attention.

We’re going to do something that’s rare around these parts: talk about science–neuroscience, to be more precise. The brain is composed of three parts: the brainstem, cerebellum, and cerebrum. The cerebrum, the largest part of the brain, is divided into four lobes: frontal, parietal, temporal, and occipital, and each of these areas respond to different stimuli.

Facts and figures activate

  1. Wernicke’s area: language comprehension
  2. Broca’s area: language processing

Stories activate

  1. Wernicke’s area: language comprehension
  2. Broca’s area: language processing
  3. Motor cortex: movement
  4. Sensory cortex and cerebellum: touch
  5. Olfactory cortex: scents
  6. Auditory cortex: sounds
  7. Visual cortex: colors and shapes

What does that mean for you? Stories make people listen. It’s a compulsory, involuntary reaction. When you hear a story, your brain is more engaged. Consequently, you’re more engaged. Not only that, but stories are memorable. When you’re more engaged, you better remember what’s told to you. As cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner claimed, we are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it’s presented as a story.

It’s challenging to reach your ideal audience. Consumers are inundated with content and sales pitches and presentations about products and services to the point where they’re able to tune it out and ignore any message you’re trying to send, no matter how good intentioned. But, if you want to stand out in a crowded market, if you want to be heard and remembered, tell a story.

2. Stories establish connections.

Just like we crave stories, we also crave connections. We want to relate to one another and the world around us, and stories build that bridge between your brand and your audience. The longer your audience pays attention to you–the more they listen to your story–the more they connect to your brand.

Why? Because they now own your story.

Princeton University psychology professor Uri Hasson led a team of scientists in an experiment to explore this concept. They had a woman tell a story while in a MRI scanner. As she spoke, they recorded the story and monitored her brain activity. Then, a group of volunteers listened to the story, all while having their brain activity monitored as well. After they heard the story, Hasson asked a series of questions to test their listening comprehension.

What they discovered is that, when the volunteers understood the story, their brain activity mirrored the woman’s. When areas of her brain activated at certain points in the story, so did theirs. Her feelings became their feelings. By simply sharing a story, the woman was able to transfer ideas, thoughts, and emotions to the volunteers.

Stories incite empathy–we relate stories to our own experiences. When you tell your brand story, you transfer your experiences directly to your audience. They become emotional stakeholders in your brand. When this happens, as creepy as it might sound, their brain synchronizes with yours. They feel what you feel. They want what you want. They share your disappointment in defeat and celebration in success.

Most importantly, they want to follow the story and play a role in its journey to its ultimate conclusion. If you want your audience to believe in your brand and get on board, tell a story.

3. Stories promote authenticity.

Authenticity is another connector. When you share your brand story, you’re not just telling what you do–you’re sharing who you are. Authenticity is transparency. Transparency builds trust, and audience members return to brands that they trust.

According to Bonfire Marketing, 91% of customers value authenticity in the brands from which they purchase products or services.

Today’s audience is cynical, suspicious of being sold to, and completely unaffected by traditional marketing techniques. Today’s audience wants a reason to care. They want to know who they’re buying from. They want to know what drives you. They want to know whether or not what you’re doing is creating some good in the world.

And, you can’t just tell them. You have to show how your brand’s practices align with your what you say. You have to show them how you walk the talk.

Don’t tell what you do and what you believe in, show what you’re doing and how you’re doing. Share how you brand’s practices have aligned and are aligning with what you say. Give evidence on how you are walking the talk.

There’s no easier way to share that than through a story. Don’t say that you have a 98% customer satisfaction rating and expect that to gain traction. Share a client’s experience. Don’t create a services page and expect it to secure clients. Share a behind-the-scenes look of an in-progress project. If you want your audience to trust your brand and keep on coming back, tell a story.

4. Stories motivate action.

Emotions drive decisions. How your audience feels about you will determine whether or not they choose to be a sideline observer, part of the starting lineup, or walk away from the game altogether.

If your audience hears you, connects with your brand, and believes in you and what you do, they will participate. They will consume your content, buy your product, and book your service. They will not only want to follow your journey, they’ll want to be a part of it.

In order to build an audience, you need to tell your brand’s stories. Once you build, maintain, and develop that audience, it’s what they’ll say about your brand to their network, to their circles, that will guarantee your strength, your position, and your continual growth.

If you want to have brand ambassadors, tell a story.

The Value of a Story

Stories are powerful, and brand storytelling is an integral component to a successful marketing strategy. At the end of the day, stories create value…even if there isn’t any. Check in for Part III of this series, where we’ll study an interesting anthropological experiment, “Significant Objects.”


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© 2017 sejo.


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