Spinning a Yarn: The Science of Storytelling

science of storytelling

From cave paintings to the latest Star Wars movie, storytelling is something intrinsically human. There’s something about it–the structure of beginning, middle and end–that has entranced and satisfied our minds since before even the development of the written word. In my new book, Formulaic, I’ve shared how incorporating this powerful tool into our own marketing techniques has been vital for our agency (and countless other companies) to make deeper, more personal connections with our clients’ customers and our own audience.

Like me, you probably grew up with the stories of a grandparent, parent or teacher, and have since sought out the narratives shared from Netflix to NBC, podcasts to PBS. Even the blog in which this post resides is a storytelling medium of sorts. Though they often transport us to places both real and imagined, stories are not (solely) things of magic. No–there is a science behind our insatiable appetite for being sat down and told, “Once upon a time…” Let’s examine how stories work and why they’re a trusty tool for marketers in any industry.

The Scientific Facts Behind Fiction and Nonfiction

People are emotional creatures. Yes, even the most stone-faced tough guy or gal has a song, movie or book that’s sure to evoke nostalgia, sadness or a smirk (even if internal). Enter: oxytocin. That stirring emotion of human connection you feel when watching your favorite film or hearing Johnny Cash belt out those Folsom Prison Blues is largely connected to the release of the neurochemical, oxytocin. Though you may not know it by name, you surely know how it feels — the pleasure you feel when meeting with friends, are complemented by colleagues or have the door held open for you by a smiling stranger.

science of storytelling

What’s paramount for marketers and brand managers to pull from the connection between storytelling and those oxytocin-fuelled warm fuzzies is that these feelings of engagement and connection aren’t unlocked with a paragraph of facts, hard data, or otherwise flatly presented pieces of information. So often, brands that are able to connect to their audiences with storytelling instead of dry, cold lists of benefits are more effective by being more emotionally affecting. The story of how a product or service has changed (or could change) someone’s life for the better often sticks with an audience far longer than the new, shiny features of the thing.

Which is more convincing: a personal anecdote about how much my work has improved now that I’ve enjoyed full, restful sleep on Brand X mattresses or a paragraph on spring and wooden frame technology? If the thought of option B made you yawn, you’re not alone. By harnessing the deep-rooted, primordial power of storytelling, brands could very well write their businesses a “happily ever after” through this innately human connection.

Crafting a Marketing Story Worth Telling

Knowing the benefits of storytelling is all well and good, but you must also learn the tenets of good storytelling. Though there are many ways to tell a tale, you may want to keep these three common facets of effective storytelling in mind before spinning your own company’s yarn.

Learning how to tell an effective story as a brand may seem like a lot of work, but if done correctly, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more effective means of connecting your company with its customers–which is most certainly a story worth telling.  

Looking for more marketing insights like the ones above? Check out my new book, Formulaic: How Thriving Companies Market from the Core, and stay tuned to the Findsome & Winmore blog for more tips on how to unlock the formula behind effective marketing for your brand.