By Andrew Angus on September 11, 2014

Why-Marketers-Should-Focus-On-Storytelling

Creating a good story is a key element in getting people to pay attention to your message. Crafting a story all on your own can seem like a lot of work and for some, working on marketing efforts is time-consuming enough without integrating storytelling as well. If this is the case, hiring a company to help with your story may be well worth the investment.

Good stories increase engagement

Buffer, an app that makes it easier for people to share content on social media, used an A/B test to determine the impact a story can make in a blog post. One page had no narrative, and just went right into the content. The other post started out with a story, which then led to the rest of the content. The results were dramatic: almost 300% more readers scrolled all the way to the bottom when they started with the story. The average time on the page increased from less than one minute to more than four minutes, an increase of 520%.

This is all fascinating information, but why did the story page outperform its counterpart in such a significant way? There’s a reason people love stories and why we find them so compelling. As scientists are discovering, reading a story causes changes to take place in the brain. Story causes the brain to react in a way that other text simply doesn’t.

Here’s how it works:

  • The brain responds to imagery and metaphor

The New York Times cited a study published in NeuroImage, in which researchers had participants read words with strong associations with smell, such as “perfume” and “coffee.” They found the brain’s olfactory cortex lit up – the part of the brain associated with smell. This was not the case when the participants read odor-neutral words like “chair” and “key.”

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Neuroscientists at Emory made a similar discovery about the use of metaphor. When test subjects read metaphors with sensory language, like “He had leathery hands,” the brain’s sensory cortex lit up. In addition, French scientists discovered that reading about motion made the motor cortex light up. In other words, our brain doesn’t make a huge distinction between reading something and experiencing it. As long as readers can relate to the metaphors, they feel as if they are experiencing the what they read.

  • It works for video too

Storytelling has always been with us since we could communicate with one another, and the addition of the moving images has made for some interesting research as well. Italian researcher Vittorio Gallese was on the team that discovered mirror neurons, which are essentially neurons in the frontal cortex that light up both when you are moving and when you are watching someone perform an action, as reported in Psychology Today.

These mirror neurons are activated when you watch someone else move, in video or in person, and our brain becomes engaged. We’re mentally experiencing what we are watching, which is why sometimes we have a strong emotional reactions to videos or movies we watch – just ask any sports fan.

In short, crafting a compelling story has a deep impact on the brain of the reader or viewer. A narrative with engaging imagery can make viewers feel like they are actually experiencing the narrative too.

With content flooding the marketing industry, it’s important to get your company’s message to stand out. By incorporating storytelling into your content marketing strategy, you’re finding ways to stimulate the brain. It’s like biking – the more you “stimulate” the pedal, the longer you’ll stride. So the more stimulating your marketing content is, the more engaged your audience will be. Next time you’re planning your marketing campaign or strategy, keep in mind how you can present your message in the form of a story.

 

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