The science behind storytelling. Why you should become a storyteller

Written by Brad | JULY 2017 | Reading time = 4m10s.

Humans are biologically designed to consume stories. We love stories. We learn through stories. We buy because of stories. Still, most business owners are shitty storytellers.

Storytelling is nothing new. Since the beginning of time, we humans have used storytelling as the primary source of communication and education. Think cave paintings, think hieroglyphics, think classroom story time.


Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” Roger C. Schank


So why are we all suckers for a good story? Scientifically, there really isn’t a whole lot to it.

Listening to a dramatic story, we tend to experience real emotions and biological changes. This encourages our brain to release two incredibly powerful chemicals. Oxytocin and Cortisol. Oxytocin is the neurochemical responsible for stirring feelings of connection, care, trust and empathy. Cortisol is the neurochemical related to stress.  

In 2015, neuro-economist Paul Zak conducted a study to test the power of storytelling over selling. In the study, Zak presented two groups of participants with two different motion graphic videos. The first was a clip of a father and son at the zoo with no real storyline. The second was a dramatic narrative depicting a father’s experience with his son who was suffering from a terminal disease. Both parties were then offered to donate a portion of their study earnings to charity. The group who viewed the more gripping narrative were far more likely to donate. (Reference to the study here)

As a business owner operating within the health, fitness and wellness industries, you are selling your clients a happier and healthier life. The initial tendency is to push the specifications of your product or service. ‘Our memberships are the cheapest’. ‘No lock-in contract’. ‘Lose x kg in x months’. ‘We have the best facilities in the southern hemisphere’. But all of these facts and figures do very little to invoke an emotional response.

Which is more attention grabbing? A low-carb, high-protein monthly meal plan. Or the story of how an unhappy and unhealthy mother of two overcame all adversities to transform her life in four weeks.

Becoming a great storyteller has the potential to completely transform your business in two ways. Firstly, potential clients are driven almost entirely by emotions when making a purchasing decision. Sparking an emotional response will dramatically increase the chances of you gaining a new client. Secondly, if you are unable to create an emotional connection with your client, they will eventually look elsewhere and leave. Leveraging the power of storytelling will really help you create an emotional connection with your existing clients, subsequently increasing retention.

Becoming an engaging storyteller really isn’t all that difficult. In fact, you don’t need any previous experience. You just need to understand your client and follow a few simple rules.

1. Respect basic story structure

Following a basic story structure will allow you to build emotion and deliver a more powerful message to your audience. It needs to start with an exposition where you introduce the characters and set the scene. Move to a conflict or rising action. Reach your climax. Then unravel the conflict before coming to a denouement or resolution.

2. Be authentic

At the end of the day, any marketing should aim to build trust with your clients. Building trust is the key ingredient required to build any long term, sustainable business. Intertwining authenticity into your storytelling is a great way to build trust. Tell real stories of client’s (or your own) personal struggles, challenges and transformations.

3. Be relevant

Ensure your stories are relevant to your audience, their own struggles, and the goals they wish to achieve. In any great story, we tend to place ourselves in the shoes of the character. You need to create a storyline and conflict which is relatable.

Ideally, you want to tell stories which evoke emotion while being relevant to your industry and product or service. The conflict or struggle in your story should be relatable. If you can do this, and your audience rides the emotional wave of your story, then guess what? Your product or service now appears as the solution to a problem. Your audience is now emotionally connected and engaged without you ever having to sell or market anything to them.

Hate marketing? Hate selling? Why not become a storyteller?




SHOUT OUT: This was inspired by a Marketo article written by Josh Ritchie.

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