The power of storytelling has more to do with content marketing, and the creation of memorable content, than you might think. In fact, it has everything to do with it.
Because we have evolved to be highly social creatures, who have used storytelling to inspire and communicate concepts. Through the act of spinning yarns, we have evolved to form strong, lasting bonds within the group. Cooperative groups allowed us to dominate the planet, more so than our ability to hold objects with our amazing opposable thumbs, or to stand upright, or even use our bigger brains. This single trick increased our success rates at surviving in harsh and hostile environments and made adaptation and learning, faster and easier.
Storytelling is what allowed the group to form, to bond, to remain strong as a unit in the face of danger. Storytelling is the cement that fused different individuals together to achieve amazing things.
How does it do this?
When we're told a well-crafted story, the human brain fluctuates between anxiety, fear, happiness, joy, and trust. We pair together ideas, and visuals with memory and emotion as our brains are releasing powerful cocktails of various chemicals. Chemicals like dopamine, which makes us feel hopeful and optimistic, to cortisol that is produced in times of stress allowing us to focus, to oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy.
"Make it about them, not about you." — Simon Sinek
Let me tell you a story. Simon Sinek once talked about a homeless woman he met that participated in an experiment with him. She had a typical sign, simple, very much like a laundry list of things, such as, homeless, hungry, need help, have no money, help me, etc., He convinced her to replaced her sign with this message:
If you only give once a month, please think of me next time.
It was profoundly successful netting her 40 dollars in two hours when it would have usually taken all day if she were lucky to make the same with her previous sign. It's underlying message was: I know you can't give to everyone, but my cause is legitimate, and I will still be here when you're ready to give. The story places the responsibility directly on the reader of the sign. As Sinek says it, "Make it about them, not about you."
When was the last time you made a decision purely on the facts? When you choose Nike over Adidas why are you making the choice? Does it have to do with the actual technology or more likely, is it only that you like one story better over another? Did it touch you in some real, and personal way? Do you see yourself in the story? This is an example of content marketing via excellent storytelling.
The most successful storytellers will often focus listener's minds on a single important idea to evoke a strong emotional connection. Ever hear of Moe Levine? He developed the "whole man" theory, and he used this to influence a jury on behalf of his client, who had lost both of his arms in an accident:
As you know, about an hour ago we broke for lunch. I saw the bailiff come and take you all as a group to have lunch in the jury room. Then I saw the defense attorney, Mr. Horowitz. He and his client decided to go to lunch together. The judge and court clerk went to lunch. So, I turned to my client, Harold, and said: “Why don’t you and I go to lunch together?” We went across the street to that little restaurant and had lunch. (Significant pause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, I just had lunch with my client.
He has no arms. He has to eat like a dog. Thank you very much.
The jury, expecting a long closing argument, instead received a highly focused, and emotionally devasting look at his client, who could have been anyone of them, but for this tragic accident. He reportedly won one of the largest settlements in the history of the state of New York.
It's an ancient tradition, storytelling, which makes it highly effective if done correctly, because stories which bring to mind images, and emotions, touch beyond what pure quantitative analysis can reach. The heart. It's amorphous. Non-quantifiable. A feeling. But it's real. It's real and it amounts to loyalty to one thing over another, simply because it 'feels right'.
There's a little more to it than that, and of course, everyone's story is different, but these are some of the fundamental core ideas at play. After all, we're all human, and being human is good business.
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