Five years ago, I embarked on a journey to gain a deeper understanding of the science of stories. Having been in marketing for 25+ years, I thought I knew a lot about the impact of stories, but I soon discovered that I knew very little about what makes them truly powerful.
I read over 150 books on storytelling, studied all the world’s great narrative experts like Joseph Campbell and Robert McKee and dug into the neuroscience of story. I looked at storytelling from all angles and learnt about the hidden architecture of the great stories.
What I discovered has been transformative for my consulting work at Brand IQ.
I’ve learnt that stories are memory magnets and are over 20 times more memorable than facts and data alone. If you don’t believe me, think about how much you can remember from your favourite childhood story – compared to a PowerPoint presentation of facts and figures you sat through at work last week.
Stories are the glue that hold our memories together. Without them, we would be nothing more than a collection of facts with no emotional connection to the world around us. And that’s why they matter. As humans, we have an inherent need to understand the world around us – and stories help us do this by giving meaning and purpose to life’s experiences.
I’ve learnt that stories help to disarm cynicism and judgement, they re-create a child-like state of curiosity in us. They really are a Trojan horse vehicle that helps you get your message into the walled citadel of your prospects’ minds.
I’ve learnt that we have a physical reaction to great stories. A strong story inspires our brain to flood our bodies with oxytocin, dopamine, or cortisol. These have a profound effect on memory retention, empathy, and engagement.
I’ve learnt that the driving force of all great stories is conflict, and that every powerful story needs a powerful villain. Sadly, this is often forgotten in business storytelling.
I’ve learnt that stories are simply facts wrapped in emotions—and in an age where facts alone don’t cut it anymore (thanks, Trump), this is more important than ever!
I don’t share these things to brag, but simply to say that there are many ideas and phrases we throw around in marketing without fully understanding how they work. I have found that diving into the world of story has not only added more substance to my consulting work, but it’s also opened opportunities to work with new clients around the world.
Stories are one of the most powerful tools that marketers have at their disposal. But here’s the thing: There’s a science to storytelling that goes beyond just throwing facts together in an interesting way. After five years of studying this, it still fascinates me, and more and more people I talk to are on board with it too.