We are natural-born storytellers. Just think about it. When you ask someone, “What’s wrong?” you usually get a story in reply. And if you ask a three-year-old about his day, you might get more stories than you imagined. Stories are part of what make us human. They are how we make sense of the world. According to an oft-reported statistic, 92% of consumers want to see ads that tell stories. The point? If you want to engage your audience, tell a story.
Let’s consider the well-known story adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eisele.
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked, he came upon a young boy who was throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.
The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!
What is your reaction to this story? Are you moved? Do you want to jump out of your seat and make a difference despite the monumental task of it all? That, friends, is the power of story; it connects to people on a deeper, emotional level.
Storytelling is embedded in the very fabric of human existence. Stories are powerful for many reasons. They are:
Informative: Stories provide an entertaining way to share loads of information. Stories break abstract thoughts into digestible information. For example, if people ask you what you do for a living, it might difficult to explain. But if you walk them through a day in your life, it’s easier for them to understand. By using a story to convey your message in a way that takes them on a journey, you help them understand something in a way dry facts never could.
Emotional: The content of your story elicits an emotional connection with your audience. What you say and how you say it can create an emotional response that sinks deeply into the mind. Just like the Star Thrower story, your narrative can connect with your audience at a deeper level. We all like to think that we’re primarily logical when making decisions, but studies show that our emotions still rule the day. If you want to impact others, use a story.
Memorable: At the beginning of this post, we mentioned a statistic, without looking back, what was it? Now, without looking, what was the boy doing in the Star Thrower story? Most likely you forgot, or struggled to recall, the statistic of 92% of people wanting stories in ads, but you quickly remembered that the boy was saving starfish. Story wins. Stats and other facts are important and have their place, but we are programed to remember stories. If you want someone to remember what you’re saying, use a story.
Marketable: If you happen to be marketing a product or service, stories draw people deep into a narrative, helping them let down their guard. This gives you more time to effectively “sell” your product or service without the audience automatically shutting it down. And if you tell your story well, it gives you power to shift hearts and minds. That might mean someone is more willing to try your product or service or, if you're sharing an idea, it might help sway them to your way of seeing things.
There’s a Hopi American Indian proverb:
Those who tell the stories rule the world.
If you’re not using stories to help your brand, it’s never too late to start.