The Storytelling Effect

By Stephen Saugestad
March 29, 2018
Market ResearchStrategy

Storytelling – it’s been around for ages, and the vehicle we’ve used to record a lot of that history. It’s endured and effective in almost every industry because of its qualities. The focus of this post will be on two of those qualities as they’re pertinent to the way we approach our work at Wallop.

There are two things that make storytelling so valuable in our work. The first thing is that stories create value, and the second is the way our brain responds to storytelling. The most well-known research on the association of value was conducted by Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn through a project called Significant Objects. The authors gathered a random collection of knick-knacks from garage sales and thrift stores. Through a team of contributing writers, they created a fictional story behind the objects and auctioned the objects on eBay. Measured by comparing the sum paid for the objects VS what they sold for, they found that adding stories to the objects improved the ROI to over 2000%! The study suggests that attaching stories to things creates objective value, and has the power to turn insignificant objects into significant ones. But it’s probably something you can attest to anecdotally in real life without resorting to a study.

Research in neuroscience tells us that different regions of the brain are activated when people hear stories, and when they hear factual information. This is true even in smaller contexts. For example hearing a metaphor like “smooth as silk” triggers the motor cortex of the brain, while hearing a factual version (i.e. “a smooth surface”) activates only the language processing (i.e. Broca and Wernicke) areas. As far as stories go, the brain doesn’t really differentiate between real life and fiction.

Seen from another perspective, the author Daniel Pink said: “Stories are easier to remember because stories are how we remember. When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.” Storytelling creates an emotional response in people, and this has a tremendous bearing on what we do as a creative team that’s often tasked with building a story about a product or experience. It can be manifested in many ways, including more tangible ones like conversion rates.

On a basic level, storytelling appeals to human emotion. It grabs attention, draws empathy, and compels people to act. It’s the most effective way of communicating your brand to your audience, and to shape their perception of who you are and what you stand for. The narrative of the brand becomes a key differentiation among the ocean of noise and competitors. And when the story is credible and authentic, it will resonate strongly with the intended audience.

We are firm believers in the efficacy of film as a storytelling medium. Especially when it’s done by a good storyteller and supported by a strong creative process that can draw out and distill the brand story. It delivers high engagement on the web and social media, and when it’s layered with strong copywriting, photography, and digital marketing, delivers a high return on investment.

Storytelling is one of three pillars that make up our proprietary approach to digital marketing at Wallop. Get in touch to learn more.