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How Your Brand Story Influences Your Customers

There was a time when the typical consumer would go to a store and buy a product. Now, products come to the consumer with the tap of their fingers on a touchscreen, except they are not only purchasing a product anymore. 

As society evolved, so did the market, which has become more competitive and makes it more challenging than ever for brands to be distinctive. With so many advertisements bombarding consumers daily, how do they choose one brand over another? 

It becomes increasingly apparent that our modern-day society has shaped today’s experience-seeker consumer, who needs something more to engage with a brand and become a loyal customer. As today’s consumer mindlessly scrolls through a digital sea of carbon-copy offers, businesses must grab that scarce attention and master the art of storytelling.

What is brand storytelling?

Whether you sell a product or a service, you are marketing your ideas, beliefs, and values. And all of those come with a background story unique to you. Brand storytelling is crafting a narrative that communicates your brand’s mission to your target audience, ensuring a long-lasting relationship based on shared values.

How did you come up with your business idea? What is your purpose? How does that benefit your target audience? A strong narrative will answer those questions and create an emotional connection with your customers, increasing their perceived value of your product or service. 

But what about stories make them so captivating, and why does it affect your customers’ daily decisions?

Why do we like stories?

Stories have entertained, inspired, and educated people for generations. Once used in its visual and oral form to communicate in ancient civilizations, storytelling has quickly grown and become essential in our digitally-driven era. 

Just as cave dwellers painted on walls with their hands to create stories, we nowadays have digital media, which encompasses all past forms of storytelling: visual, oral, and written. Throughout time and human evolution, stories have brought people together. 

In this modern-day society, where people get easily distracted, stories help us pay attention. A good story triggers our emotions in a way that facts and statistics cannot, causing our decisions to be more emotional than logical. For a story to have the desired impact, it must be delivered effectively.

The chemistry behind the behavior

Effective communication is established by a process called neural coupling, which means that when you hear a story, your brain activity mirrors the speaker’s brain activity. In other words, you and the storyteller are living the same experience simultaneously with the same perception. 

On a chemical level, studies led by professor, scientist, and author Paul J. Zak have shown that the brain releases chemicals like oxytocin and cortisol when we are told a touching story. A higher level of oxytocin increases empathy, which helps create a connection and build trust in a relationship. On the other hand, cortisol is the stress hormone that focuses our attention when needed. 

Emotions create immersion

Professor Zak’s research has concluded that oxytocin, also called the love hormone, is responsible for creating narrative transportation in a story. Narrative transportation happens when you start emotionally resonating with the story and become completely immersed in it as if you were there. As the story progresses and the action rises, the brain releases more cortisol, which makes our attention sharpen. 

When participants were shown a narrated video with a sad story of a young boy dying, their levels of both hormones increased significantly. On the other hand, when they were shown a storyless video of a young boy walking with his father, their hormone levels did not change as they did not experience anything.

The participants were then given money to share with strangers or donate to charity. Those with higher levels of oxytocin and cortisol were more keen to donate money generously. His two-phase experiment concluded that a narrative can “change behavior by changing our brain chemistry.”

A real-life success story

Take the example of the Significant Objects Project to better understand the impact of stories. The experiment, created by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, was designed to prove the hypothesis that “narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones.” 

It consisted of 100 writers creating short stories about cheap objects purchased from thrift stores and garage sales for a total of $128.74. The items were then listed on eBay along with their carefully written narratives to see if a story could add value to a product. 

The results confirmed the exactitude of the initial hypothesis, as the objects were sold for a total of $3,612.51, a value increase of 2700%. The successful experiment proved that people attach more value to a product when they strongly connect with its narrative. 

Tell stories, change the world

If any well-crafted story can persuade someone to take action, businesses must leverage storytelling to be successful and ensure long-term brand loyalty in a fast-paced world. 

The emotional bond that stories create between a company and its customers brings much more than an increase in sales. Stories unite like-minded individuals and build a community based on shared interests, values, and beliefs. Products or services become secondary in a story, with people relating more to the social and humanized experience behind the showcase. 

So, grab a pen and paper, draft your mission, and go tell a stranger a story; you might just find your new customer. 

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