Why Our Brains Crave Storytelling In Marketing

Our greedy little brains are hungry for a good story, so if you want to make the sale, forget the data and make a personal connection.

What grabs your attention more: a list full of ingredients like acacia gum, oligiosaccharide, and glutemate or a story about one company’s mission to bring the tangy sweetness of a blueberry and the warming power of a bowl of oatmeal to kitchen tables around the world?

While both speak to Kashi’s company mission of making healthy food available to everyone, the second choice seems far more compelling.

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This makes sense, especially considering recent findings of a Nielsen study that show consumers want a more personal connection in the way they gather information.

Are we surprised, though?

Numerous studies over the years have proven that our brains are far more engaged by storytelling than the cold, hard facts.

When reading straight data, only the language parts of our brains work to decode the meaning. But when we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.

What this means is that it’s far easier for us to remember stories than the cold hard facts because our brains make little distinction between an experience we are reading about and one that is actually happening.

In addition to this, our brains are insanely greedy for stories. We spend about a third of our lives daydreaming—our minds are constantly looking for distractions—and the only time we stop flitting from daydream to daydream is when we have a good story in front of us.

Top brands like LinkedIn, Coca Cola, Etsy—the list goes on—harness this science to their advantage through content marketing that focuses on the story.

While Americans consume more than 100,000 digital words every day according to this infographic from content marketing platform OneSpot, 92% of these consumers want to internalize those words in the form of a story.

There are a number of rules and guides out there for how to best tell a story; you should at least check out The 10 Commandments of Content.

[Image: Flickr user thebittenword.com]

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  • brownleeassociates

    Have you ever considered the importance of deductive vs inductive reasoning preferences in the minds of the Audience? Not everybody thinks the same way as Americans!

  • mikkiwilliams

    Hi Rachel,

    Loved the article. I speak on The Art and Heart of Storytelling for my own clients and for Vistage International, the world's leading executive organization. CEO's need to know how to tell their companies stories, senior management, salespeople, etc, all need to learn the craft instead of doing data dumps. Thanks for putting this in such a great perspective.

    Mikki Williams, CSP, CPAE www.mikkiwilliams.com

  • To your point, I serve as a Worldwide Storyteller and Enthusiast on the topic of Social Smarter Work. I'm an IBMer. We're changing our culture and that of our clients and friends to one that encourages stories as an integral part of communicating our message. In a market that focuses on the intersection of people and technology (each complex), we realize "at a time of complexity, story is king". Thanks for your work in promoting storytelling.

  • Andreia Vaz

    Rachel, great article! I'd love to read the infographics but the res. is very low. Is it possible to upload with better quality? Thanks.

  • Love this–thanks Rachel. It's definitely important for brands to 'be' that story. Authenticity is huge and people need to feel connected. I loved the stat on the info-graphic: visuals are viewed 60x faster. A picture is definitely worth a thousand words...