In a recent article on navigating fake news on social media, we highlighted the importance of brands being authentic and building trust with clients.
We build trust with our clients through the story of our brand. If our story does not connect with and motivate people, everything else we do is a wasted effort because people will not connect with our brand.
How do we craft the story of our brand in such a way it resonates with and connects with people?
This is something brands forget when creating sales funnels.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking the purpose of having a brand story is to create sales. While a compelling brand story may increase sales, sales are never the primary purpose of a compelling brand story.
The purpose of the story is to create a personal connection.
We have all been in sales situations where we know the salesperson only appears interested in and friendly to us to get us to buy. Equally, we have been in situations where the salesperson has been genuinely interested in us and seeks to create a connection and where the selling is secondary. In the first situation, we are unlikely to trust or buy from the person because we know the person is only using us to make a sale. In the second scenario, we feel that personal connection and trust the person.
In the same way, a brand story that is only used to generate sales is unlikely to connect with people and will often generate a sense of distrust. In contrast, brand stories that seek to connect with and deepen existing connections are more likely to be trusted.
Human society and individuals have evolved as storytellers. For centuries, our ancestors have told stories. It was how history was passed down and how people made sense of the world around them.
The philosopher Descartes’s premise, “I think; therefore, I am”, and the age of rationalism and logic is a recent aberration from these long centuries of storytelling. As much as we like to believe in our rationality and logical thinking, the truth is that we are still people who tell stories.
Because stories impact our brains in ways that logic and rational thinking never do. When we think about stories we love and remember, it is likely we remember these stories because of the emotional connection they created in us . We remember how the story made us feel, and it is the feeling state that helps us remember the story’s facts.
Not all stories have the same effect. There are many stories we hear that we forget because we have not engaged with them. Two characteristics are needed for a compelling story. Firstly, it must capture and hold our attention, and secondly, it must transport us into the world of the characters .
For stories to be compelling, they must capture our attention. Scientists often compare attention to a spotlight . It has a narrow focus, and it takes energy. This means that if a story doesn’t hold our attention or “grab our interest”, our attention will move to something more interesting.
The stories that capture our attention have four themes within the story.
● Conflict: a crisis or tension point that may change the course of the character’s path.
● Rising action: the lead-up to the climax.
● Climax: the defeat, rebirth, or aha moment; the inception of something new.
These four elements are known as the dramatic arc. In the plot, there is an increase in tension as the character must face difficulties and conflicts. This leads to a climax where the actor must find resources within themselves or around them to resolve the crisis and bring about change.
Having captured our attention, effective stories must hold our attention long enough to enable us to resonate emotionally with the character’s experiences. This is termed “transportation” . For example, we may be watching a film we know is fictional, but we begin to experience the emotions of the characters. We feel the same fear and horror the characters are going through. This is one of the reasons many people enjoy horror movies. These movies activate people’s fear and dread and, at the same time, provide a resolution to that fear.
It is easy to think that our brand story is outside these basic compelling storytelling principles. We may not have any point of tension or dramatic arc that we can create. Or, we are starting our story with what we want to sell.
In creating brand stories, it is essential to remember the following points:
As brands, we must understand the principles of compelling storytelling if we want the story of our brand to be compelling. The more we know the psychology of storytelling, the more effective we will be in telling our brand’s story.