The connection between stories and true customer engagement has been clear for ages, but science is only now beginning to explain why. While our unconscious brain processes most of what we think and do, it's not particularly great at statistical reasoning. In other words, using numbers to tell prospects what your brand brings to the table isn't nearly as effective as using a good narrative.

Storytelling improves receptivity in customers and makes them more trusting, while also increasing levels of comprehension and retention. Need some cold, hard numbers to back that up? According to research compiled by OneSpot, delivering content in a narrative fashion makes it up to 22 times more memorable than facts.

A study attempting to quantify the value of storytelling found that a painting with the artist's personal story included sold an average of 11 percent more than an identical one with just the artist's name and the year. In the same vein, a product page with wine and tasting notes was less popular than one with the winemaker's story -- the latter was 5 percent more likely to be chosen, and the wines commanded a 6 percent higher value.

The benefits of storytelling are undeniable, and implementing them doesn't have to be difficult. To start taking advantage of your audience's appreciation of narrative, try these four strategies to build a message that will resonate with consumers.

1. Include dynamic (and unexpected) visuals.

The brain processes images 60,000 times faster than text, and OneSpot reports that when instructions have illustrations, readers perform tasks 323 percent better than with written instructions alone. With 65 percent of people identifying as visual learners, images become a captivating and efficient shorthand for connecting with your audience.

Of course, authentic storytelling requires you to set yourself apart from your competitors in order to get noticed. "With no shortage of options for stunning visuals, savvy marketers are turning to captivating media for driving their brands' stories forward," says Carl Reed, chief creative officer of Lion Forge Labs.

His team recommends utilizing an art form designed explicitly for storytelling in order to get your message across. "Comics are an excellent choice for visuals," Reed notes. "They are great for explaining abstract principles and are limited only by the imagination of the artists. Moreover, they convey a sense of approachability because they seem more fun and rough-hewn, less slick and corporate."

2. Bring stories to life with experiences.

Storytelling is an incredibly powerful way to connect with customers, but even it can't hold a candle to experiencing the story firsthand. That's part of the reason experiential marketing is so effective and may also be why the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted the event industry will expand a whopping 44 percent from 2010 to 2020.

To stand out in this growing industry, you'll need to bring greater authenticity to your events to inspire connection. "Create moments that might not be covered in logos or colors, but represent genuinely honest, unique execution," says Darren Wilson, president of bluemedia. He points out that great experiences start from the heart: "Think of it as creative directing a whole experience centered on what a brand actually does. And the best way to get there is through story-living, which takes storytelling to the next level by bringing a brand experience to life."

3. Ignite emotions in your audience.

Emotion creates a much deeper and more lasting connection with your customers than a dry recitation of features and statistics. Consider the fact that using a cellphone while driving leads to more than 1.6 million crashes per year. That's a huge figure, but it's unlikely to faze drivers who are browsing through their Spotify playlists in traffic.

Now imagine telling those individuals a story about one single accident and how it resulted in a pedestrian death and drastically altered the life of the driver. It's not hard to determine which method will be more effective in getting them to put down their phones. Emotions trigger involuntary biological responses, including the release of chemicals in the brain that heightens senses and produces more permanent memories.

4. Speak your customers' language.

Tone is everything, and your customers want your messaging to sound like it comes from a close friend. Your narrative is meant to spark a relationship, which means customers need to be able to relate to it. It's important to meet the members of your target market where they spend their time, but you need to engage them in the same way they engage each other. In other words, you need to speak their language.

One way to do this is to perform a psychographic audit of your target audience to get a better sense of how its members prefer to communicate. While 86 percent of consumers are looking for honesty from their brands, your specific audience may respond better to a funny or snarky tone, or it may prefer that you stay reserved and politically neutral. By auditing the common vernacular of your consumers, you can learn to encapsulate a voice that will resonate with them.

Customers are clamoring for a good story. Give the people what they want and inject a narrative note into your brand messaging. With a captivating and inspiring tale, you can bring in a new host of brand advocates and become an integral part of the stories they tell others.

Published on: Jun 6, 2018
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