Introduction on storytelling
Telling a story is something people have been doing for as long as they have existed. Besides the fact that stories are often highly entertaining, they are also important for our development in many ways. Stories create connection, empathy and they help us remember information better.
Storytelling is very popular in business for this reason. Storytelling is widely used in advertisements and on websites. After all, people identify much more strongly with characters in stories than with companies, products or services.
Because let's face it: companies are often boring. Stories, on the other hand, are a lot more fun. Reading about the origins of a company does not get anyone hot. Companies need to do something to hold the attention of their target audience, and storytelling is perfect for this. Storytelling turns a boring brand story into a fairytale adventure with monsters, treasures and of course, the hero.
But why does storytelling work with people? What are the characteristics of a good story? And which companies know how to apply it well? Let's find out below.
What does storytelling do to you?
A good story does more to you than you might initially think. As many as seven parts of the brain are activated when experiencing a story. That is a lot more than just the 2 parts activated when you only absorb facts and figures.
Because the brain is a lot more active when experiencing a story, you remember the info you get a lot better. Storytelling is therefore an ideal method to absorb information in a fun and effective way.
In addition, storytelling creates connection. The different parts that are activated in your brain enable you to relate the story to your own experiences and emotions. The emotions, in turn, trigger the release of dopamine. By releasing this happiness hormone, people remember things better and more accurately. Ideal when you want people to remember your company or product.
Another substance produced when experiencing a story is oxytocin. This hormone produces a feeling of trust, charity and connection.
And precisely this connectedness is what companies are looking for. Storytelling is the ideal tool for connecting both customers and employees to their brand, product or service.
What makes a story good?
Stories can be about anything. Many different stories can be made up for any subject. Yet almost all stories have the same structure. You will often find the same elements in different stories. This is because people have found out that this is how stories are best experienced and therefore best remembered.
A good story is one with characters the reader can recognise and relate to. This makes the reader feel a bond with the characters and thus with the story. Furthermore, it is very effective when you make use of your readers' desires and dreams and subtly reflect this in the story.
Almost all Disney fairy tales and other good stories use a set structure with specific elements. We list them below:
The normal world
This outlines the current world or situation in which the protagonist finds himself at the beginning of the story.
The desired world
Often a nicer, better world. Where the problems of the normal world have been remedied. The desired world contains the treasure, but also contains the bad guy.
The person the story is about. This one goes on the adventure where problems and obstacles are overcome to get to the treasure. The hero is often someone who has recognisable character traits. Everyone should be able to identify with the hero. As a company, you want your potential customers to feel like the hero of your story.
The problems of the normal world become visible during the crisis.
An event that causes the hero of the story to step out of his or her comfort zone. This is often where the adventure begins. This can be compared to the beginning of the buyers' journey in a commercial story.
The helper helps the hero overcome obstacles in the search for the treasure. This could be the company, product or service, for example.
This is what the hero longs for. In fairy tales, it is often a person such as a princess. But it can also be a better world or a problem being solved.
This must always be overcome before the hero can get to the treasure.
Additional tips for a good story
Below are a few more tips to consider when writing a good story:
- Make use of examples in your story. Readers may not immediately get the message of your story. By using examples, you create situations the reader can relate to. This way, you make it easier to convey a message the reader can relate to.
- Make it personal and human. Stories are about people. This has been true since the beginning of stories, so it is important to reflect this in your story. Because it is about people, the reader will be better able to empathise with the story and identify with the main character.
- Make use of imagery. The more detailed you describe the objects, environments or characters, the easier it will be for the reader to see it in front of them. You want the reader to be able to feel, hear or smell the situation. It makes your story more powerful and more likely to stick.
- Know your audience. If you know who your readers are and what they like, your story is a lot more likely to be well received. Tune your story to your reader to make sure they can connect with the story and you better and faster.
Examples of good storytelling by companies
With storytelling, you can show your target audience what you do as a company, how your product comes about, but above all why you do it.
The 'why' is the basis of your business. Sure, a company wants to make a profit, but to do that, the 'why' is much more important. If people don't believe in the story they won't buy. People want to know why they should be with you and not a competitor. Why you make a difference and what impact it has. With good storytelling, you can powerfully convey your 'why'.
An example of a company using good storytelling to tell their 'why' is Tony Chocolonely. In their story, the customer is the hero by buying slave-free chocolate. Together with the helper (Tony Chocolonely), they embark on an adventure to find the treasure in the form of a slave-free world. In the video below, you can see what drives Tony Chocolonely to make slave-free chocolate.
The story of Tony's Chocolonely
Another example is Patagonia. In their story, the ordinary world is one under pressure from a climate crisis. The desired world is one where the climate crisis is averted and animals and nature are preserved. Once again, the hero is the customer. The helper is Patagonia, which provides the customer with sustainable outdoor clothing. In this way, the hero can contribute to a world with a healthier climate.
Stories have been around for as long as there have been people, but they are more popular today than ever. In business, stories are used to bind potential customers or employees to your organisation, product or service.
Stories arouse emotions and thus you not only create connection but also make the reader remember information better and more accurately.
A good story always has the same structure with the same elements. The main character grows into a hero by overcoming obstacles and setbacks in the search for treasure. This makes it relatable for the reader and therefore he/she can identify with the protagonist. The reader literally becomes part of your story.
For companies, storytelling is the way to tell why they do what they do. This is how they distinguish themselves from the competition. At Intractive, we also love stories. We help companies that have positive impact tell their story interactively. Both for product branding and employer branding. By also making it interactive using gamification, your company's story literally comes to life. This way, users become the hero or heroine in your story and you transform them into leads, customers or fans.