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The Power of Storytelling

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The Power of Storytelling in Marketing

Michele Ahlman

Movies often come to mind when we think of great storylines. A great movie has something for everyone.   A great movie can be so powerful it literally can define an era.  Star Wars is a good example. It is literally a template for what the authors of “The Storytelling Edge” dubbed The Four Elements of Great Stories. 

The four elements of great stories are:

  1. Relatability

Our brains are averse, so to speak to things that are too foreign. It’s hard to get comfortable enough to invest in a story that is too far out there. On the other hand, we are fascinated by stories we can relate to.  For us to accept ideas that are unfamiliar, we need some familiar elements to make us comfortable and to care about the story, The more relatable the story is, the more likely we are to get pulled in.

2. Novelty

When we are exposed to something new, our brains light up like a Christmas trees. That’s because our brains are wired for novelty - we pay attention to what is new to us.  This kept us safe back when we lived in caves when we needed to determine whether the new thing is a threat.  This instinct serves us well in modern times too.  In storytelling, the best stories use relatability to get us invested and then novelty to keep us interested.

3. Tension

Tension, which some call conflict or the curiosity gap, is what turns a good story into a great story. It’s the emotional tug,the mystery, the what-if, the “I can’t believe this!” A great story establishes what is and then establish what could be. The gap between those two things is the tension and that IS your story. The story tellers job is to close that gap and open a new one, over and over until the tale is done.

4. Fluency

The best writers- those writers that are most popular - write at a lower reading level than their peers. This is the 4th element of fantastic storytelling. A great storyteller, whether in film, in writing or in oral narration, grabs you with relatability, novelty & tension. Then, they tell the story in a way that means you don’t have to think about anything else.  This makes the story flow.

Whether we are telling our story on Twitter, in a blog post in a video or in a book, it’s incumbent on us to make each part of our story flow to the next piece as efficiently as possible. When your story is fluent, people only notice one thing: what you’re saying.

As human beings, we are designed for stories, they are literally part of what make us human. Our lives are constructed around one story after another.

We’ll do a lot because of a good story.   We’ll support destroying a product that is associated with a bad story.   We’ll change our minds about a product if it incorporates a good story.   We’ll pay a little extra for a product that has an inspirational backstory. And we’ll give something a 2nd chance based on a good redemption story.

Stories Make Marketing Better

Stories are the secret sauce to making content spread.   Ok, well good stories that is.    And I don’t mean just stories about good things, I mean well crafted, tested, tinkered-with stories.    This means crafting stories about your product or service, creating content around them whether that be in video, written or audio format and publishing this content where you customers have their attention.   Studying response, making adjustments and doing it again. 

For a great example of great stories in advertising, go to YouTube and search Dear Kitten Purina ad. These were a series of brilliant and funny “ads” that were mini-stories.  They are seriously hilarious!

Stories Make Sales Conversion Better

The fastest-growing business in the history of the world did something clever to beat its compentition.   It got people to open emails & buy products at an outrageous rate – through stories.  That company launched in my home town- Chicago (I now call Texas my home)  in 2008.  The company is Groupon.

Soon after Groupon’s launch  and rising success; they faced a barrage of competition.  How did they handle it?  They hired writers from Second City and wrote hilarious, backstories behind every product and service Groupon offered. 

This resulted in 2 things.

1st people opened the emails just to read the funny stories which led to an exceptionally high email open rate and 2nd….wait for it…. A big boost in sales.  And for those who did not buy, they may have sent the hilarious Groupon laser hair removal coupon to a particularly hair friend.

Stories are powerful communication tools that tap into our human DNA - how we make sense of our world.  Great stories stick with us.  They change our minds, They spur us into action.  As a hearing care provider, you certainly do not have to hire SNL writers or invest huge resources into writing elaborate story scripts for marketing, however, you can absolutely weave stories into your marketing, customer experiences and ad campaigns as well as your personal communication you can have massive impact, create a competitive edge today and keep that edge into the future.

Happy storytelling!

Michele Ahlman