Storytelling has its sceptics and detractors in the business world. I fear the word and practice is both being overused and misapplied much like “business design” and “branding”. The only way to conclude its effectiveness is to give it a try. That starts with understanding by reading the latest thinking on the subject.
Moving From Fiction to Non-Fiction
Many brand and product stories “are just pretty commercials made to wear beat up sweatpants to try to boost authenticity and believability”. Jay Baer recently admonished such efforts saying, “Storytelling has to shift from an emphasis on the story to an emphasis on the truth.” He goes as far to suggest that this “will be the big content and social story in 2017.”
The Resurgence Of Storytelling
Devishobha Ramanan writing in The Huffington Post suggests that oral storytelling is needed in company leadership. Her introduction is an eloquent example of storytelling, “Stories are powerful. They can teach us to be moral or immoral. They can help us cut through a situation analytically. They make us cry for someone else we didn’t know. They make us happy for someone we only wished we had met.” She calls for business leaders to draw on ancient practices. India’s Harikatha is an oral storytelling tradition with a primary storyteller and two other storytellers in support. China’s Shuosh and Japan’s Rakugo are other examples whose use can motivate and educate audiences.
The Science of Storytelling
Fast Company covers the science and provides an infographic, “Our brains are hardwired to crave stories told by others, and this idea has been adopted by marketing campaigns worldwide. It is theorized that marketing in the form of stories is up to 60 times more effective and is able to sink in to their target audience much more personally, whether they know it or not. When stories are told, instead of simple fact telling, it is said that a number of things happen in the brain. Dopamine levels increase. There is enhanced activity in the cerebral cortex and a larger degree of neural coupling, which allows the consumer to more closely relate to a product and form his or her own opinion of it.”
How Adidas Tells the Story their Customers Want to Hear
Corporate stories allow businesses to combine an idea with an emotion. This prompts customers to draw connections between brands and their beliefs, feelings, or ideas. European Business Review writes, “Adidas mines years’ worth of history and connections to build a deep and resounding connection with their audience.” Besides using personal storytelling from the perspective of sports superstars in order to resonate with their customer’s emotions, Adidas have also dipped their toes in the pool of social awareness, connecting with deep, and important global values (this last bit concerns Swystun Communications as brand storytelling exists to help sell. Too many brands confuse by mixing in social causes as a way to gain authenticity but end up doing way more harm than good).
Once solely the domain of marketing, storytelling is increasingly being adopted by corporate recruiting teams to help them hire more efficiently. Lars Schmidt tells the tales of KPMG, Deloitte, and the more obscure but fascinating, Nurse Next Door in Forbes. Lauren Nipp, Social Community Specialist, is quoted, “Storytelling has created a humanistic connection that allows Nurse Next Door to educate people about what we do by showing them, instead of telling them. This shift has elevated Nurse Next Door’s recruiting efforts and brand to the next level. The ability to transform customer and employee experiences to video and social media content has given the company an authentic voice which has resonated with people beyond expectations.”