The room is dark except for the soft, warm glow of your bedside lamp. You just slipped into your soft, warm bed and your mom hands you your favorite teddy bear. You snuggle in and prepare yourself for your favorite part of bedtime: the bedtime story. Your mom kisses you on the forehead, turns off your lamp, and moves to shut the door. Your face pinches into a frown.
"Wait!" You call, "I won't go to sleep without a bedtime story!"
Entrepreneurs often forget the immense power of storytelling. It's incredibly easy to get caught up in statistics and data, especially since they can be the very basis of your brand. While these are obviously important factors, the average person may not understand, or care about the numbers.
While listening to stories, the human brain releases a cocktail of organic chemicals, making stories a rewarding and pleasurable experience. The most important of these chemicals (at least from a marketing standpoint), is oxytocin, which is produced when we are trusted or someone is kind to us, and enhances empathy (the ability to feel and experience others' emotions). This knowledge can be a major tool in growing your brand.
Two men, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn, proved the successfulness of storytelling in business with their 2009 "literary and anthropological" experiment, Significant Objects. Here was the gist of the experiment:
"A talented, creative writer invents a story about an object. Invested with new significance by this fiction, the object should — according to our hypothesis — acquire not merely subjective but objective value. How to test our theory? Via eBay!"
This experiment saw the men purchasing $128.74 in thrift shop trinkets (averaging out to about $1.25 per item), then enlisting the help of 100 contributing writers to compose short stories for item descriptions. The items sold on eBay for a staggering $3,612.51 in total. Check out the results for yourself!
Michele Miller, a digital marketing specialist, said, "Narrative transforms insignificant objects into significant ones." What does this mean for you? Let's say you found your great-grandfather's old, handcrafted leather journal tucked away in the attic of your childhood house. You spent hours devouring stories of love, war, and family, carefully flipping through the slightly yellowed pages of history. This inspired you to create your own line of handcrafted leather journals. Once you put your story out there, it instantly sets your journal apart from every other journal out there. It's more than just a notebook to write absentminded notes on-- it's an effort to keep history alive. This journal is suddenly significant to a customer because they relate to your story and your mission.
Of course, not all stories are quite as romantic as the above anecdote. Don't think your brand can't be just as engaging if your story isn't frilly. You can still connect with your audience by sharing a specific experience that has motivated you, business related or not. You could even share your personal process and some of the ups and downs that inevitably come with creating and keeping a brand. The key is to simply show you're human and don't just care about the sales. This can help to create life-long followers.
Incorporate your "why" and your "how" into your business strategy. Make sure you're not leading with numbers and data, but with stories that engage and entice your audience. Just like you wouldn't go to sleep without a bedtime story when you were a kid, people won't invest in your brand without your story. Own it. Love it. Put it to use.
What's YOUR story? Tell us in the comments below!