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Storytelling in Psychology and Marketing

In life, storytelling is pervasive. One reason stories are popular is that learning through them is more memorable and retrievable than pure lecture-based learning—We naturally store, index, and retrieve information in the form of stories. Most of us would rather listen to someone tell a compelling story than listen to some boring lecture about the facts. Stories are simple and easy to understand.

We tell stories everyday through words, body language, attitude, and the products we use. Our stories shape not only how we see the world but our actions and associations. 

A lot of brands desire to become iconic in the consumers mind. The rewards can be amazing if you can tell a good story about your product to distinguish it from the forest of nearly itendial competiton. Products capturing the minds of consumers create a catalytic reaction. 

Companies want their products to become part of our story. And they are successful. When cleaning a bathroom, I, the protagonist, am aided by Mr. Clean, in an epic battle against the invisible, yet ever-present, agent of evil: “bacteria.” With Mr. Clean on my side, I feel like I have an unfair advantage. 

The power of stories to convince people is amazing. Hitler told a powerful story. Warren Buffett tells a powerful story and so does Barack Obama. 

We think mostly in terms of stories.

As one researcher put it, “(People) understand the world in terms of stories that they have already understood. New events or problems are understood by reference to old previously understood stores and explained to others by the use of stories.”

What is a story in the context of marketing?

Essentially, a story expresses how and why life changes. It begins with a situation in which life is relatively in balance: You come to work day after day, week after week, and everything’s fine. You expect it will go on that way. But then there’s an event—in screenwriting, we call it the “inciting incident”—that throws life out of balance. You get a new job, or the boss dies of a heart attack, or a big customer threatens to leave. The story goes on to describe how, in an effort to restore balance, the protagonist’s subjective expectations crash into an uncooperative objective reality. A good storyteller describes what it’s like to deal with these opposing forces, calling on the protagonist to dig deeper, work with scarce resources, make difficult decisions, take action despite risks, and ultimately discover the truth.

Why do people tell stories?

First, telling stories is pleasurable to the authors. Second, storytelling permits the teller to experience an archetype fulfillment. Third, telling stories revises and deepens sense making of the meaning of events in the story and what the complete story implies about oneself and others.

Source: When Consumers and Brands Talk: Storytelling Theory and Research in Psychology and Marketing

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