Did you know? Humans react to meanings, not fact
This is how to and not to influence people
When looking to solve problems or sell products, governments, non-for-profits, and marketers alike fall into the fallacy of thinking that knowledge and facts will do the work.
They usually don't.
You can tell people that your product will make their life 20% better, you can give them references and quotes on why vaccines are essential, or statistics on how many kids are dying of anger. These, as per our common sense, would be effective ways of convincing people about what is wrong or right, or to buy your life-changing product, or you know, sign up for your newsletter.
The fact is, that people don't really internalise facts. Factually, we understand better through stories, personal anecdotes, metaphors, and-or highly emotional stuff.
Greek philosophers too had an inclination towards the power of storytelling. Parmenides of Elea (a city in Magna Grecia, South Italy), who lived in the early fifth century BCE, wrote complex philosophical poetry that has won him the distinction of being the most profound and demanding thinker in early Greek philosophy. Aristotle believed that a tale must have pity, fear, and catharsis. These are the fundamental components of a captivating tale, which may be utilised to persuade an audience. The major takeaway here is to maintain your attention on the audience rather than your characters, narrative, or self-awareness as a writer. These are narrative elements that behavioural scientists and marketers are rediscovering now.
Communities in other parts of the world still keep storytelling close as a tool for learning, spreading messages, and creating communities.
We react not to facts, but to meanings.
In 2018, a group of researchers from MIT found that typically (especially on Twitter) fake news travels faster than real stories. Substantially. False news reports, for example, are 70 per cent more likely to be retweeted than accurate media articles. True narratives also take approximately six times as long to reach 1,500 individuals as fake stories do.
When it comes to driving sales, simply writing about the great feature of products and services does not convert. That is why copywriting exists. Copywriters are usually masters who translate features into value, and bring value to life through statements. They tell a story, solve problems, and satisfy needs.
Fake news writers, conspiracy theorists, and anti-vax kinda folk are usually very good copywriters.
Storytelling can solve problems, with or without logic.
Now, as the capitalist that I am, I'd like to focus on the use of storytelling in business and marketing.
"People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions, and help them throw rocks at their enemies." ― Blair Warren, The One Sentence Persuasion Course - 27 Words to Make the World Do Your Bidding
Advertising and copywriting are the most obvious stages where storytelling for persuasion should happen. Although, it really can be used at different stages in your business strategy or marketing campaign.
According to Google Trends, content marketing is one of the fastest increasing search phrases in the business marketing field. Content marketing is the concept that all businesses must think and behave like media organisations in order to attract and keep consumers. Unlike advertising, which is usually based on someone else's material, content marketing is the continual development of meaningful, relevant, and captivating information by a company in order to elicit positive behaviour from a customer or prospect of the business. Content marketing comes in many forms nowadays, but it is not a new concept.
Whether the brand's goals are based on SEO (being discovered), conversion, or using social media platforms, none of these will be successful without captivating narratives. Emotions, recognising what others are doing, and cohesiveness are all encoded into people's brains. And those are the benefits of a well-crafted tale.
Stories usually (think of fables) have a happy ending. A solution to a problem. A hero who finds the tools for their destiny, or a Deux ex Machina that saves the story. Businesses that can evoke this sense of problem-solving, are already one step ahead.
The stories our brains tell themselves: placebo effect
What story does your pricing tell? What emotions do the colours you use evoke? Will this have a physiological effect on consumers/users?
The takeaway for marketers is that our expectations impact our experiences. Wine is an excellent example of how perception influences experience, as well as how we "create stories." Tasters not only rated the identical wine better when it was perceived to cost $45 vs. $5 in one set of studies, but it also lighted up the pleasure area of their brains more. Other studies have found that playing German music in a store increases sales of German wine over French wine, even when customers are unaware of the music being played. All good marketing, in this respect, is about persuading (not misleading) your consumer that your service or product will solve their problem.
How do you convince them? With stories.
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