The Neuroscience behind storytelling.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did,but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

Emotional memory will stay with us the longest. As marketers, we want to make our brands most appealing or most memorable. How can we use people’s emotion to capture their attention? After the Superbowl, almost all my classmates would talk about the Budweiser Puppy Love commercial. It tells a affective story that make people feel the happiness of love. Maybe the commercial wasn’t completely linked to the Budweiser’s products, but the story surely stayed in people’s minds. Storytelling has the most strategic importance in intriguing people’s emotion/feelings.

I recently read an article from Harvard Business Review blog about Why/How “puppy love” succeed in the crowds of SuperBowl Ads. Surprisingly, this little “story” has the same structure of Shakespeare’s plays, it includes an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a final outcome in just 30 seconds. We felt distressed when they saw the puppy whines and put his little paws on the window when he depart the puppy adoption place. We can almost felt the sadness of the Clydesdale when he looked at the puppy. Then we saw the Clydesdales stopped the car from leaving and reunited with the puppy. We had a little “awe” moment right there.

Paul Zak has done a study on how storytelling affect our brain and our behaviors. In a series of studies, Zak has shown that when people watch a short, sad story about a father and a son, two neurochemicals are produced.

1. Cortisol-when people feel distress, this neurochemicals encourage them to pay attention to story.

2. Oxytocin-this neurochemicals promotes connection and empathetic feeling. Oxytocin also make people more generous.

Paul Zak’s study also show that oxytocin’s ability to help us connect and make us more trusting. In one of his studies, participants under the influence of oxytocin are more likely to give more money to charity. Zak said “This research suggests that advertisers use images that cause our brains to release oxytocin to build trust in a product or brand, and hence increase sales.”

Telling a story is not enough. Telling a good story that include a climax and final outcome is crucial. Storytelling with visuals is even more effective in building trust.

I read another article that also talks about emotion in marketing. In the article , the author mentioned the result of an analysis of IPAdataBank: advertising campaigns that use purely emotional contents work twice as well as just rational contents.

We don’t need scientist to tell us emotions are important in marketing. I still remember Dove’s “Real beauty campaign”; I still remember Coca Cola’s “one-hundred years old man sharing secret of happiness” ad; They are certainly very effective because I still remember these ads by heart.

A picture is worth a million words. People get the most direct feeling when they saw a picture, no matter it is a happy one or a sad one. Storytelling is powerful. Storytelling equipped with visual is more effective.

As I wrote in one of my blog post about NGO websites, most NGO’s website looks like an informational brochure. NGO try so hard to throw all the information onto their audiences and forget their main goal is to make people feel the meaningfulness of what they are doing.Tell people a story behind the scene. Tell people how their donation make those suffered a little happier. Tell people stories that intrigue oxytocin. Tell people story with powerful visuals and capture their attention longer.


2 Comments on “The Neuroscience behind storytelling.

  1. Pingback: The Neuroscience behind storytelling. | Transmedia Camp 101

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