The Science of Storytelling, Part 2

Yesterday we looked at how storytelling affects the brain. We saw how the brain reacts to storytelling like you are part of the story. If you missed it, you can find that post here.

Today, we’re going to take a step forward though. Your brain sharing emotions and reacting to storytelling is extremely useful, but only if consumers purchase based on emotions. But what if they don’t? What if consumers make purchases based on cold, calculating logic?

If that’s true, storytelling has no place in marketing.

Emotion vs. Logic

Do consumers make purchases based on emotion or logic? It’s really the hinge of this entire series of blog posts. You’ll probably be unsurprised at what we find.

In the book Descartes Error, Dr. Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, argues that emotion is a necessary ingredient of decisions. He argues that experiences create emotions. With these emotions as a linchpin, we then affix values to options when presented with a problem.

It’s a simple path. Experiences lead to emotions, which lead to preferences, and finally to decisions.

We’ve already looked at the science, and know that our brain experiences stories much like experiences. When you watch a movie and you feel anxiety because of the protagonist sleuthing through the antagonist’s lair, you feel emotions based on that story. Therefore, it’s easy to understand that stories can fulfill the function of experiences.

It turns out, Dr. Peter Noel Murray agrees with Dr. Damasio. Murray lists 4 examples, and makes a compelling case for brand storytelling.

  • fMRI neuro-imagery shows that when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions rather than information.
  • Advertising research reveals emotional responses to an ad have far greater influence on decisions than the ad’s content – by a factor of 3-to-1 for television and 2-to-1 for print ads.
  • Research conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that “likeability” is the measure most predictive of whether an ad will increase a brand’s sales.
  • Studies show positive emotions toward a brand have far greater influence on consumer loyalty than trust and other judgements based on attributes.

It might be easier to look at it this way. If you walk into a store, you will see both brand names and generic brands. Many are drawn immediately to the name brand. With the same properties, why are consumers more likely to prefer the name brand?

The same could be asked of the trucking and construction industries.

  • Why do drivers or fleet owners prefer one major truck brand over another (i.e. Peterbilt vs. Freightliner)?
  • Why do contractors prefer one major construction brand over another (John Deere vs. CAT)?

But these aren’t the only proponents of this theory of storytelling influencing emotions influencing purchases. Actually, an analysis of the IPA dataBANK, which contains 1,400 case studies of successful advertising campaigns, emotional campaigns performed about twice as well as rational content. More specifically at a rate of 31% vs. 16%.

Human beings are emotional creatures, and a brand is only a mental representation of a product. Consumers attach emotional values based on the connection they have to a specific brand.

The richer the emotional content of a brand’s mental representation, the more likely the consumer will be a loyal user.

Continuing in this same vein of research and analysis, tomorrow we’ll talk about how all of this comes together to influence the basic rules of storytelling. However, we’re still not done. Thursday and Friday, we’ll continue by looking at some great examples of storytelling from both brands and news organizations.

Also, if you’re looking for the next post in the series, you can find that here.

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