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Storytelling in Action: Proven to Work

  
  
  
  
  

As content marketers we spend a lot of time thinking about storytelling techniques to enhance sales results for clients.  Stories are critical to making content-based programs work by engaging customers at a primal and sensory level.   We are wired to learn from stories – it is how we learn as children and how we process information.  When reading and watching fiction we put ourselves in the role of the protagonist and imagine about how we would resolve conflict.  Think of it as game planning for real life.  When complex facts and concepts are turned into a story, it makes them easier to understand.  Listeners (or customers) are active participants in the story and internalize the learning when they make themselves part of the narrative. A well-done case study is more effective than a dry recitation of features or death by PowerPoint.

Last week we had the pleasure of hearing Rob Walker talk about storytelling at the Ad Club Edge Conference here in Boston.  You may know Rob from his work writing the Consumed column for the New York Times for many years.  He and a partner, Joshua Glenn set out to prove that compelling stories could lift the perceived value of an item for sale.  Specifically they wanted to test the theory that stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively.

Here is how it worked:

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!

More details here…

The results: They sold $128.74 worth of thrift-store junk for $3,612.51, all of which went to the contributing writers.  Not a bad margin.  They did two more phases and they produced similar results.

The bottom line should not surprise marketers, but it surprising how many don’t think about storytelling in their marketing messages.  This is especially true for B2B companies – they forget their buyers are real people not an amalgam of title and company size.

If you want your customers to like and trust you, tell them a story and the perceived value of your product or service will increase.   It has been proven by the Significant Objects Project.

Check out this video to hear more from Rob Walker at the Edge Conference.

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