What Storytelling Science Tells Us About Video

  • Harry Hayes

Categories: Corporate Video Production Creative Video Services Video Marketing Video Production Agency Video Production Expert Visual Storytelling

MRI Research Studies Reveal a Lot About Storytelling Science and the Human Brain.

Storytelling science is providing insights into content marketing. Several recent studies have shed new light on why content marketing works and why stories, in particular, engage consumers.

For example, Professor Jennifer Aaker of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business conducted an interesting experiment. She had each of her students prepare a one-minute pitch, and present it to the class.

Only one out of ten pitches told a story. The other 90 percent used facts and statistics.

Then, she asked the students to write down the presentation they remembered most. Here’s the interesting part—only 5 percent of the students cited a fact, but 63 percent remembered a story.

Her conclusion: we remember stories more easily than facts and figures. Our brains are hard wired to do so.

The science of storytelling.

Storytelling Science

In another study, MRI research showed that sights, smells and emotions cause neurons to fire in different regions of the brain.

Véronique Boulenger, a cognitive scientist at the Laboratory of Language Dynamics, showed that reading sentences containing action words sparks activity in the motor cortex.

It seems our bodies respond the same way to stimuli, whether they’re physical or fictional. In other words, the human brain does not distinguish between hearing a story and experiencing it in real life.

Movies are a good example of this. Imagine sitting in a theater for two hours, inactive in every way. But then, during an exciting action sequence, your heart begins racing. Your brain reacts to stimuli on the screen, as if you were the one driving the fast car, or running away from danger.

This is why stories are so powerful. They elicit physical reactions in us. We feel anxiety, happiness, relief—whatever emotions the story’s characters are experiencing.

And that’s not just opinion—storytelling science has removed any doubt.

The Power of Storytelling

Content marketers have long known the power of storytelling, and how it gives marketers an advantage.

Another recent study bears this out. A professor at Johns Hopkins University spent two years analyzing Super Bowl advertising. He found commercials that told a story were more popular with consumers, and generally ranked higher on the Advertising Age Super Bowl Ad Meter.

We don't just hear stories. We experience them.

Other studies show the same holds true for online content and social media. Posts that tell a story are more likely to be liked, retweeted and shared.

So, shouldn’t you be using stories in marketing your business? Storytelling science seems to suggest it.

Develop Your Own Story

There are many approaches to developing a story about your business. Here are some examples:

Origin Stories

Some of my favorite comic books as a kid were origin stories—how Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman came to be. Your brand story can work the same way. Tell the story of how you got your business off the ground.

Did you run into problems along the way? If so, talk about that. People love stories about overcoming adversity.

Talk About Failure

Stories about how smart, hardworking and successful you are sound like you’re bragging. It’s much more effective to talk about failure. Tell a story about a bad decision or a stupid mistake, and what you learned from the experience. People will respect you for it.

Behind the Scenes

People are curious about how things work. Maybe your story can give them a peek behind the scenes. Talk about your team and how you learned to work together.

Company Values

Your story can also be about what you believe in. Maybe you insist on building things a certain way, or only using quality materials, or never working on Sunday. Just about anything that’s unique to your business can be turned into a good story.

Customer Stories

Some of the most effective stories are told from a customer’s point of view. In the best examples, companies go above and beyond in some way to deliver exceptional quality or service.

For years, I’ve been telling people that storytelling is an effective way to connect with customers. And now, storytelling science has proven that beyond any doubt.


About the Author: 

Harry Hayes is the owner and executive producer at Content Puppy Productions, a corporate video production agency based in Charlotte. Before starting Content Puppy, he spent 20+ years as an advertising writer and creative director.

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