The secret all successful business owners know about growing a strong brand
Science has recently confirmed what we’ve long known to be true: we’re hardwired for stories. And when we dig into that, the amazing thing that is revealed is that stories have a unique power to create connection between people.
The thing about stories is that they evoke an emotional response in the listener. What we now know is that they stimulate a different part of our brain than the part that processes facts.
The most powerful way to connect with your customers
Good stories make us feel things as we listen to them. Our emotional reaction is elicited when we identify with the characters in the story or we feel something towards the person telling the story, all of which helps create connection.
Human beings gravitate towards stories because stories give us a framework of meaning. They help us organize ideas and process our feelings and experiences. In one of my favorite articles, the 2014 Harvard Business Review article, ‘Why your brain loves good storytelling’, neuroeconomist Paul Zak discussed the fact that the hormone oxytocin has an effect on the brain when we tell stories.
Oxytocin is also often referred to as the ‘trust hormone’ or the ‘love hormone’. Our bodies release it when we are in contact with people we love and trust. This can be in physical touch such as when we hug, or even when we shake hands in a business meeting.
And it’s also released when we listen to stories.
Oxytocin being released signals safety and connection to the brain. In this state, when we listen to someone who is telling a story that resonates with us, we quickly move to feeling trust toward them and this sets the ground for connection.
Using Brand Storytelling to Create an Authentic Connection with your Ideal Clients
Neuroscience has shown that as humans, we make the majority of our decisions subconsciously through our reptilian complex and our emotional limbic system. We also know that human beings connect with others based on characteristics and behavioural traits they are either attracted to or not. That’s the foundation of connection.
When you put these two things together, our attraction to story and our emotional limbic system decision-making bias, we have a powerful formula for understanding how to attract and connect with people we want to reach.
Storytelling in business
This is why storytelling is a powerful and effective way for a business to build authentic connection with their customers. Essentially, well-told and purposeful brand stories initiate an emotional response and lead to greater levels of trust and loyalty in customers.
One of the most influential tools at a brand's disposal is successfully implementing the Storybrand-messaging framework. This allows companies to clarify their message using a seven part-process that leverages the power of story. If you are interested in going into more detail, I recommend the brand storytelling book: “Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen” by Donald Miller.
Used correctly, this powerful tool can help your business become a valuable asset in the lives of your customers.
Fundamentally this is important for your business because emotion impacts our decisions, including which brands we want to buy from. Simply put, storytelling in business drives purchasing decisions.
In a study of over 1500 marketing campaigns submitted to the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), it was shown that marketing campaigns based on provoking an emotional response are twice as effective as campaigns based purely on logic. For more on this research, read this article by Roger Dooley.
One of the beautiful things about telling a story is that you are inviting your listener to participate in something bigger than themselves, something they believe in.
What does brand storytelling look like in practice?
2 brand storytelling examples
One company that does this brilliantly is jewelry brand Dannijo. Founded by sisters Danielle and Jodie Snyder, this brand has done a great job with visual storytelling, leveraging the Instagram platform to build a community of 200,000 followers, including many celebrities. In an interview with Fast Company, Danielle explained that using authentic storytelling was an intentional strategy for creating their successful brand. She says companies need to “create narratives that are so compelling to consumers, they want to build your products into their lives.”
Airbnb has also used the power of storytelling to grow their brand. They have a section on their website for “Stories from the Airbnb Community.” Note how they have positioned their customers at the center of the brand story, not themselves (a core StoryBrand principle). So instead of focusing on the company’s story, they get their customers to tell their stories, which is what other customers most need to see before deciding to book.
Not sure how to tell your story?
A great story is moving, powerful and memorable but don't let that intimidate you when using story in your business. Brand stories don't have to meet these criteria. The stories you tell in your business don’t all have to be best seller-worthy, they just have to be authentic, empathic and honest.
Once you’ve developed your brand story through the StoryBrand framework, you come away with a collection of key messages, which you can use again and again to great effect. Each individual story you tell across your website, social media, ads, products and customer experience shape your audience's experience of your brand.
As you start to put your brand message together you’ll realize that both your company and your customers feature real people with real stories to tell. And that's more than enough to tell a captivating story.
☑ Take Action
- Challenge: Observe the use of storytelling in business and reflect on your positive or negative reaction to the story being told. Do you use brand storytelling in your company? What approach do you use? If not, what’s stopping you?
- If you're ready to learn more about the power of storytelling, download my free PDF, ‘The Messaging Makeover’.