A Time To Tell Stories
There is nothing new about storytelling; people have been communicating narratives of cause and effect verbally and visually before the advent of written text. But since humans are biologically wired to understand our world through stories, its impact continues to wow through new mediums. Whether it’s digital, or creative re-inventions of more traditional mediums like billboards and print, a good story is one that gets heard, recalled and passed on.
The power of stories is in their ability to live outside language. When we hear words that suggest smells and sounds, the corresponding areas of our brains that process that sensory data light up. It’s as if we are experiencing those sensations in real life. The words “cinnamon” conjures the scent of spice. By describing “anger” or “happiness”, we draw on our physical memory of what we ourselves have felt when experiencing those emotions.
Stories also have the ability to synchronize the brains of the speaker and listener by calling the same parts of the brain throughout the narrative timeline. Despite this phenomenon, the meaning of stories is still unique and personal to each individual. How people interpret stories is affected by factors such as age, previous events and experiences, and cultural context. A well-told story is good, but selecting the best place and time can make it great.
Shopping is one instance where storytelling can be used to transform a multitude of noise into a single memorable tune. The American houseware and furniture retailer, Crate & Barrel, recently launched a catalogue that enables people to shop within depicted stories. STORY, a retail store in Chelsea, New York, changes its merchandise and retail design regularly according to theme. This month its focus is on wellness. Last October it focused on the craft of making things.
Elements of storytelling can also strengthen instances of customer service, especially in situations where children are involved. By placing the product in the context of a story, brands are able to build relationships with young customers who may turn into advocates within their families and also develop a bond with the brand later in life.
A fun response from a Lego customer representative to a letter from a 7-year-old shows that a little imagination goes a long way when it comes to building goodwill. The Ritz-Carlton documented the holiday of a misplaced stuffed giraffe, resulting in a story of great service, empathy and humor going viral. Both companies used forms of storytelling as an opportunity to communicate brand values with their fans, who in turned shared their experiences with others.