Think about your favorite movie. What is it about your favorite movies that keeps you coming back to it every time? Is it because of the set design, the quotes that are endlessly floating around social media as GIFs or memes, or is it the relationship between the characters? These elements are at the heart of the story that films, and videos overall, try to tell. These are all elements of a good narrative, at least our version of a good narrative because our taste in movies depends on our taste. Movies are all about the business of storytelling, and these same elements are powerful tools you can use in your video marketing campaigns.
According to Contently, the reason why we become immersed in these narratives (even if they involve us entering into Ponzi schemes or being scammed by con artists claiming to be Nigerian royalty) is because: “Our predisposition to believing good stories comes down to human physiology and psychology. We’re wired for well-told narratives. They can be so alluring, enticing, and transformative that they can cause even the smartest readers to change their minds, relinquish money, and see the world through someone else’s eyes.“
Now let’s go back to the reason why we bothered to go see our favorite movie in the first place: whatever it was about the story that first engaged us, and did so enough to keep us coming back for more. And, while it may seem absurd, this logic can apply to marketing very nicely. Why? The goal of marketing is to sway people into gravitating towards purchasing a particular product or service. While we were always taught in school that to win an argument (or get an A on your essay), you should present the most amount of relevant evidence, and the more statistics the better, to back you up, this logic doesn’t always work for marketing. Why you may ask?
That’s because there’s something that irrefutable facts lack, much to the frustration of scientists: that’s because statistics reach for the head. This, in turn results in getting “people to think analytically, which increases skepticism and decreases the likelihood for action.” The elements that hook us onto stories, which are the elements that make us think with our heart instead of our head, are an excellent basis to prepare your next video.
So, how can psychology and physiology help us find what we need to create an engaging story?
First, and foremost, storytellers look for ways to grab the audience’s attention. I remember my public speaking classes back in business school. The first thing we needed to do was “Grab them.” That’s why “…storytellers [and we think marketers and great communications should follow suit]…appeal to basic human drives or vulnerabilities to grip your attention from the first moment and make you feel things like fear, curiosity, or both.” That’s why the opening sentences of any novel are so important. While cortisol, which developed to help the human body elude any threats and works to help us be faster, stronger, and more focused, it actually works to put ourselves in the shoes of the characters we read about when we’re in the process of reading a story. Does that mean cortisol pushes us to engage? EXACTLY! That’s why any a-ha moment that should be at the get-go of your story should work to get the audience out of its normal routine.
A neuroscientist from Princeton, Uri Hasson, found that both the storyteller and those who were played the subject’s story had the same reactions in the higher-order areas of the brain irregardless whether one was the storyteller and the others were listening to her recount. This leads us to a key conclusion: “the stronger the similarity between brain patterns, the deeper the understanding between the teller and the audience.” The next thing we need once we have the audience’s attention is a story that helps provoke empathy and understanding.
And it turns out that video with an engaging story can help lead to more call to action. Paul Zak from Claremont Graduate University was able to prove that in an experiment. He showed subjects two different versions of a story about Ben, a two-year old boy suffering from a deadly brain tumor. The first version, which highlighted Ben’s plight in a narrative version featuring both the father and the son, resulted in the audience being completely enraptured with his story and led them to donating part of the money they earned from the study to a charity supporting Ben’s cause. When show a flatter story with father and son in the zoo without a clear focus of what the viewer was supposed to take out of the video, many subjects stopped paying attention at the halfway point and made less donations post-viewing. Here’s the conclusion Zak came to that helps us frame what needs to be done to get the target to change their behavior:
Those who donated after watching Ben’s story had more empathic concern of other people and were happier than those who did not donate money. This shows there is a virtuous cycle in which we first engage with others emotionally that leads to helping behaviors, that make us happier. Many philosophical and religious traditions advocate caring for strangers, and our research reveals why these traditions continue to influence us today—they resonate with our evolved brain systems that make social interactions rewarding.
What’s clear from all of this is “…if you’re interested in persuading someone to donate money, love your brand, or quit smoking, you still need action. You need that behavioral change.” And “…a skilled storyteller can actually compel others to act by manipulating their emotions.”
And how about more non-science-y benefits to storytelling?
We thought you’ve never ask. Think about you newsfeed on Facebook and how the vast majority of it consists of videos. How did these videos get on our newsfeeds? People and brands we follow shared them! Assets containing stories can be shared by family and friends, and the more people can see them, the greater your reach, and the greater potential you have for more sales. Add in the fact more and more of us trust information relayed to us from close family and friends and you’ll see how your audience can increase by the multiplication of shares.
And think back to your favorite movie from the beginning of this article. Those stories that capture us can create experiences that stick with us long after we’ve had our first view. There’s a reason why nearly 80 years later NBC still airs It’s a Wonderful Life and millennials devour 80’s teen classics from John Hughes and others just as if they were made in the 2000s. This all can create an experience, and while lots of investment is required, we’re proponents of the fact that a great story is a worthwhile investment.
Finally, in the context of brand stories for B2C companies, every story is unique and it’s just about impossible to 100% carbon copy them. In fact, stories are often recommended to accompany product offerings because it will help lead to consumer loyalty.
Now, you’re completely sold on engaging storytelling, but do you need help with video?
Don’t worry, Stark Crew‘s got you covered. Along with our production services, we also offer a full suite of video strategy services where we can help you take the stories you’re dying to tell and translate them into unforgettable video that keeps people coming back for more.