We all understand the impact of stories in our lives, and increasingly businesses are taking storytelling more seriously as a skill to develop and nurture (I’ve recently run a Storytelling training program for one such business in China and have another public course running in May). But what is it about story that connects so powerfully with us, and how does the psychology of story mirror the psychology of brand choice? Here are five ways that stories tap into universal human behaviours.
Archive for the 'storytelling' Category
In 100 Things Every Presenter Needs To Know About People, Susan Weinschenk outlines many behavioural triggers and barriers in the context of successful presentations, covering how people think and learn, how to get attention, how to motivate, how people listen and see, how they react to the environment, how they react emotionally, and how they decide to take action. The book is a useful summary of many of the behavioural quirks we have written about here. Most especially, the different behaviours that the author highlights fall into the five themes outlined in TapestryWorks’ SNAPP thinking framework which we find a useful way to simplify human behaviour and decision-making into broad themes. Read more »
Stefan Sagmeister shocked many in the creative industries earlier this year, when he dismissed the current trend of ‘storytelling’ in advertising and design as “bullshit”. He particularly objected to the way that ‘storytelling’ has been latched on to by the corporate world (in the same way that ‘content’ has in the digital sphere). In one interview, he rages about a rollercoaster designer who calls himself a storyteller saying, “No fuckhead, you are not a storyteller, you’re a rollercoaster designer!”. And he has a point, as being a rollercoaster designer is a job that many would like, so why would anyone need to call it something else? Read more »
Cinderella is probably the best-liked and best-known fairy tale in the world. The story has origins at least as far back as the ninth century in China (where a tiny foot size was a mark of distinction and beauty) and is common across Asia – Bawang Merah, Bawang Putih (literally, “red onion, white onion”) is a version from South East Asia where I currently live. What can modern beauty brands learn from the origins and development of the Cinderella story? Read more »
The need for emotion
The problem with data is that it is, well, data. And data in itself, however prettily presented, always lack a certain something. Even the best use of powerpoint, prezi, or any other tool is incapable of communicating consumers lives and feelings. Data, however well visualized, lacks empathy and narrative structure. It doesn’t tell a story.
Every market researcher dreams of the ideal client, the successful project and the satisfaction of truly understanding the client’s customers to inform a successful business strategy. What could possibly get in the way of this?
An evil empire has descended over market research, which can be summarized in the Edward Tufte quotation, “Power corrupts. PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.” Read more »
In Wired for Story, Lisa Cron uses neuroscience to explain the principles of writing good stories, giving a very interesting take on why good stories work the way that they do. She reminded me of the book Made to Stick, as her 12 principles cover the key message of Chip & Dan Heath’s book which is to use simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional stories as the basis of effective communication (SUCCESs) and also The Storytelling Animal which shares many of the same secrets. I have reduced her 12 principles to eight which I think are key to effective story writing. Read more »
A universal story
Although there are seven basic plots which have been the basis of storytelling for thousands of years (even if there have been some developments in recent years), the plots share many common trait. All the plots can ultimately be summarised as a single universal story, and share many common features such as a tension between light and dark and masculine and feminine, use of archetypal symbols, patterns and personalities, and an overarching theme of self realisation in their narrative structure and elements. Read more »
Plotting the course of storytelling over the past 200 years
In The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker argues that storytelling has changed dramatically over the last 200 years, and that he focus on the inner state of a hero(ine)’s inner state and eventual transformation has shifted to a focus on more outward (material) transformation, gradually moving the plot away from the primal archetypes towards more ego driven narratives. For example, in the film Limitless (2011) a Faustian bargain at the start of the film evolves into a wish fulfilment fantasy in which the hero suffers no ultimate penalty for his bargain nor does he undergo any serious ‘transformation’ or ‘enlightenment’. Read more »
“The point of a story can penetrate far deeper than the point of any bullet.” - Laurence Nault
Getting to the point
There are seven basic plots in storytelling as we have seen over the last few weeks. These plots form the backbone of myths, fairy tales, novels and movies, and also of advertising, brand stories and how we can all communicate in business, including market researchers telling the story of their data. Here are seven reasons why stories will help you communicate ideas more effectively, helping you to build your story and helping your audience to remember the point of it all. Read more »