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The Science of Good Storytelling

In 2009 Rob Walker, a journalist, experimented to find out if “storytelling really is the most powerful tool of all” and in order to do this he went on his computer and bought 200 objects from eBay.

The average price of the objects was about 1$. He called 200 authors and asked them, “Hey! would you like to be part of a significant object study? I want you to write a story to one of the objects” and they all agreed.

So there he had 200 objects, 200 stories, and with nail-biting anticipation he went on eBay again with all the 200 objects. Would there be a difference? Do you think there was a change? One of the objects was this beautiful horse’s head.

Now this beautiful horse’s head, that was bought for 99 cents, was sold for $62.95 when the story was added. That is an increase of 6395%.

So was this one-off situation? Not really, because he bought the 200 objects for a total of $129 and sold them for $8000.

Now that’s insane. But you know what’s more intellectually challenging to understand this? How can you and I go to the movies and pay good money to watch something like James Bond which is absolutely unrealistic? But we sit there and enjoy the movie.
We leave the theatre thinking, “God, what a man he was. I want to look like him. I’d like to walk like him, talk like him. Wonder how I could be more like Bond?

And this weird revelation hits you from nowhere. You come up with a brilliant idea to walk to watchmaker shop and voila! It just happens to be that an omega watch in that shop resembles the one that Bond was wearing in the movie. And you pay 10,000$ to put that watch on your wrist and you leave that store feeling more like Bond. How is that possible?

Sadly, our critical thinking and our cortex come home from a long vacation and that’s when we start questioning things. The watch lost its charm and glamour it brought with it. 

Now during those first 30 days, what happened was your brain was flooded with neurotransmitters and hormones, hijacking your cortex and throwing your objectively observant skills out of the window.

The same exact thing happens when you narrate a story. The same hormones and neurotransmitters can be released.  Hormones like vasopressin and oxytocin, etc.

This is what dopamine looks like 

When you have that in your blood, these are the beautiful effects – 

1. Focus
2. Motivation
3. Memory

You get more focus, more motivation and you remember things in a better way. So what does dopamine feel like? It feels like this –
About 6 years ago, I received a phone call from a woman who represented one of the biggest training companies in Austria and she said, “Hey Pinkesh, we have got lot of trainers in presentation skills sending rhetoric and we would like to increase the level of all of this. We think you are a perfect pick, would you like to come to a meeting?”

I would love to..
So I come up to Vienna and go to their office and just as I am going to pull the handle down what I don’t realise is that I am walking into one of the absolute worst meetings I am ever going to have in my life but I don’t know that yet. So I open the door and I meet this woman. Her name is Liana and hurriedly she says, ‘ Pinkesh, just so you know I am not the one you are going to have this meeting with. You are going to have it with three gentlemen further on here.”

That’s strange. Usually you know who you are going to have the meeting with. Then she progresses with a bit of chit chatting and suddenly she says,” Are you ready now?”

And I am like, “Yeah, what else should I be ready for.” 

She says, “Can you see the room over there?”
“Yes, I can see.”
“Those gentlemen, you see, are the majority owners of this company. They have all got an ex-military background and none of them want the training that you are going to pitch.”

I ask her, “ Then why am I even here?”
She goes, “All the trainers want this and management are onto high horses. They can’t see that they need it. It’s pretty simple. The only thing you have to do is go in there and kind of prove the opposite.”

Yeah that sounds simple, doesn’t it?
I remember walking towards this office. My sweat is coming down my palms, my heart is racing, and just halfway there she calls my name. Is this woman a sado- masochist or just downright unintelligent?

She calls my name again.
I thought she was going to give me a tip or something. I turn around and she says “……………..”

If I don’t tell you what she says, isn’t that annoying?

Actually as an example I am not going to do that. I just wanted to prove to you what it feels with high dopamine levels. Would you say that your focus was increased? Your attention was increased. You were creative. You created situations around this and you probably figured out what that room looked like.

Now the feeling you had there was high levels of dopamine. So how do you do that?

Well, what you do is you build suspense, & you launch a cliffhanger. The most beautiful thing of storytelling is that it plants an idea or thought into your mind that becomes everlasting.

That my friend, is the essence of a good marketing.
So imagine, just by using storytelling and those techniques, you get your audience hooked in a jiffy.

Here is an example. A compelling, emotionally engaging story by Google

This is a textbook example of how a brand engages with its audience by drawing an emotional connect. People will remember the ad because there is a story in it. The story comes first, and then the brand.

Once you find the human element of your brand, you can start to think about how your product can make people’s lives better and weave your story around that. If your customers connect with your story on an emotional level, they’ll want to be a part of it. And that is the whole point of content.

Learn how to leverage the Art of Storytelling for Product Marketing 

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