- Posted by Snowy 24 Mar
Storytelling forms part of all our lives. It is everywhere, and has been for thousands of years. From cave paintings to 140-character statuses on twitter, communicating through storytelling is one of the oldest traditions known in human history.
The popularity of social media has undoubtedly increased this practice, which means our daily lives are filled by these stories now more than ever. In one-way or another, we are constantly telling stories. The impulse to tell them is universal: whether you are telling your friend about what you did last weekend or maybe recalling something you saw on TV this morning, you are unknowingly already building a narrative.
Think of it like this: your weekend affairs most likely involved a bunch of mundane, boring deeds too, yet to your friend you are probably only narrating the most interesting bits. You crop, edit and, without even realising, you have created a narrative structure devised to keep your friend’s interest and attention by carefully selecting what to leave out and what to keep in.
This happens more often than we think, and even the way we tell these stories varies depending on who’s listening. You probably won’t tell your boss about how crazy your Saturday night was, but instead might tone it down a bit to a more appropriate level. My point is: we are all experienced storytellers to some degree.
The reason we convey information like this is because that is how we help make sense of the world. Storytelling is one of the most fundamental communication methods; it helps maintain interest by both involved and makes social interactions more exciting. This means its engaging and exciting nature makes us more likely to listen and, more importantly, remember what we are being told.
But why is that relevant? Well, if that is our method of choice to transmit information to one another, it only makes sense to make use of it when we want someone to listen to what we have to say.
Marketing experts have made use of this trick endlessly with their advertising campaigns. There are many ways to tell a story, and they all come in different shapes and forms. Some brands use real life stories to accompany their products, which try to portray a message that the brand uses as its motto.
Sainsburys has done this throughout its new Advert campaign, producing an ad that tells an incredible stories which can even manage to bring tears to your eyes.
Of course, not all the stories that appear on adverts are based on historical events, yet they can work as well if they manage to engage the audience. Stella Artois’ videos have a tendency to make you feel like you’re watching a very short film and not a TV advert. They build narratives that engage with the audience as much as films do, even providing a twist at the end of the short in this example:
Now taking it to the other extreme, the Old Spice adverts are a great example of stories that are clearly made up and don’t follow a conventional narrative structure. These adverts break the fourth wall and directly address the viewer, making it more engaging for audiences who have short attention spans and might not be paying much attention to the ad breaks. Its extremely impossible and unrealistic stories manage to keep the audience’s attention due its snappiness and humour.
Seasonally themed viral videos have sprung up extensively. Westjet’s Christmas viral “WestJet Christmas Miracle”, which in 10 days has managed to gain 30 million views around the globe.
The theme of the viral is simple, but highly accessible. Its title teases the viewer, with the promise of an old fashioned Christmas miracle, and the resulting viral does not let down. The content, a documentary of WestJet customers being asked what they want for Christmas by Santa before boarding a plane, and then receiving their wishes after landing, has managed to connect with a worldwide audience by spreading Christmas cheer.
It has at the very least managed to spread WestJet’s name around the world. WestJet have accumulated a significant following. Currently they have 27000 subscribers; something gained over time. To see the positive increase in viewership all that needs to be done is look at their videos over time. Their April Fools video from several years ago “WestJet introduces state of the art money saving feature” has managed 500,000 views. One year later their April Fools video WestJet introduces child free cabins managed to gain almost 1 million viewers. The Christmas miracle has managed 30 million. Their next viral video will almost definitely get viewers in the millions too now their name has been established like never before. And millions is the worst case scenario.
How to take advantage of it? Very simple: embrace it. If you want to stand out during a presentation and want to leave a mark on peoples memories, use storytelling to engage with your audience. Don’t be too formal and saturate people with facts and figures; tell a story people can relate to instead.
Keeping the attention of the audience is crucial; then once you lose it it’s gone forever. In order to make people remember you it is important to spark their curiosity, to build anticipation through compelling narratives that are changing constantly. Don’t give your audience the chance to tune off for even one second. Keep things moving; engage them.
Presentations, important meetings, interviews and especially advertising; these are all parts of professional life to which storytelling can become a great asset.
People nowadays have incredibly short attention spans, which makes attempting to keep their interest one of the toughest jobs out there. By making use of storytelling you can overcome this difficulty and not only reach the audience you want but also keep their most valued and precious attention.