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The Future of Influence PR Conference 2017

Let’s Speak in Stories Not Stats

14th May 2014


The Cro-Magnon is a term used to describe the early modern human who lived close to 45,000 years ago. There are known to be survivors of the ice age, one of the most transformational phases of our planet.

When we try and uncover similarities between their culture and our modern culture, one aspect stands out distinctly.

We both love to tell stories!

Over time, humans became more civilized and structured, but this evolution of sophisticated human civilization still couldn’t shake the undying need of ours to tell stories.  Due to immense technological advancements, we tell our stories on platforms like Facebook, or in a rush, or even try our hand at encapsulating a story in less than 140 characters; the Cro-Magnons used manganese and iron oxides to paint pictures and tell their stories. Inside cave dwellings in small city of Dordogne, France, these stories still exist, and like they say the Cro-Magnon may have disappeared, but their stories still live on.

Our need to express ourselves through stories can be seen throughout history, even before structured language, we told stories. Imagine our ingenuity. Even in the absence of a formal language, we told stories through paintings. As cultures were formed, stories, myths, and legends became an integral part of each culture, sometimes identifying the culture itself.

The mediums of storytelling changed. The Navajo tribe is known for its heirloom blankets that tell their own story and is passed down through generations. The need to communicate was at the core of humanity, and storytelling was its nucleus.

As modern day communication architects, we need to remember this, as our work has to do with building communities and cultures. With many cultures being defined by their stories, it would only be fair to assume that even brand cultures are defined by their brand stories. Using story telling is not a new phenomenon. Let’s not forget P&G started the soap opera on radio in 1930s and later moving to television; they understood the importance of stories to get the attention of their primary decision makers – the mothers.

Message and content has been receiving increasing attention by all brands due to the clutter of media, but if we can take these same messages and place them in an emotional narrative, the impact on the audience will be much greater.

How much greater?

Stanford research found that stories are 22 times more memorable than mere information. Weaving in storytelling into brand communication can create a sustainable and memorable impact; so let’s stop talking in statistics and start speaking in the language humans never had to learn. The language of stories.

Emotion is the biggest stimuli leading to action. Emotion-led action creates a special bond between the consumer and the brand, and this can lead to a strong loyalty between the brand and consumer. Stories are personal and have the uncanny specialty of being directly implanted to memory; it’s always easier to remember a story than a fact. Being a connected set of events with a beginning, middle and an end, they are tailored to the human mind.

One of the biggest brands in the world, Apple, began its first advertisement with a story in ‘1984’ and hasn’t looked back. So much so that Apple forms a part of other people’s stories. This leads to community and evolves to culture. Apple is not one of the biggest brands; it’s a culture made by communities of people who live by Apple as a brand. This is the power of stories.

It is important for us to communicate a different perspective many times in our brand communication. Stories make people stop and listen, and without this power of attention, how can we get our consumers to make an effort to change their perception?

In India, Amul does this magically. By not giving any information of their products, and skipping information in favor of parody-based stories of current events, happenings, and celebrities, the brand has been consistently the number one milk brand in the country. Facts cannot change minds, and in the slight possibility they may, they definitely cannot change hearts. Stories can do both. They can go beyond the data, facts, analysis, and message to uncover emotion, command attention, and lead advocacy.

Aniruddha Atul Bhagwat, Co-Founder & Director, Ideosphere Consulting Private Limited (IdeoAct & IdeoInsight) 


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