The abstract for ‘When Consumers and Brands Talk: Storytelling Theory and Research in Psychology and Marketing’ caught my eye:
Storytelling is pervasive through life. Much information is stored, indexed, and retrieved in the form of stories. Although lectures tend to put people to sleep, stories move them to action. People relate to each other in terms of stories—products and brands often play both central and peripheral roles in their stories.
My background in cognitive science supports the idea people remember in terms of stories, while our transactive memory lives in Google.
Being a marketer, I was intrigued to learn more about the role brands play in stories. From what I can gather from the
exhaustive exhausting article, people tell stories primarily for three reasons:
- The act of telling a story is pleasurable to the storyteller. The storyteller enjoys the nostalgia of reliving earlier experiences over again, regardless of whether the original event was pleasurable or irritating.
- The plotline in a story supports the teller’s need to be a Jungian archetype. Stories allow us to be a hero, outlaw, ruler, jester, magician, or some other primal form – if even for a moment.
- Telling a story, especially repeatedly, deepens the significance of the event. Story repetition is often an attempt to get clarity or justification for the actions around the original event.
While this suggests why we tell stories, it doesn’t explain which stories we are more likely to listen to. Books and movies have a consistent structure for what makes a good and presumably, memorable story. The story starts when everyday life is put out of balance. While trying to restore balance, the protagonist is met with resistance by an antagonist, natural occurrences, and/or personal limitations. We get emotionally involved in stories that describe what it’s like to overcome these opposing forces. The more involved we are in a story, the more likely we will retell it.
The implications for consumer marketing are straightforward. We want consumers to view themselves as protagonists in a story with the brand as a supporting actor. Mr. Clean is not just a household cleanser; it’s a sword in the epic never-ending battle against dirt. You are not just doing a chore; you are the hero worthy of conquering a dirty home.