In the course Brand Psychology and Social Storytelling, we build upon the concepts of brand meaning and the structural aspects of narrative to examine the psychology of storytelling, the role of story as a persuasive form of communication and how that can be applied to brands. Humans make sense of the world through stories. Stories are how we explain the things that happen to us every day, how we pass along social values and norms, and how we connect with people. Stories, because of the use of metaphors and universal archetypes, allow us to bridge differences and develop empathy for others through shared experience.
Learning the critical elements of narrative persuasion
There are several aspects of stories that make them the most persuasive form of communication. Stories trigger visualization, the language of the right brain. A good story will engage us emotionally, engaging our brains at multiple levels–perceptually through image and instinct, physically through emotion and logically through out rational brain. It tempts us with unknowns and allows us to step into another person’s shoes or another world–if the story is told well. Even in bad stories, our brains go to work, trying to fill in the gaps and disconnects. The ability to visualize and experience emotion increases the stickiness of information, dramatically improving the brain’s ability to recall information. As the famous American poet, author, actress, dancer and singer Maya Angelou said, “People don’t remember what you said, people remember how you made them feel.”
Narrative has qualities and structures that contribute to it’s ability to transport us into another realm. The Narrative Transportation and Presence, for example, are both psychological theories both describe aspects of the sense of being somewhere other than our own reality, whether it’s projecting ourselves through a phone conversation, blocking out a busy airport, or struggling with Frodo during the climb up Mount Doom in Mordor. Learning to identify the qualities and structures that enable such powerful ‘out of body’ experiences equips you to evaluate and develop your own narratives.
Synthesizing theory and meaning into brand story
Brands, as ideas, are most successful when they are reduced to their core–the values and purpose that make someone care enough at the beginning to build that business or organization or embark on that mission or campaign. Starting things is hard work. We often forget that at some point, there was no Coca Cola or the Susan G. Komen Foundation. They are a product of passion and purpose. The process of brand development means digging down to uncover that single purpose and then identifying its universal characteristics. It means peeling back the layers of the onion to rediscover what this path is all about. Is your brand or organization an outlaw or joker? A caretaker or everyman? Since we inherently know what those archetypes FEEL like, we can use them to guide the brand story so that it stays consistent and coherent to its core.
Expanding the story into a storyworld
The media landscape is constantly fragmenting across networks and platforms, meaning more freedom and control for an empowered consumer but more challenges for you. This environment is both exciting and frustrating.
When people are moving from screen to screen, your story has to move with them. Transmedia storytelling has distinct characteristics that guide the creation of a story-based message–they are coherent, consistent, additive and participatory experiences that move across platforms. Here’s an example of the children’s story The Three Little Pigs turned into a transmedia a project to illustrate the expansion of a story into an experiential storyworld.
Designing for a transmedia and participatory environment
Audience participation is one of the hallmarks of transmedia strategies. In fact, the success of any messaging strategy depends the ability to engage the audience and turn them into stakeholders and advocates. A well-designed transmedia strategy provides multiple points of engagement, not just to enter the story experience, but to explore further and to sustain interest over time. In this high-tech environment, we can easily overlook the importance of designing a storyworld that moves fluidly on and offline as well as across platforms.
Enabling brand advocates and communities of stakeholders
Social storytelling drills down on the participatory and interactive aspects of a transmedia strategy. We see an increasing number of examples of media franchises using social aspects to extend their reach and involve their audiences. Television shows, like The Voice using real-time Twitter voting with hashtags to save contestants or the NBC-Netfilx collaboration promoting a 13 hour Hannibal marathon with a live Twitter Q&A (#13hourdevour), have been quick to involve the audience in show outcomes. Brands like the Intel-Dell partnership have developed social films soliciting audience content that can appear in the final product in the What Lives Inside series of social films. By enabling participation, social connection and content creation, the audience goes from a bystand to stakeholder. This shift creates a sense of psychological investment in the success of the project.