Have you ever wondered why Kindergarten teachers captivate through stories while your eyes glaze over at a college professor’s reciting of facts and figures? Or why you easily remember your child’s birthday but can’t remember the years of the First World War or the date you started your last job?
The answer is simple: one set has a personal, emotional narrative behind them and the others do not. One of the most powerful tools we have to successfully communicate is through emotional narrative – through telling our stories.
Human beings have a passion for plots. Our lives, in many ways, are stories. We have a beginning, middle and end – a story arc complete with a few interesting plot twists in between. It’s natural then that we want to organize and understanding in a narrative way. Stories are shared in every society, in every age and in every social context. Stories, in many ways provide the greatest ability for us to understand, learn and inspire. For businesses, they allow your company or product to resonate in a more deep way. This emotional connection is what often separates successful products and companies from those that struggle.
But how do we create our own narrative?
A good narrative is simple, emotional and true. Similar to a good movie they should have begin with a challenge, emotionally put the audience at the center of the story by showcasing the struggle to overcome the challenge and galvanize a response with a resolution that calls them to action. And similar to the kindergarten teacher, these narratives are more powerful with emotion over data. Let’s look at an example.
Ever watch yogurt commercials?
The challenge: getting into that bathing suit for summer.
The struggle: overcoming chocolate cravings and your friend’s peer pressure for pizza night.
The resolution? Hawaiian dream vacation with a perfectly fitting Madison Avenue has this formula down. Notice that the commercial doesn’t try and bog down the viewer with data. When was the last time you saw a yogurt ad that said, “35 percent of our consumers will lose 3 pounds in 2 months while 25 percent will lose 5 pounds in 2 months?”
Data does not resonate in the same way the bathing suit does. But what’s interesting is they are both saying the same thing. After all, you may be only a few pounds shy of fitting into that suit. But the image of the suit resonates emotionally, not the boring data.
Why does this work?
A large part of the yogurt commercial’s effectiveness is the ability to put the consumer in the center of the narrative. The customer watching the commercial easily empathizes with the plight of the person in the ad. They think, “Hey, that could be me!” And if the customer believes they can be the person in your story then they are more likely to connect with the person in the ad.
Is the ad simple? Yes – the yogurt ad eliminates complex data and instead shows a simple image. Is it emotional? The emotional connection for weight loss is strong. Is it true? The ad is connecting yogurt with a healthy diet and lifestyle, making it easy to believe.
Narratives that are created through emotion and simplicity resonate. When creating your own emotional narrative for your business or product you can use the simple formula above. Using these elements will ensure your story will have an impact.