Conveying information in the form of a narrative helps us focus, recognize what is important, connect events, anticipate, and learn
This post was written by Eitan Fogel, CEO of Idomoo
Once upon a time, I was staring at a picture of a cave painting. It was a group of figures around a fire. I can’t say exactly what they were doing, but it could easily have been an Instagram snapshot of a group of friends telling stories around a campfire. Storytelling as a group experience is as ancient as mankind.
What’s your story
Science agrees. There’s increasing evidence that the brain, in the words of author Lisa Cron, is “Wired for Story.” Cron cites recent neuroscience research which suggests that dopamine, typically associated with experiencing pleasure, is triggered bycuriosity. Reading a story makes us happy because we are pulled into the experience by a need to know what happens next. Through narrative, we become emotionally invested in events and information.
More importantly, as the brain focuses on the pursuit of an answer, it filters out irrelevant and extraneous information. In other words, conveying information in the form of a narrative helps us focus, recognize what is important, connect events, anticipate, and learn.
Converting knowledge into narrative also personalizes data in a way that individuals can process and recall. For that reason, we’re seeing a trend toward personalization in all sorts of industries which value the transfer of clear and relevant messaging to their customers. Unlike traditional marketing, which depends upon broadcasting a single story to all customers, the personalization model delivers a unique message every time, making each customer the central character in his or her own story.
Personalization isn’t new. The introduction of ‘recommendation engines’ which remembers when you visit a website and makes suggestions based on previous activity, have been around for years. Typically these sorts of services offer personalized messages like – “Hi, Eitan, if you enjoyed this book, you might also like…” Last year, movie streamer Netflix updated their service by adding personalized profiles so that everyone in the house could have a unique profile to ensure individualized suggestions. Similar services provide personalization by employing algorithms capable of recommending events, activities and items for sale based on both user activity and buying patterns of similar customers.
News and information portals have also embraced the personalization model, offering stories based on an individual’s history. StumbleUpon, for example, has made a name for itself as a “personalized content discovery” service.
Technological advances are now expanding the personalization model by also incorporating storytelling techniques. With a personalized video, for example, a retailer can identify loyalty club members by name and deliver a custom-created video detailing the number of points accrued and the rewards still to be earned to encourage continued loyalty. Personalized video establishes an emotional connection, it speaks to your heart by treating you like an individual. Psychologists refer to this as “narrative transport.”
Storytelling is particularly effective when relaying complex information. Who isn’t confused occasionally by a utility bill or a financial statement? Video is the perfect medium for reducing confusion and increasing transparency.Personalized video ensures that every number, date or amount is specifically relevant to the viewer. And through narrative, the viewer feels an emotional connection which bolsters memory of the material.
You might say that knowledge is an accumulation of stories, and that we share knowledge by telling these stories. Memory of narratives helps us relate vital information to our own lives and personal situations. So, if you have to deliver a complex message, your best strategy is to listen carefully to your customers, hear their stories to understand their needs, then personalize information through narrative so that it is relevant, easy to understand and memorable. I can’t guarantee everyone will live happily ever after, but empathy and improved communications are definitely steps in the right direction.