Revealed: How Storytelling Multiplies Your Brand's Value
Stop Selling Commodities: Discover the Secret to Captivating Markets
Air Jordan Story
Neuroscience reveals storytelling enhances brand trust and emotional bonds.
Dove and Save Ralph campaigns demonstrate storytelling's economic and social influence.
Airbnb's visual storytelling embodies global belonging and connection.
The Significant Objects Project shows storytelling's potential to greatly increase object value.
The Leap That Defied More Than Gravity
In 1984, a young Michael Jordan rose on the court, his figure frozen in a leap that seemed to mock the law of gravity. That moment not only marked the birth of the Air Jordan but also prefigured a tectonic shift in the culture of footwear and sports. The Air Jordans became a symbol of aspiration, a banner of defiance against the established expectations and rules.
The following year, the NBA tried to ground those shoes, banning them for their bold color palette. But Nike, in an act of defiance that would resonate for decades, paid the fines so Jordan could continue to carry those banners of rebellion in each game. Thus, every leap, every point scored became a story of excellence and resilience, and the Air Jordans transcended their status as sneakers to become legends.
The Neuroscience of Storytelling
The ban and Nike's audacity created a narrative that triggered a strong emotional response, ensuring that the Air Jordans and their story were remembered. The neuroscience behind this phenomenon explains how stories that evoke strong emotions are etched into our long-term memory.
The Emotional Connection
From a neuroscience perspective, storytelling is more than a technique; it's a powerful tool that triggers a cascade of responses in the brain. Stories stimulate areas like the prefrontal cortex and the limbic system, igniting emotions and memory.
Neurotransmitters in Action
When we hear a story that resonates, our brain releases oxytocin, the neurotransmitter associated with empathy and connection. This makes us more likely to trust and remember the experience associated with the storyteller.
Akash Karia, an expert in the art of public speaking, highlights that stories have a special power: they capture our attention and awaken the imagination. It's not just that we remember a story better; it also makes us feel emotionally connected and see new possibilities. By telling a story, we're not just passing on information, but we're allowing the listener to experience and feel the story in a unique, personal, and memorable way.
Every brand has a story, but not all stick in the mind. Following the teachings of the book "Made to Stick" by Chip and Dan Heath, a truly sticky story is simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional, and tells a narrative.
Forget Commodities: Be a Story Your Customers Want to Tell
The brands that dominate the market are not those that sell products; they're the ones that sell stories. As Michael Margolis writes in "Stories That Sell," what truly captures consumers' attention and hearts are not inanimate objects but the narratives that surround them. A product without a story is an indistinguishable and forgettable commodity.
Nike is a master at this art of storytelling. They don't just sell sneakers; they sell dreams of greatness. Each pair of Air Jordans is not just footwear; it's a chapter in the epic of basketball, a tale of challenge and triumph that began with a legendary leap and was solidified when the NBA tried to keep those shoes grounded. Nike turned that challenge into a narrative of rebellion and excellence, making each sneaker tell a story of victory against the odds.
In a world where shelves are crammed with options, the brands that tell the most compelling stories don't just capture the imagination: they earn their customers' eternal loyalty. It's not the fabric, rubber, or foam that convinces us; it's the stories of overcoming, belonging, and authenticity that motivate us to buy and, more importantly, to tell.
The Metamorphosis of Iconic Brands: Three cases of brand storytelling that their customers wanted to tell
Dove: The Beauty of Real Stories
Dove's "Real Beauty" campaign, launched in 2004, revolutionized storytelling in advertising by using real women instead of professional models in its ads, challenging beauty norms and promoting body acceptance. This authentic and emotionally resonant narrative not only increased audience engagement but also drove a 10% revenue increase for Dove within a year and generated free publicity valued at 30 times the initial investment. The emotional connection, combined with the accessibility and affordability of Dove's products, allowed a broad spectrum of consumers to partake in the paradigm shift toward an inclusive and realistic beauty, demonstrating the power of storytelling not just to change perceptions but also to achieve tangible commercial impact.
Save Ralph: Transforming Consciousness with Humanity
The "Save Ralph" campaign by Humane Society International captured global attention with its poignant stop-motion short film about Ralph, a rabbit suffering in cosmetic testing, garnering over 150 million views and the support of celebrities and influencers who helped to viralize the message through the hashtag #SaveRalph. This momentum led to massive media coverage and significant legislative changes, such as the ban on animal testing in Mexico and law revisions in Chile and Brazil, signifying a shift in consumer consciousness towards cruelty-free products and exerting pressure on brands to adopt ethical practices. The campaign strategically used social media and collaborations to amplify its reach, achieving not just awareness but also concrete action against animal experimentation.
Airbnb and the Art of Visual Storytelling
Airbnb's "Belong Anywhere" campaign, with its ability to weave visual storytelling into its brand, not only catapulted its market value beyond $30 billion dollars but also defined its global identity through visual storytelling that brings its logo, the Bélo, to life. This symbol, transcending the simple letter 'A', is a blend of a location symbol, a heart, and a sign of unity, illustrating Airbnb's mission to foster unity and a sense of belonging anywhere in the world, deeply resonating with users. In 2016, the campaign's narrative of inclusion and community culminated in the raising of $1.6 million dollars for refugees, demonstrating the power of storytelling not only to capture hearts but also to foster humanitarian action and strengthen the emotional resonance of the brand.
An Object with a Story is Worth More: Significant Objects Project
The literary and anthropological Significant Objects project, conceived by Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker, demonstrated how storytelling can elevate the value of ordinary objects. They acquired low-value items (1.25 USD each) for a total of approximately $130 USD, and after assigning fictional stories created by writers, they were able to auction them on eBay for more than $8,000 USD. This represented an astonishing increase in value by 6000%.
Connecting with the Audience
How does "Made to Stick" apply to branding? By telling a story that your audience wants to believe and share. The stories of Nike, Dove, Airbnb, and Save Ralph all follow these principles, making them unforgettable.
Forging a Legacy with Neuroscience
As you can see, storytelling is not just about telling stories; it's about creating narratives that your customers will want to share. It's about enhancing the value of your products and services with memorable stories.
What are you waiting for to craft your brand's storytelling?
Bibliographical Citations and Sources
"Air (2023 film)", directed by Ben Affleck and written by Alex Convery.
"Stories That Sell", Michael Margolis.
"The Power of Storytelling", Akash Karia.
“Made to Stick", Chip and Dan Heath.
“Airbnb CMO Says His Work Is Done”, Dana Sanchez, Moguldom
“The Enduring Power and Impact of Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign”, Maggie Taylor, Strixus