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What Happens To Your Brain When You’re Told A (Marketing) Story [Infographic]

I. Setting the Stage

“Let me tell you a story…” is a helluva way to get someone cozied up and engaged around your digital campfire. Stories are the native programming language of humanity. But we all seem to fall into the trap of throwing facts and figures out to customers, employees and shareholders. We cite features and benefits. We overuse calls to action, treating our customers like cavemen. And we tend to use low quality imagery to get our point across.

II. Nostalgia

Remember when you were a kid and your kindergarten class (or mom) would make something called Ants On A Log? If you’re not from the US, this might sound strange, but that’s what we call putting peanut butter in the “cup” of a stalk of celery, then adding raisins to the top. A delicious treat, indeed.

Marketing, using storytelling, follows the same concept. Facts, Data, Features, and Benefits have nothing to stick to in a customer’s mind if you don’t add the story. So, in this case, the Facts & Features are the raisins, the story the peanut butter, and your marketing channel the celery.

It takes all three if you want to deliver a tasty treat that cuts through the noise and gets us “kids” all excited.

Also, did you know that activating a sense of nostalgia in a customer’s mind increases buying behavior by +20%? Leveling up your story with nostalgia is check, and then, mate.

III. Brain Science & Marketing

There are a lot of scientific studies out there on the brain and what happens when we’re told stories. You might wonder how, or maybe you’ve heard of the technique. It’s called fMRI and works by shoving your noggin into one of those big MRI metallic tubes in a hospital. A doctor sits and looks at a screen with your brain on it.

Different areas light up based on which neural pathways are being activated when you experience something (e.g., a story). They even teach this stuff in business schools now, so if you’re not on the latest fMRI tip, get up on that thang.

The infographic below contains some pretty heady science (see what we did there?). See the middle section on how Storytelling Affects the Brain. It uses the fMRI explained above to get to those answers. Not some silly survey. You can see the data sources for that in the bottom left hand corner.

The infographic is an updated version as of July 2017 from a previous version the company put out a few years ago. FastCo did a story on it, so you know it’s got some serious credibility here.

If you don’t have the time to read all the details, allow us the pleasure of summarizing a few main takeaways for you:

  1. Visual In Nature: humans are visual creations, dogs olfactory. So, don’t use smellovision. Just stick to the vision side. Videos, interesting looking graphics, high res photography. Punchy phrases. These things catch people’s attention.
  2. Teach Them Something: the entire reason The Mission exists is to help you learn faster than you would otherwise, and bring you content you might find interesting to accelerate your growth. There’s a reason we’re growing. It’s proof this strategy works. Teach a man (or woman) to fish, after all.
  3. Make an Ad Into a Story: 92% of consumers actually want ads. But not just any ad. They want one that feels like a story. It’s one of the reason branded content works so well. The Lego Batman movie, for instance. Funny, timely, and killed at the box office precisely because it’s an ad that feels like a story.

Now go knock ’em dead, Johnny!

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