Gone are the days when facts and figures were enough to bring people around to their way of thinking. Today, the art of persuasion begins and ends with a narrative. Consumers and businesses expect a story, and successful companies make sure that they provide one whenever possible.
There are, however, some companies that have a better grasp of this idea than others. One example stands head and shoulders above the rest, and that’s Lego. The Danish toy giant released its second feature-length film this year, ‘Lego Batman’, and the gravelly-voiced protagonist instantly stormed both ticket sales and film critics’ hearts.
While unquestionably good fun, the film will be remembered by marketers and business people for reasons that extend beyond the box office. Lego has proved that it can not only create a feature-length film that focuses on its product, but it can do so whilst emotionally engaging an audience. What appears to be a straightforward kids’ film is actually a complex and incredibly valuable brand presentation.
It might be hard to believe for some, but, Hollywood budgets aren’t the most important ingredient in successful storytelling. Smaller companies can still use the power of storytelling in compelling ways, and deliver results.
Hook them emotionally, then dazzle with data
In many ways, the purest form of business storytelling is the sales presentation, and storytelling presenters follow a simple recipe for success. First, they engage with the audience on an emotional level, capturing their attention and drawing them into the presentation. Then, once that emotional connection has been made, they back it up with solid, persuasive facts that support the decision they’re encouraging them to make.
By connecting emotionally with a film-going audience, Lego is undoubtedly driving sales. They entertain their audience whilst in the cinema, at the same time as reminding them of the excitement of playing with Lego pieces and the staggering variety of different sets and characters. Think of the children who will beg their parents for a new Lego set after the trip to the cinema!
For businesses, using a storytelling technique is infinitely more effective than immediately bombarding the audience with facts and figures – no matter how compelling they might be. Once that connection has been made, the presenter can then take a step back to reveal the statistics and supporting points around the wider issue they’re discussing.
For a sales presentation, this might mean looking at an individual story – often that of an existing customer – showcasing the effect the product had, and then moving on to the hard-hitting stats. This way you are engaging with both the hearts and the minds of audience members— a far more compelling connection than the mind alone.
Constructing powerful stories
Turning back to large-scale brand communications, and influencing consumer habits, organisations can also appeal to prospective memory. Prospective memory refers to thoughts and memories based around planned actions: what you are going to do.
Apple mastered prospective memory with its ‘Think different’ ad campaign. This was a simple, two word story about people breaking the mould and pushing boundaries. As it’s only two words, it’s easily remembered and repeated – a critical factor, particularly today, when 86 per cent of viewers are estimated to skip adverts entirely. The simpler a message is, the more likely it will be retained.
Rather than telling people to buy a computer, Apple did something more subtle but also much more powerful. They appealed to aspiration, suggesting that people who buy Apple products are themselves visionaries, creatives, the people who ‘Think different’. The result is still the sale of an Apple product, but the story behind it creates a whole new level of satisfaction for the customer. One that directly appeals to, and transforms, their lifestyle and self-identity.
Storytelling for all results
There are so many ways that brands can use storytelling to engage both their customers, their business partners and even their employees. Rather than an alternative to the communication brands are already undertaking, storytelling can be a powerful tool for heightening their discourse and breathing life into otherwise stale propositions.
Today there are so many tools available to help businesses achieve this in more effective ways than ever. Prezi, for example can marry storytelling and statistics in powerful ways. The biggest – and recently named most powerful – brands may be able to do this with entire film franchises, but the ability is available for smaller businesses too. You don’t need Hollywood. A bit of creativity in communication, combined with the right tools, will provide the building blocks for a significantly stronger brand.
Spencer Waldron, European Regional Director, Prezi