Sit!! Let me tell you a story
In pre colonial Nigeria when states were still villages, there lived a very wealthy man called Bade who had many wives. He was well respected by peoples from far and near for his kindness and generosity. He took care of all his wives and children but he loved his junior wife- Risi the most.
Risi was young and beautiful, she was the envy of all her mates because they knew their husband loved her the most. Though Bade was wealthy, he had no male child and this became a source of sadness for him. He wished to have a son and so when Risi became pregnant and it was divined that she would bear him a son, he loved her even more.
Risi carried her pregnancy for nine moon and in due season brought forth a male child. There was celebration everywhere and the house took on an air of pomp and pageantry but all was not well as the senior wife in her envy planned to kill the child.
At night, she stole the baby out of his bed and took him to the far end of the house where she placed him in a wooden mortar and proceeded to pound him. The screams of the baby couldn’t be heard as the wicked wife smothered the child to death.
The next way brought with it worry and confusion and a search for the baby proved abortive, so the oracles were consulted, the senior wife was found guilty and sentenced to death.
The Kabeyesi then decreed a number of laws in that community amongst which was that there would be no more pounding hence that village became known as Ma gun odo (meaning do not pound it) which metamorphosed into Magodo and is still called Magodo till date.
Storytelling has been defined in a lot of ways. It has been defined as the interactive art of using words and actions to reveal the elements and images of a story while encouraging the listener’s imagination. To the Irish, storytelling is the flagship of Irish folklore, the world’s oldest form of entertainment and an art which is filled with passionate enactments of their cultural elements. The African will define storytelling as a communal participatory experience prevalent in most traditional African societies which manifests itself in form of interactive oral performance, rhyme, repetition, call and response and songs— with the aim of passing down the oral traditions and culture of that community.
As ancient as the art of storytelling is, it just became an indispensable element of Brand management in the last five years. Brands are increasingly employing storytelling to enhance top of mind awareness, engage their clients and enhance equity in the marketplace.
For one, the power of storytelling can be used to emotionally engage your clients. Neuroscience actually backs this up with some interesting data about telling a story versus giving out information. While giving out information or just talking about benefits of a brand, two areas of the brain are activated: the one that intakes the information, and the one that processes it. This is because our brain acts like a mental file cabinet, accepting the facts and then tidying them away, but while telling a story, many more areas of the brain become engaged.
These same parts of the brain are the ones that become activated when we’re living out our day-to-day lives. So if, while telling you a story, I say something like …….her tear stained soul was a reflection of the hollow sorrow of her heart, your same cerebral areas light up as if you are actually feeling the depth of emotional torture being described in the story. This is because your brain actually can’t tell the difference between hearing a story and experiencing it, hence the personal connection and emotionally attachment.
Also is the action benefit that storytelling brings. Unlike a call to action which is prevalent in brand communication, storytelling actually has a greater ability to incite action. Paul Zak found this out in a series of experiments which connected storytelling to generosity. Zak asked two groups of people to donate money to a cause. But before asking, he showed one group a short animated video about a terminally ill boy named Ben. He found that the group exposed to the video story had higher levels of oxytocin in their brain – a neurochemical that caused them to be more inclined to take the desired action. In fact, Zak was actually able to predict who was most likely to donate money by which people felt a current emotional charge – and those who heard the story were 80% more generous than those who did not.
Stories also have the ability to change our perceived value about something. That was the conclusion drawn by the Significant Objects Project – a literary and anthropological experiment that set out to answer the question: Can a great story affect an object’s subjective value? The team purchased seemingly worthless trinkets at thrift stores and asked some creative writers to invent stories about them. They then posted the objects (with their stories) on eBay to see whether the invented story enhanced each object’s value. And it did: The trinkets, originally purchased for a total of $128.74, sold for a whopping total of $3,612.51 – a 2,700% markup.
Pop Quiz: How did Magodo get its name? You remember (or at least I hope you do), because of an effect discovered by neuropsychologist Alexander Luria – who is best known for his work related to human memory. In one experiment he read off a series of arbitrary words to patients, and asked them to recite them back. None were able to do so. However, when he encouraged patients to envision the words in a story – say, by imagining that they were walking down a street and passing each one – their retention rates increased significantly. This became known as “The Story Method” of memorization.
Furthermore is the basic intrinsic value of stories which is to engage the audience. As excellent example of this is the Guinness “Udeme” advert which went international and gained immediate resonance with beer consumers nationwide. This was because Udeme was a regular guy who was portrayed as an honourable man, with a good life and appreciative friends, someone whom everyone aspired to be like, whom everyone secretly admired though he wasn’t wealthy or famous, he was portrayed as a good man with values and good friends. In essence, people are prepared to modify their purchasing behavior to communicate something about themselves.
From the above, we can see that this element of story telling is most likely to be around for a very long time to come. Stories will be employed via several media be it digitally as in digital storytelling or traditionally in adverts and PR activations. So when next you write about your brand, tell a story that speaks of intricacies and intrigue, let it capture, seduce and enthral, let it engage your audience and connect with them on an emotional level.
This is why at CMC Connect Burson-Marsteller, we believe Public Relations is about telling a compelling story, who is telling yours’ ?