Storytelling is Absolutely Essential to Engage or Influence Your Market
Brand storytelling has changed. It used to be that your brand was the hero of your story, and your features and benefits are how it “won”. Not anymore. Now, brand stories need to make your target audience the hero of the story.
The storytelling method even has science to back it up. In a study at Princeton University, scientists found that, when you listen to a well-told story, the parts of your brain that respond are those that would if you were inside the story. Even more impressive: this effect also happens to the person telling the story.
Scientists are discovering that chemicals like cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin are released in the brain when we’re told a story. Why does that matter? If we are trying to make a point stick, cortisol assists with our formulating memories. Dopamine, which helps regulate our emotional responses, keeps us engaged. When it comes to creating deeper connections with others, oxytocin is associated with empathy, an important element in the building, deepening, or maintaining good relationships.
Stories allow us to experience the world before we actually have to experience it. Any brand can use storytelling and it can be used in every aspect of messaging and communication from taglines to social media posts, from email marketing to demonstrations or sales presentations. When done correctly, the storytelling method leads to a natural call to action (CTA) so you can add a CTA without jarring your audience. This means your story will work anywhere and your audience will love you for it because they won’t get that “I’ve been scammed” feeling.
While there are a lot of storytelling models and frameworks out there, I’ve found that they are usually optimized for one format or another—movies, email marketing, or doing presentations to name a few. Rarely have I come across a model that is flexible enough to work in a variety of situations while still delivering that captivating feeling of wanting to know more.
One method that I do like for brand storytelling is the ABT method. ABT stands for: And, But, and Therefore. It’s flexible enough to be used in a single sentence, long-form email, video, podcasts, product descriptions, or even sales landing pages to name a few.
So, let’s take a closer look at these three words and what they mean when you are crafting your story:
- AND. The And is your statement of agreement with your target audience. It’s the part of your story that helps establish a connection and proves that you understand what your audience is looking for. It’s far more powerful to lead the conversation with what your audience wants. This should sound familiar because it is a common sales technique to phrase questions that the answer is always “yes”.
- BUT. Now, it’s time to give them the reality check and remind them that they don’t have it yet. This is where you state the problem: You don’t have this result yet because of this problem you’re facing. It’s succinct and specific and creates a contradiction. The greater the contrast you can create between the And statement and the But statement, the more your audience will lean in to listen to your solution. A friend and mentor of mine, Patricia Fripp always says “Specificity builds credibility”. Your target audience’s struggle or pain point is often something that they can’t completely articulate without rambling, so when you can get to the core of what they are actually feeling, you give them the “Woooh, how did you know that?” feeling.
- THEREFORE. The Therefore is your story. This is your solution statement, how you’re there to help your audience get what they want by helping them overcome whatever is standing in their way. This is the part of your story that’s about you, it’s also the most natural part of your story and flows smoothest. Technically there are two parts to the Therefore: the What and the How. The What is what your target audience needs to get in order to overcome their obstacles and, the How is how they can go about getting it.
The ABT method makes you focus your research, demonstrates an understanding of your target audience’s situation, and gives you the ability to empathize with your target audience. This narrative tool helps ensure that you understand what your audience is after, as well as what’s standing in your audience’s way. But it’s also a powerful listening tool. (See what I did there?)
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