Have you ever been in a meeting that just seemed to drag on for years? Like that type of meeting, where the presenter goes on and on about numbers, implications, and numbers again, and you feel your eyelids getting heavier for each number mentioned. And you know these facts are super important, and you really should pay attention, but you just can’t.
Seems familiar, doesn’t it? This scenario is quite universal. Whether the meeting is being held in Copenhagen, Bogota, Johannesburg, or Berlin – too many numbers and dry facts will leave any meeting feeling endless.
Numbers are crucial to businesses. We build our entire operations around them and make most of our strategic decisions based on them. But when it comes to catching people’s attention and persuading them, selling them your ideas, products or services, numbers alone won’t get you far.
Want to persuade someone? Tell them a good story.
Stories shape the world. Stories make a far greater impression on people than numbers. We have an innate need to tie anything we see to a story, and we will buy the product that has the better story. That is why brands are so valuable. We consume brand stories more than we do products.
Why? Because our brains like stories. Our brains are simply wired to understand the world through stories. One of the main reasons is that stories have the ability to create empathy. Through so-called mirror neurons, our brains make us capable of feeling the exact emotions of the characters in the story. This emotional affiliation drags our conscious into the story. In this new environment, our usual defences don’t work, and our minds are left in a highly persuasive state.
The mirror neurons cause our brain to experience the experiences of the characters as our own. Practically speaking, the parts of our brains that are activated while reading, watching, or listening to a story, are the same as those that would flare up, if we were to physically perform those activities. Our brain is basically simulating how we would experience the story ourselves. Hence, the term mirror neurons.
This is what makes stories so incredibly appealing and gratifying to their audience. And what makes them such a powerful marketing tool. They become a source of adventure, they teach us valuable lessons, and they reward our brain as if we were there in person. Stories can even activate our brains centres for smell and touch, making the fictional experiences that much more convincing.
So next time you want to persuade someone, tell them a story.
Fun fact: there is a subfield of neuroscience called neurocinematics, that specifically studies the impact of movies on the mind. One of the more interesting findings is, that a well-constructed movie with a strong plot and well-managed emotional scenes will actually synchronize the eye movements and brain activity across the audience. In other words, get the same neural response across the audience.
… puts product placement into perspective, doesn’t it?