How Brand Stories Tie to Emotion

Stories allow us to connect with our customers via emotions and memory.

Wendy Ruyle 11.6.2019

Did you ever find yourself forgetting the name of a brand or product you bought? Happens all the time, right? Unless, you have formed an emotional connection with that brand. One way to do that is through brand stories.

When you learn that TOMS Shoes started because its founder saw firsthand that children’s lives were made more difficult growing up without shoes in developing nations and he wanted to help, you remember it and you want to buy the shoes. Purpose-driven companies are better at gaining loyalty and that’s because they have memorable stories.

Let’s get personal

To illustrate that point, let me tell you something personal. It’s pretty deep and dark and you might not like me as much after you read it, but here it is. I…don’t care about sports.

I don’t care about football, basketball, baseball, hockey…none of it. I don’t care who wins or loses. I don’t know the team names or who is doing well and I don’t care to learn.

When our hometown team in Minnesota was this close to being in the Super Bowl which we hosted in 2018, the whole time I was thinking it might be better if Philadelphia got in because it would mean more revenue for our city. Cold. Hearted. I know. It’s terrible. I’m a terrible person.

But here’s the thing. You have customers who care as little about your product or service as I do about sports. They’re only interested in the bottom line. They have no emotional attachment to you. They. Don’t. Care.

What makes people care?

So how do you change that? Here’s a hint. I wasn’t completely forthright with you. There is one sporting event that I care about. It’s the Olympics. How can I not care about it? NBC tells me personal stories about every athlete. How hard they worked. Their blood, sweat, and tears. How early they got up in the morning. They tell me about their dog that just died and their Mom who’s blind but cheers them on in every competition anyway.

There’s an opening ceremony that is visually beautiful and emotionally uplifting about the world coming together, setting aside differences, and fairly competing in feats of strength and grace and precision. I’m getting a little choked up right now. I love it. And I will watch it for two weeks straight. And that’s because stories allow us to create connections, be real, and create vivid mental images that you remember.

If they can get me to care about sports, you can get your customers to care about your products and services. Emotional connections lead to a stronger sales approach.

The science behind it

This isn’t just anecdotal. A neuroscientist named Paul Zak did a study where he drew blood from participants while they were watching videos to see what chemicals they released based on the content they were watching. When people felt distress, they released cortisol. When they felt empathy, they released oxytocin. And a story with a happily ever after ending releases dopamine.

So, what does that mean?

Cortisol increases anxiety and fear. We want to stay away from too much, but you do want to sustain attention. So, starting with a shocking fact or scenario is good.

Oxytocin creates intimacy, trust, and strengthens relationships. Zak calls it the “it’s safe to approach others” chemical. This means your customers will trust you.

And finally, Dopamine motivates you to take action towards your goals. And that’s what we want our customers to do: take action.

So, think about what your bigger purpose is as an organization. What’s your story about making the world a better place with your product or service? Tell that story like NBC interviewing the next amazing athlete. Do it effectively and you will gain loyal customers for life.

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