Marketing + Communications

Winning over your audience with narrative

Ever found yourself welling up at a kids’ film? There are a few stand-out culprits that try as I might, I can’t get through without surreptitiously wiping at my eyes (I’m looking at you Disney Pixar). This is the power of emotional narrative at work. When it comes to film, books and tv, the narrative is what draws us in, makes us care about the characters and ultimately what keeps us glued to our screens or turning the page. 

The narrative also has its place outside of fiction. When it comes to your copy and content, a great narrative arc to your messages can help grow your audience and drive action.  The power of narrative and emotion isn’t just the domain of fiction. In our new blog we talk about how strong narrative can win you clients and engage your audience. 

Addicted to Narrative 

Strong narratives trigger us emotionally – it’s something we have no control over. Not only are we addicted to emotional narratives in our daily lives, but we have no conscious control over what and how we feel about the things we see and read. Humans are simply emotional beings, and we enjoy those aspects of art and culture that trigger our emotional responses.  

Take the example of those pesky kids films. We might not want to get misty-eyed at the latest Disney Pixar tear-jerker, but we can’t simply turn it off when those waterworks start a comingThat’s because the part of our brain (the limbic brain) that registers and deals with emotion is a much older part of the brain that isn’t subject to conscious control. When we watch something that causes us sadness, disgust, happiness, fear we aren’t choosing to feel any of them, they’re automatic responses that we have no control over. 

This makes narrative a potent tool when it comes to marketing.  

A power to be used wisely 

There are several examples in marketing history of this power being used in a less than savoury way. One of the most successful sales letters of all times was called, ‘The End of America’, and capitalised on its readers’ fears of economic doom and disaster. This led to tens of millions of dollars of revenue in the form of book sales and paid financial newsletter sign-ups. 

While we might baulk at the morality of such a tactic, it goes to show how powerful peoples’ emotions are when it comes to the decisions they make about what to read and what to buy. Every emotion you care to think of can be useful in guiding customer behaviour. Which one you choose to appeal to will depend on what you’re selling and/or the audience you’re selling to.     

Using narrative to support your marketing 

Whether you’re selling directly to consumer, business to business or simply trying to engage more with your audience, the power of a strong narrative can’t be understated. Look at email lists. Many businesses spent a lot of time and money on email campaigns to engage with their audience. The problem people run into is that they struggle to get the kind of readership they want. Simply put, their audience just doesn’t care about reading their content because it’s boring. 

If you can set a standard where people enjoy reading your emails, where you’re providing valuable information that’s not just informative but engaging, fun and human, you’re cementing your content as something worth consuming. As a concrete example, many companies send newsletters out that simply recount what they’ve been doing over the last month. By adding a little narrative and by involving your reader in that narrative you make that content one hundred times more consumable.    

A concrete example 

One tactic is to start with a seemingly unrelated story that disrupts your audiences’ expectations and engages them in what you’re saying. You might write an engaging account of being chased home from the bus stop by a Doberman. Immediately, your reader is thinking, “What’s going on here?”, but if you get it right and if you get the right narrative flourish, you’ve got them hooked. There are a thousand different ways you can branch off from this story to make it about your business. Let’s get wacky here. 

Perhaps you’re an entrepreneur selling coaching services and you want to talk to your readership about sending the right message when looking for new clients. In this case, you might tell an engaging story about the dog that chased you home not because it wanted to rip you limb from limb, but because it was just looking for a bit of love and attention. You could then transition to talking about sending the right message to clients when approaching them for the first time. The right approach isn’t always the hard sell! See what I mean? 

What’s right for one business isn’t right for another. In your content, you’ve got to decide what fits with your brand, and what doesn’t. But no matter how ‘clean shirt’ your industry is there are always opportunities to tell stories, to add value and to set yourself apart from the crowd.  

If you’re looking for someone to help you tell engaging stories, give Luma a call and we’ll have your audience hooked in no time. 

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