The Power of Storytelling And Psychology in Marketing

The Power of Storytelling And Psychology in Marketing

Branding and storytelling are powerful ways to influence people’s psychological perspectives.

To illustrate the power of story, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn are reporters who went out and bought 100 useless trinkets that cost around a dollar each. And for each of these cheap objects they recruited writers to write a story behind each item. They had a globe paperweight, for example, that cost them 1.49 and they made up a four page story that involved love and relationships surrounding the paperweight. They sold the two together for 198 dollars. The value of the item increased by 132,000 percent as a result of the item having a story behind it. (This example comes from the book Mean People Suck by Michael Brenner).

The notion of stories increasing the value of items is illustrated very well by art. There was recent news about a banana that was duct taped to a wall by the artist Maurizio Cattelan in the Art Basel Miami Beach museum. This piece was valued at 120,000 dollars until David Datuna peeled it from the wall and ate it. The piece of art was replaced within fifteen minutes. Clearly, the value of this piece of art is driven by the story behind it, not by the cost of a banana.

The power of story is also illustrated in the notion that it would be harder for Coke to rebuild if they lost their brand than if they lost their infrastructure.

Rory Sutherland, in his new book Alchemy, goes to great length to talk about the power of changing our psychological perspective. And the notion that very small changes in our perception and our own happiness can be created with very small financial costs.

One example he gives within a talk, which I will provide a link to below, is of a hotel in Stockholm Sweden that has one set of lift buttons with all of the floors on them and a second set of lift buttons with different types of music. So you can press one button for your floor and a second button to select what kind of music you’d like to listen to on the elevator.

The simple act of allowing the participant to choose the music on the elevator makes a big difference in terms of the happiness of the elevator rider, it is a story that they will share with their friends, and it differentiates the hotel from the other hotel chains.

Changing small aspects of people’s behavior can also have a big impact. For example, Ogilvy had a campaign termed #fckhiv where they flipped the middle finger at HIV. The notion was very simple. People typically got tested for HIV with their index finger, so they suggested that they get tested with their middle finger in order to send a message to HIV. it was that get tested for HIV using your middle finger instead of the index finger. The campaign blew up on social media and influenced more people to get tested.

Another example from the book Alchemy comes from a case where they tried to reduce crime within an area. They were placing steel shutters along the storefronts at night to reduce theft but they weren’t working out very well. Costly additional solutions included adding extra security or CCTV cameras but Tara Austin came up with the idea to display images of babies and toddlers on the shutters instead. This was motivated by the calming effect of infantile characteristics on people (which we see in many cartoon characters).


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