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Cool Story, Bro: The Business of Storytelling Explained

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The attention we’re giving the term ‘storytelling’ these days is certainly well deserved, but the sheer amount of it simultaneously pushes us closer and closer to that cruddy umbrella-shaped place where words can mean both everything and nothing.

And so, to clarify: the purpose of traditional storytelling is to create engagement by conveying events and messages through words, images or sounds. I’d argue that the same goes for the so-called “business of storytelling” (hat tip to @goonth for that one), but with a strategic twist: engagement, ultimately, as a means of building brand affinity.

We Like You! We Really Like You!

People like brands they feel connected to, and lately cultural relevance seems to be the key to that connection. Whole Foods has found success through campaigns that tap into community efforts for healthier lifestyles, for example. And Pepsi, which — let’s be real — has nothing even remotely healthy going for it, is using modern celebrities like Nicki Minaj and Joe Jonas to breathe life into their newest message: Live for Now.

“[It encourages] people out there to go to this cool page where they can understand a little more about what’s going on with pop culture and get them connected a little easier,” explained Jonas in a recent interview with Mike Ragogna.

Written in the Stars

We’ve all heard the claim that the rise of social media is responsible for the current emphasis on storytelling, but if the purpose of storytelling is to engage and be engaged, then our fondness for it runs much deeper than Facebook or Twitter.

In response to TIME magazine’s question, “What is the most astounding fact you can share with us about the Universe?” astrophysicist Dr. Neil Degrasse Tyson said, “There’s a level of connectivity– that’s really what you want in life. You want to feel connected, you want to feel relevant, you want to feel like you’re a participant in the goings on of activities and events around you. That’s precisely what we are just by being alive.” (Max Schlickenmeyer made a really beautiful video representation of this section of the interview. View here.)

In other words: storytelling answers a primordial need. Brands that meaningfully engage consumers with stories that resonate succeed because they employ the feeling of having a fundamental experience.

Tell a Good One

Story has always been a key part of business communication because humans are hardwired to make sense of the world through narratives. A business that relegates ‘storytelling’ to the umbrella term boneyard means a business forgotten.

Be it with a blog post, a single video or a full-fledged campaign, every day is an opportunity to create an experience around your content; to give your customers a chance to make sense out of you.

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