Let me tell you a story..

Jonny Kelly


Jonny Kelly

Creative Director
Strategy, Creative and Curious

The art of telling stories is more relevant and valuable than ever. But your business must live the story as well as tell it!

From the fire lit nights in caves to the warm glow from a Netflix fuelled Ultra HD TV in a city apartment, humans have always been captivated by a good story well told. Mark Twain had a nice take on it, ‘I like a good story well told. That is the reason I am sometimes forced to tell them myself.’

I am not nearly academic enough to accurately describe the behavioural psychology around why stories are so powerful or why we will willingly suspend our disbelief if it gets in the way of a good story. But, I suppose a lot of our reality is in how we internally perceive the world around us. That perception can be completely different to the person standing next to us, depending on how experience has influenced and shaped each of us in our lives. 

If a story is driven by narrative and contains elements and emotions which we relate to even tenuously, it will resonate with us. Humans naturally look for meaning in things and when they find something that means something to them, they connect with it.

For example, a mother waving her only son off to war in a Hollywood film may draw a tear from a mother at home whose son has just gone to college. 

Or maybe a real-life story captivates us… Tiger Woods hugging his kids after the comeback of all time, or superstar NFL Quarterback Tom Brady, when asked by a young kid at a press event ‘who is your hero?’ Tom replies without hesitation (but with a tear in his eye) ‘My Dad is my hero’.  Millions of sons and fathers (including this one) would have thought of their own dad or son and felt a drop in their stomach and lump in their throat and Tom Brady went up a few notches in their estimation. 

These principles are also prevalent with the brands and businesses we align ourselves with.

Nike tell stories about sporting endeavour that we aspire to, Apple tell us to ‘Think Different’, Virgin’s narrative is about disrupting conventions for the better and Uber is ‘changing how the world moves’.

A key factor to note here is ‘authenticity’. Movies can suspend disbelief, but with the people and brands we admire we want authentic behaviour and emotion. 

We need to believe it or it will appear ‘fake’ and we won’t connect and in some cases it will repel us.

People and brands must live their story as well as telling it.

If we take the concept of story-telling and apply it to business and brand, how does it help?

New York Times writer Rob Walker carried out a clever anthropological experiment which he called ‘Significant Objects’. His goal was to discover and demonstrate the tangible value of good story-telling.  He started by collecting 200 items of no significance, monetary (average $1.25 average) or intrinsic value. 

Then he contacted 200 authors and asked each one to write a story about one of the objects. Rob then sold the articles on eBay with the stories included in the descriptions. What was the result? 

All items sold and from an initial outlay of $197, Mr Walker received a return of almost $8000. 

The story-teller and their story created an emotional connection with the customer and delivered a 40x return on the investment. 

Pretty good right?


How can telling stories help us connect with our customers and improve what we do?

Simon Sinek describes this perfectly in his book ‘Start with Why’ which is definitely worth a read.

In simple terms, you must tell the story about why your company does what it does. Humans are irrational and emotional and will connect much more with Why you do things than how you do them.

Within that context, your customer experiences and communications must tell a relevant, consistent and authentic story. But also a creative and compelling story that people can connect with, remember and share!

Digital provides opportunities to do this efficiently at scale via social, your online customer experience. 

The challenge is how to seize the opportunity and use it effectively.

We regularly consider our ‘Why’ at Origin, and I know it can be tough. The best way we can encapsulate the spirit of the business is: 

‘We want to help great businesses grow, by making things easier and better for their customers. Our success lives in their success.’

Our chosen path on ‘How‘ to do that is through Digital, by helping shape and deliver customer experiences and tell stories through campaigns and content.

If that resonates and connects with you, give Origin a call 😉

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