Hard boiled conversion optimization and design advice
Using stories in persuasion has been recommended by renowned marketers like Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki.
Tell a compelling narrative, and people are more likely to buy.
But is this really true? If so, why do stories work so well?
According to research by Melanie Green and Timothy Brock at Ohio State University, story is persuasive because of its ability to transport.
Stories persuade by transporting us
A good story plucks the audience from the reality of their daily lives and transports them to a world with a simpler, clearer narrative.
Psychologists Green and Brock define transportation as a process where “all mental systems and capacities become focused on events occurring in the narrative.”
When experiencing a compelling story the listener is mentally transported into the world of the narrative. This is so powerful that they often don’t notice physical changes in their environment (like a person entering the room).
They also experience a suspension of disbelief, becoming unaware of any real-world facts or details that may contradict the story.
This is why we accept inaccurate or implausible details, such as talking animals, in films and books.
Stories persuade by transforming us
More important to the discussion of creating narratives that persuade in a business sense, is a narrative’s ability to transform.
Entering the story’s world changes the way the listener processes information.
Their beliefs become more consistent with the story, and they develop more positive attitudes towards the characters in the story.
Paraphrased from the Green/Brock study:
When we are transported into a story, we tend to show beliefs consistent with the conclusions of the story. We also tend to have a positive attitude toward the hero in the story. It is likely that individuals altered their real-world beliefs in response to experiences in a story world.
Think about the persuasive power of your own personal story or the story of your business. Would it be good for your market to have a “positive attitude toward the hero in your story”? Would it be beneficial if your market had beliefs consistent with the conclusions of your story?