Selling with Stories #1: Hansel and Gretel

OR: Why Stories Always Work On Us.

New blog baby! We couldn’t be more excited. For the rest of the year, we’re going to be showing you how to use the magnificent, transformative power of story to make your writing more compelling, and sell your stuff.

We’ll be using your favourite movies, TV shows and books as examples. In the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at Star Trek, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Paper Towns, Three Men And a Little Lady, and, of course, Star Wars.

But for the first post, we’re dipping into the classics. One of the building blocks of our culture, a simple and unspoilable tale.

Hansel and Gretel - Witch Hunters

Okay, maybe a little spoilable.

Why Story Structures Work

We had to start with a fairytale. Fairytales boil down why we tell stories into its purest form. You ever watch a kid reading a story? They’re totally involved, totally alert, totally ready to take in the lessons that the stories teach them.

My daughter and copywriting inspiration being read a story

We read Hansel and Gretel to say to our children, “Don’t go into strange houses” in a way that they might actually listen to. This idea was reduced brilliantly by cartoon genius SMBC.

Ultimately, that’s how much stories matter. We entrust our children’s safety to stories. Stories will get through to them.

And the crazy part is – that’s how your brain was made.

 The science bit

Something very special happens to our brains when we hear a story. A 2010 study into speaker-listener neural coupling found that:

“When she had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too.  When her frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the woman could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.”

Speaker Listener Neural Coupling

I found a picture of a brain, so you know I know what I’m talking about.

It’s almost ESP. It’s almost mindreading. And when you think about it, planting ideas, thoughts and emotions is pretty much exactly what business communication is trying to do.

The Copywriter’s takeaway:

Picture the biggest, baddest, most discerning, most hard-nosed client you’ve ever had. They’ve been responding to stories since before they knew how to wipe their own bum.

So if you’re communicating for a living, you better learn how to do stories. Luke Sullivan, ‎Chair of Advertising at Savannah College of Art & Design, revealed the first name on any booklist he gives to his advertising students. It wasn’t David Ogilvy, or Malcolm Gladwell, or Mad Men box sets. It was Robert McKee’s Story.

That’s what this blog is all about. Learn story, and everything you say will have more impact.

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One thought on “Selling with Stories #1: Hansel and Gretel

  1. Pingback: Selling with Stories #2: For Sale, Baby Shoes |

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