The Science of Story

The human brain is hardwired to connect with stories. This knowledge should totally change your marketing approach.

Mitch Meador


Founder & Top Nerd


May 7, 2019

Your Brain's Job

The human brain is worried about two things above all else:

  1. Survival.
  2. Conserving calories.

When you boil this down, the brain wants information that will make life better, but it doesn't want to work too hard to get it.

In marketing, the faster you can convince someone your product makes their life better, the more likely they will want to find out more and buy in.

Looking at this principle in a free-market sense, when your competition does a better job of creating clear marketing, they win more often, and you're left with the scraps. Don't let that happen.

So how do you avoid confusing your customers and instead offer a clear and compelling message? Read on, my friend. Read on.

Stories Just Make Sense

Stories are the most effective way to compel the human brain to action. We are hardwired to listen and understand stories because it is essential to our survival. It's how we pass information from generation to generation. Stories are older than written words.

Fast forward to modern times, we've all sat through a PowerPoint presentation with bullet point after bullet point, barely staying awake. That's because that style of presentation only hits the language part of your brain, a very small part of your brain where you decode words into meaning. You are bored because the rest of your brain is restless and wants to do something!

However, when the presenter adds a story to illustrate the points they are making, things change dramatically. Stories tap into your "animal brain", which is the largest part of your brain. Your brain pumps out hormones that simulate the distresses, pleasures, or empathetic moments in the story. It's why an action movie elevates your heart rate even though you're not exerting energy like the people on the screen.

Story is a huge part of everyday life. We exaggerate our tiny tales to friends and family after work. We devour books and movies, binge watch Netflix, and the cultured among us even go to plays. We turn sporting events and criminal trials into narratives. Don't even get me started on the evening news...

As humans we tend to live in the landscapes of our own make-believe. And it's important to note that we are each the hero in our own story.

Story Formula

Hollywood blockbusters and NYT Best Sellers largely follow the same story formula. And, I must warn you, this may ruin all movies for you forever, so SPOILER ALERT.

There are essentially seven parts to any story:

  1. A Character - The hero in the story.
  2. A Problem - Not just external problems, but internal and philosophical problems.
  3. A Guide - Someone with empathy and authority to show them the way.
  4. A Plan - A plan to get where they need to go.
  5. A Call to Action - The Guide motivates them to take the first steps.
  6. Achieving Success - The sweet rewards of overcoming the problem.
  7. Avoiding Failure - The bitter results of failing.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Character) is nominated for the murderous game of king-of-the-hill (Problem) and is introduced to Hamage (Guide), who tells her the best way to win is to woo the spectators into helping her (Plan). She competes in the game (CTA) and wins (Success), and avoids dying (failure).

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker (Character) must defeat the evil Empire (Problem) and meets Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guide), who trains him to trust his use of the Force (Plan). He flies an X-Wing fighter ship against the Death Star (CTA) and ends up delivering photon torpedos in time to blow up the Death Star (Success) before it blows up the Resistance base (Failure).

You can use this same formula to revolutionize your marketing. It's called the StoryBrand Framework.

The StoryBrand Framework

The StoryBrand Framework is a seven-part messaging framework that uses story formula to revolutionize your company's message.

You might be thinking, "Great! My company has a fantastic story to share!" Well, before you get to far, you need to understand the main principle...

Your company is not the hero. Your customer is the hero in this story.

That's right, you are not the hero, your customer is. You are actually the guide, the experienced person that enters the story to help the hero reach their end goal. As the guide, the hero needs you to give them the plan for success.

Let's say you have a roofing company. Your customer might be the hero with a leaky roof and you are the experienced guide that shows them a path to a getting a new roof for their home. That new roof increases property value of the hero and makes sure the hero avoids property damage!

If you look at some of the biggest brands around, you might notice that they are often amazing storytellers. Think about Apple, Coca-Cola, or Harley-Davidson. All of these brands immediately invoke imagery in your mind, right? That's the power of story on your brain.

Mitch Meador is a StoryBrand Certified Guide and would love to help you understand how the seven-part StoryBrand Framework will revolutionize your marketing.

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