How To Grab Attention Through Emotional Storytelling

Good story-telling has a narrative power that grabs the attention of your audience – and holds it! Research by the Statistic Brain Research Institute indicates you have approximately 8.25 seconds to pull your audience in. If you’re a marketer, you know that engaging your target audience is easier said than done! Think about your own story. You have a great product, an arsenal of far-reaching digital tools, consumer analytics and multiple platforms to blow your trumpet. Except nobody is listening to the music.

Your target audience is not engaging with your brand or your product, and you feel the analytics are misguiding you. But what if you had the power and the know-how to adapt your story…

Todays technologies position people in a world in which individuals are no longer voyeurs looking in from the outside. Your stage is also the stage of your audience. The technology at your disposal can create an environment in which everybody has a part to play. All you need is the right technology and a compelling story. So how do you leverage existing technologies and create a scenario that compels your audience to engages with your product, service and brand?

Is Social Media A Story-Telling Platform?

The internet provides a platform where people can interact, express their views, share content and information. Social media has given everybody a voice. But is social media being used in the right way to grab attention and influence consumer decisions?

Qualitative market research conducted by Emerald Insight indicates the majority of subscribers want to tell their own story to the world. You will know from personal experience how people are obsessed with endless selfies and pictures of their food, pets and holidays. Research shows that 88% of people use social media to interact with friends and socialise with others. 76% use it to pass time, 64% for entertainment and 56% to express opinions. The encouraging statistic to come from the research was that 80% of social media subscribers also search for information about brands, sales, deals and products. Social media marketing may already be a part of your story. And you’re probably already following digital marketing advice about making social media content visual engaging, interactive and relaying an authentic story.

So, what are you missing?

Virtual Reality – Technology for Compelling Storytelling

Immersive story-telling has been described as ‘the new frontier” for marketers. Technological advancements in recent years have made it possible to recreate a virtual environment that looks, feels and smells like the real world. Virtual reality (VR) delivers a completely immersive experience with endless possibilities. All you need to do is tell the right story. But why is VR more effective than social media?

To enter the virtual world, users have to wear a headset. They can also wear gloves for added effect. The technology directly taps into the user’s senses – and our sensory organs transmit information to the brain. The brain cannot tell the difference between the real world and the virtual world. It merely interprets the information it receives. Therefore, the brain receives information directly from the virtual world and perceives the environment in the same way it would in a real-life experience. Any lived experience provokes emotions. Therefore, if you deliver a story your audience relates to, the emotional experience they have forges a bond with your brand.

Talented designers can create a dynamic space in which your audience can see, smell and hear. With VR you can utilise haptics which recreates the sense of touch through forces, vibrations, and motions. The immersive experience fuels emotions and enhances the story.

Use Power Words and Captivating Images

Compelling stories use strong dialogue and captivating visuals. What you are looking for is a story with a heart that creates an emotional connection on a personal level. To simplify the storytelling process, identify the emotional state you intend to evoke. Then create a single moment in your story that delivers the emotion in a powerful and memorable way. The goal of a VR simulation is to send the viewer away wanting to find out more. They should want to relive this experience whenever they want.

A cave painting of people hunting a mammoth with the text 'Ever since paintings were etched in red ochre on cave walls, we have had a natural human interest in storytelling. Its probably the earliest example of a story on 'How to Hunt'?'

What are the hallmarks of good storytelling?

To grab the attention of your audience, there has to be an emotional connection that appeals to an individual on a personal level. But the most compelling stories are themes an individual can relate to in their own life. Brand advertising has to put the audience at the front and centre of the story. You achieve this in four steps:

1. Set the scene
2. Create an emotional connection on a personal level
3. Use power words, captivating images
4. Make your audience part of the story

1. Set the scene

The first questions to answer are:

• Where am I?
• Who is telling the story?

The magic of VR is that it takes us to places we’ve never been before and evokes strong emotional states as if the experience is truly happening.

A girl reading to a bear with text over the top that says "1. Engage your audience, 2. Build the scene, 3. Build tension and release tension, 4. Focus on what's important, 5. Keep the flow logical, 6. Make it feel conclusive"

Make Customers Part of the Story

Traditional media such as books, news media and the flat film is one-dimensional. Whilst they can evoke emotions, they do not deliver a lived experience. Imagine how much more present consumers will feel if they can experience the environment you have created in 360?

Moreover, imagine how magical it would be to take your audience on a journey that transforms their physical and emotional state; a real-life experience in a safe environment. That lived experience, the feeling of being present in the moment is at the heart of an immersive experience. And the sensation of being present leads users to be active, form intentions and play a central role in your story.

Why does VR work so well as a story-telling tool?

The short answer to that question is – drugs. Well okay, naturally occurring neurotransmitters; but they perform the same role as narcotics. When you relay a compelling story in a life-like environment, the brain releases a mini cocktail of neurochemicals; dopamine, cortisol and oxytocin. Dopamine is known as the ‘happy hormone’. It controls mental and emotional responses, stimulates arousal and can even induce an adrenaline rush.

Cortisol is responsible for delivering a quick burst of energy in response to perceived positive, exciting, and fun experiences. Oxytocin plays a role in feelings of empathy and building trust. When storytelling is combined with life-like scenarios, all three neurochemicals are triggered in the brain and the viewer thinks and feels the same way as the characters in the story.

A girl with a VR headset on with text beneath saying 'We are approaching a phase where we are no longer voyeurs, looking outside in, observing someone else's life. We are now approaching a world where we are physically in the film.'

VR Storytelling for e-Learning

There is a lot of debate about whether visual, kinetic or auditory learning is better. We’ve been led to believe that you’re either one or the other. Recent studies show the current paradigm is not true. The Center for Brain Health has shown that learning by doing is more effective for retaining information. The study demonstrated that individuals that performed a task had better memory recall than individuals that watched a demonstration. What was even more interesting is that areas of the brain associated with learning lit up in the group that physically performed a task. In the group that only observed a demonstration, there was little or no brain activity. Facts, figures and graphs also have limited effect as a teaching method. They’re certainly not convincing enough to influence decision making and memory recall.

However, if you embed facts and figures into a story and include captivating visuals that transmit relevant information, you have a learning tool that engages users. When people are engaged and recognise the relevance in the topic they are learning, they experience an emotional response. The emotional response makes them feel more motivated to learn and compels them to explore the topic further. Explaining complex concepts in story form can transcend current learning environments. Stories that are linked to positive emotional experiences create a patterning system which stores memories.

For example, reported relationships between ideas and images facilitate how we interpret the world or a belief. A straightforward narrative consisting of beginning, problem, solution and ending lays the foundation for the mental mapping system to overlay new information. When new information is received, individuals make connections that build understanding and, ultimately memory recall. By creating relatable scenarios, you can also increase emotional states which encourage students to explore their own ideas and follow a line of enquiry they are drawn towards.

The Text 'Virtual reality is great at replicating the feeling of real life. But real life is nothing like a story' over an image of a typewriter

Final Word

Virtual reality is great at replicating the feeling of real life. But for VR to fulfil its potential as a marketing tool, you need to create a story your audience relates to. Compelling stories become hardwired in the brain. If you link past, present and future events and provoke an emotional response, you have the power to influence the decision making of individuals. VR is not the new frontier of marketing and learning, it is arguably the final frontier.

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