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How Story Can Elevate Your Video Content

November 1, 2021

Since the Stone Age, people have been telling elaborate stories. They were first used as survival guides to understand life. Fast forward to now, compelling stories are still told every day in books and films. While we don’t use stories as much for survival these days, humans still crave great stories as if our lives depend on them.

While stories are thought of as books or films now, many brands are now getting in on the action. Stories are being used for marketing purposes. More specifically, stories are being used for branded video content to create a meaningful connection with an individual in their audience.

Why Does Story Matter In a Video?

There are many reasons why storylines are important for videos. Some of these reasons can be traced back thousands of years. We as humans have used stories as a way to understand life. What’s dangerous, how we should treat each other or maybe just a way to make each other smile. When it comes down to it, stories matter because they allow people to make a connection and relate to a common theme.

So, of course, story and video make a perfect match. Video is an easy-to-consume medium that can get deep into a story to affect a viewer more emotionally and meaningfully.

The Science Of Storytelling

A year ago, the science of storytelling was tested by Uri Hasson, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Princeton University. He had completed a study that proved a person’s brain waves synchronize to the storyteller when listening to a story.

In one of the experiments, Uri Hasson had three people experience a story of Sherlock Holmes. The scans showed that the brain patterns in all three situations were similar whether watching it on tv, listening to a recording, or hearing it directly from another person.

Storytelling doesn’t just sync brainwaves though. It’s also linked to the Oxytocin hormone, also known as — “the love hormone”. This hormone is a “good story detector”! When a good story is told, this hormone is released in the brain to create feelings like empathy, togetherness, relaxation, and trust. This also causes us to want to take action after a story comes to an end.

Story to memory?

There’s a lot of noise in the world! We’ve all been there when thoughts or facts just slip our minds or become locked up somewhere in our memory. We know they’re in there but can’t seem to access them.

In the book, Moonwalking with Einstein, written by Joshua Foer, He indirectly proves that story can be used to retain information. These narrative stories would even allow Joshua to memorize a full deck of playing cards… in order. With a technique called “Loci”, he would create scenes or images in his mind and then retrace his steps through the scenes to remember different things. He would associate a narrative with a card that includes a person, action, or object [also known as a “pao”]. Ex, Albert Einstein, with his thick white mane [3 of diamonds], delivered a devastating karate kick [5 of spades]. A sort of hack in memory by using a story.

Humans remember things better when there is context. We all crave stories, why not give your audience what they want?

How does the story then help brands?

Brands that fully understand the principles of storytelling reap the benefits. Rather than simply telling everyone about their product details, brands can connect with their audience more authentically to build trust.

This goes back to the science of storytelling and how the oxytocin hormone is released in the brain to create feelings of empathy, togetherness, relaxation, and trust when a story is told. It is scientifically proven that stories work!

You are probably wondering where to get started when writing a good story for your brand. At Made By Things, there are two elements that we keep in mind to make a memorable story – the human element and a purpose. You can learn more in our article Story Is Everything In Advertising.

  • Human Element – The Ability To Relate
    Customers need to connect to a story in order to feel something. This is why it is important to stop talking about your product details and turn the spotlight on your customers. You want your customer to relate to your story from their own life experiences. Ultimately, this will let them feel something positive about your brand or product.
  • Purpose
    How would you like your customer to respond to your story? What action do you want them to take? Want them to learn more about your product on your website? Follow your brand on social media? Schedule a consultation? Every good story serves a purpose and should have no fluff that distracts from that goal.

How Style Reflects The Story

Story plays many parts when it comes to creating a video, including the visual style. The visuals should support the story and vice versa. All visuals must be in service of the story including lines, color, texture, composition, etc.. This way, visuals are created to better tell the story and give the desired feel and not just based on the latest trends.

If you watch a movie without sound, you should be able to get an idea of who the protagonist and antagonist are. The lighting may be approached differently for those two characters, or maybe they’re shown with different camera lenses. In great stories, the visuals should always have a reason and be supportive of the purpose.

The Value Of Entertainment

Let’s take a step further, entertainment can be more valuable than simply educating or informing your audience. Remember your favorite teacher in school? You were probably entertained on more than a couple of occasions… They found a way to make learning fun.

It’s an excellent strategy for marketers to combine a video with a great story and then mix in some entertainment. It allows them to grab their customer’s attention AND remember them even better. While most marketers would argue that human attention spans are falling uncontrollably, we at Made By Things don’t necessarily think that’s the case. The problem is instead one of entertainment. If humans are entertained, they’ll sit in a theater for 2 hours or binge-watch their favorite show ALL weekend. Think about that the next time you launch a campaign of 2 seconds ads. 😉

Matt Vojacek, our creative director at MXT, ran a poll on LinkedIn that asked, “what’s the most important element to have in brand content?”. It was agreed on by 45% of marketers that entertainment was actually more important than sharing product details. The second runner-up answer was “Has a great call to action.” Both elements are outcomes of successful stories.

A Made By Things Story

At Made By Things, story plays a crucial role in every piece of content we create. A story isn’t just in words though, it’s in all the little creative decisions we make. “Blue or green? Big or small? Round or sharp? Each design decision helps to better share the story we have to tell. No visual decision is made without the story’s guidance.

These visual decisions are determined after our Discovery process with a brand. During Discovery, we ask a series of questions to get to know the brand and its customer on a deeper level. Only then do we start writing the story (or script) and create the art direction for a film.

Some of our best stories are putting a spotlight on a brand’s customers and their everyday struggles:

A business owner struggling to find affordable health insurance but comedically finds a solution with some help from UnifiHealth.

An individual saving up and moving into a new home with Rhove.

An Individual struggling to keep weight and cholesterol down but a Blue Shield nurse came to the rescue! – Stronger Than Yesterday.

We’ve all learned basic story structures in middle school and how to use a setting, characters, conflict, and resolution. What we may not have understood at the time though is how powerful stories can be in the world around us. When successful, stories have the power to shape brands, all that’s required is a little bravery. 😉


Written by Katie Weger

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