Anthropologists tell us story is the universal language that has quite literally ensured the survival of the human race. Our Neanderthal ancestors told stories to pass on information that would keep the tribe safe—tales of misadventure and survival about what to fear or to embrace. We tell stories to inform and connect, to inspire and create change.
Brands have long known that story is a powerful tool, but in business circles, we’re often more concerned with the mechanics of storytelling than the reasons we need a story to tell. Where would we be today if our ancestors had started with the mechanics without understanding why their stories mattered? Even the most primitive humans understood that their stories had a purpose.
Over the past fifty years, the outward motivation of brand storytelling (in the form of advertising) was to get attention in the moment and to acquire more customers. In many ways the ‘tell to sell’ strategy sold the power of storytelling short. Today the businesses that use story to the best advantage understand the primary reason to invest in brand storytelling is to build trust with the customers we are committed to serving and keeping, and we can’t begin to tell effective stories without understanding the trust gap we’re trying to fill.
Trust is the most undervalued and precious resource of our time. This makes storytelling one of the most important investments we can make.