When I was 11, I read “Where the Red Fern Grows.” I read it all in one night and I was up until about 4 am bawling my eyes out about dying dogs that weren’t even real until my pillow got wet and soggy.
I think I cried more reading that book than I did when I actually experienced the loss of a pet.
I am such a crier. I cry listening to stories on NPR.
I cry at cheesy scenes in movies and TV shows.
I cry reading books that aren’t even sad.
What is it about stories that make us (me) cry?
Unlike just reading a Wikipedia page, stories make us feel things. They tug at our heartstrings, they make us afraid to take showers alone.
When we experience a story, our brains release two specific chemicals that make us engage with what we’re experiencing.
Oxytocin and Cortisol
I’m sure you’ve heard of oxytocin before.
It’s the love hormone. It releases when parents bond with their children or during sexy times with a partner.
When you’re engaging with a story, your brain releases oxytocin so you empathize what’s going on. It allows you to insert yourself into the events and feel as if they are also happening to you.
This is what makes us teary-eyed when a beloved character dies. We get so emotionally invested in the lives of our characters, we actually feel their triumphs and their losses.
Unlike the positive feelings associated with oxytocin, cortisol is a stress hormone.
Cortisol makes us feel anxious, on high alert. This is the hormone that is released when you drink coffee.
When you’re engaging with a story, your brain releases cortisol so you can block out distractions and stay focused on what’s happening. It makes you NEED to know what happens next.
It’s what pushes us through action films and thriller novels. It’s what makes us pine for a sequel.
Storytelling is your fast-pass to content marketing success
When you combine cortisol and oxytocin, what do you get?
A highly engaged person who is desperate for more. Unlock the emotions of your followers and you will have their undivided attention.
This doesn’t mean tell a bunch of sad cancer stories all over your blog or social media feed, but rather talk about your lived experience. The lived experience of the people in your life. The lived experience of your clients and customers.
Relatable content is storytelling because it puts your audience into a separate place.
It makes them feel things.
And when they feel things you get paid.
There has been research done on the wider implications of stories on people’s spending habits.
In these studies, participants who experienced information in the form of a story actually spent money directly from their wallet on other people. They donated to charities, gave bigger tips.
Conversely, in the same studies, participants who experienced information without a story (like reading a Wikipedia page) didn’t part with their money.
Marketing isn’t about tricks or scams. It’s about honest human engagement.
It’s about authenticity.
Give your audience real stories. Real truths. They will feel that love and reward you with their attention and a deep desire for more.