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Tell us a story

3. Emotional Engagement - Stories

Part of a short series on memory design

Denise Hampson
Thursday 23rd June 2022

The first ingredient for creating better memories is emotional engagement.

Tell us a really great story!

Studies show that we’re more likely to remember information if it’s given to us in a story-like context than if we are given facts on their own. It’s why you may hear people say that when they are trying to remember objects they may imagine them distributed around their home. Or you may hear people make up daft little stories to help them remember people’s names. We struggle to recall facts on their own, but built in as part of a story they become easier to remember.

The foundation of much of behavioural science is a model that assumes we’ve got two distinct operating systems in our minds. We have the fast, effortless, emotional, subconscious supercomputer, known as system one thinking. And then we’ve also got the more effortful, slow, deliberate and more accurate conscious, rational, logical part of the brain, known as system two thinking.

Our long-term memories are held in the subconscious, system one, which doesn’t deal with facts and figures and stats. But it loves a great story.

Storytelling is the act of adding emotion and context to information. It’s a part of our social instinct and developed as a survival mechanism, to bond us together, help us collaborate and warn each other of dangers. We have been sharing verbal stories for tens of thousands of years, far longer than we have been able to write things down.

You have a story to tell. Your organisation has a story to tell. Your story is who you are, what you stand for, how you started, how you grew. It’s where you are going, how you want to change the lives of your customers and what it means to you to be part of that.

Your customers have a story too. It’s the story they tell themselves (and others) about who they are and what is important to them. They are drawn to brands, products and experiences that best fit with that personal narrative.

Can you tell better stories about your product and service? And how can you align your narrative with that of your customers?

You can make the story stronger by making it actually about your customer. Further studies show that we are even more likely to remember information given to us in an emotional story-like way if it is autobiographical, that is, it directly impacts us or if we have a part to play in it.

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