In an article in Advertising Age, Martin Lindstrom (author of “Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy What We Buy“) discusses neuromarketing research which looked at how brand impressions impacted 2,000 consumers. As part of the study, they examined the value that Coke, AT&T, and Ford received from their $25+ million sponsorship deals with American Idol.
It turns out that the connection with the hit TV show increased the brand equity for Coke and AT&T, but it had a negative impact on the Ford brand.
Lindstrom suggests that these results stem from how the brands were incorporated into the show. Coke and AT&T were integrated within the flow of the show, but Ford’s impressions lacked a clear purpose. According to Lindstrom:
What we learned was that if a brand is part of a story line, our brains will accept the role of the brand and remember its presence. However, if a brand and its role don’t support the story line, the opposite will happen: Our brains will simply erase it.
My take: Storytelling is a powerful, yet under-appreciated, tool. People have a hard time remembering a bunch of disconnected facts, but they can remember an abundance of details about a story that resonates with them.
Whenever I am doing a research project, I’m constantly asking “what’s the story?” Even when the research is completed, I end up spending an enormous amount of time fine-tuning how we tell the story. Is it worth it? I really think so. As the management guru John Kotter has said:
Over the years I have become convinced that we learn best–and change–from hearing stories that strike a chord within us.
The bottom line: Words are cheap, but a great story is priceless.