Vera Nazarien, the award-winning author, states that, “The world is shaped by two things — stories told and the memories they leave behind.”

Stories can bring out the humanness in us; our interest in things beyond the self, our ability to learn and grow, our feelings of empathy and desire, and our capacity to reason. Generally, whilst good stories get good reactions and great stories get great reactions, we also all know people who are particularly skilled at story-telling, and who seem to have the knack of engrossing a wide audience. But, all of us engage in story telling in some manner every day of our lives. We tell stories about our daily life experiences; we tell stories about the emotions we are feeling or felt; we tell stories about our dreams and aspirations.

As Vera Nazarien states, these stories – the ones which we tell and the ones which are told to us – inform how we view and interact with our world: the thoughts and emotions that we add to our character, and the decisions we are making and will make. My guess is that it has been like that since as early humans we developed a consciousness of self and of others, and fostered the most basic forms of communication – be that speech, gesticulation/touch or writing/drawing.

And we then learned to assimilate these stories into how we inform others about the things we needed to trade and sell. My early childhood love for the adventures of Asterix and Obelix has often had me imagining how a fishmonger in the village would vie for the custom of the close-knit community of villagers over his competitor. Apart from the obvious quality of his goods, two images come to mind. The first is the gregarious fishmonger regaling all and sundry with tales of fishing expeditions and fish recipes fit for a king; and the second is how the villagers themselves would pass their own comments to the rest of the tribe – not only about the superiority of the fishmonger’s goods, but also about their “shopping” experience. In short, marketing revolved around word-of-mouth stories. There were no ad agencies or big media companies. But, in some ways, modern marketing utilises the same story telling lever. Think about the adverts that have stuck in your mind, from video based creative to a printed format. I’ll bet the thing that makes them sticky is the well-told story that they all have embedded in them.

There is one thing, however, that continues to change the dynamics around our ability to communicate our stories with each other. Technology.

One of the (perhaps unintended) consequences of the digital revolution and the proliferation of access to digitally enabled devices and relatively inexpensive or free data, is the explosion and widespread adoption of various forms of social media. Many of us might decry how social media has intruded into every aspect of our lives and even impacted on the quality of our daily interaction with people, but it would likewise be crazy not to admit how it has paradoxically also allowed us to nurture new relationships and keep our wider circle of acquaintances, friends and family in touch with our lives.

If we were able to watch a time-lapse of the Gaulish fishmonger over an extended period of time, we would see him gradually lose the ability to communicate directly with his consumers. Urbanisation, mechanisation and mass production has taken the power of direct communication out of his reach and placed it in the hands of the big companies and the ad people. That is despite the notion that there would not be much argument that there are no better individuals to extol the virtues of the fishmonger’s produce than the passionate fishmonger himself, and the super satisfied customers he serves.

Step in and up, social media. Through social media our fishmonger has regained the ability to talk directly to his tribe and to delight them with fishing tales and recipes. If he is good, he can even get his customers spreading his stories even further. And, if he is astute, he can commission those same customers to become super-fans and add their own experiences to the mix. He can even get his employees to become part of the story-telling culture. The net result would be a continuous campaign of story-telling that is authentic, believable, and memorable. Why? Well because it would be built on real and lived experiences and then retold by people trusted by the tribe in a relatable way/language.

Indeed, the groundswell in the phenomenon of influencer marketing post the social media revolution is based on just that. Unique and engaging stories created by people based on their experience as told to their tribes. Influencer marketing utilises the very kernel of our desire, need and aptitude for telling – and listening to – stories. Stories that bring out our interest in things beyond the self, stimulate the desire to learn and grow, invoke feelings of empathy, and help us to make decisions.

Article originally posted on Linkedin:


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