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Why sharing stories can build customer loyalty


Storytelling is emerging as a powerful and effective way to build customer loyalty.When we listen to stories different areas in our brain are stimulated and an emotional response is provoked. Good stories make us feel something as we listen to them — excitement, anger, sadness, empathy or enthusiasm. Our emotional reaction can mean we feel something towards the person telling the story, which helps create connectionand in turn can lead to loyalty.

In the 2014Harvard Business Reviewarticle, ‘Why your brain loves good storytelling’, neuroeconomist Paul Zak revealed the powerful impact the love hormone oxytocin has on the brain when we tell stories.

Oxytocin is also often referred to as the ‘trust hormone’. Our bodies release it when we are with people we love and trust, when we hug, or even when we shake hands in a business meeting. And it’s released when we listen to stories. Oxytocin being released signals to the brain that everything is okay and it is safe to approach others — essentially, that we won’t be attacked or eaten, as would have been the risk back in the day.

So not only does a good story make us feel different emotions and a connection to the storyteller but, at the same time, the love hormone oxytocin is also signalling that we can be trusted and therefore strengthens the connection.

Fundamentally this is important because emotion impacts our decisions. Decisions such as,‘Do I buy from you?’.

Marketing executives and advertisers are acutely aware of the power of using storytelling and emotion in business to drive purchasing decisions. A study of over 1400 marketing campaigns submitted to the UK-based Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) rated how effective marketing campaigns were, based on profit gains. The results showed:

  • campaigns based purely on emotion rated as 31 per cent effective
  • campaigns based purely on logic rated as only 16 per cent effective
  • campaigns that combined emotion and logic rated as 26 per cent effective.

This research indicates that using logic alone has the least impact and using emotion has almost double the impact. (For more on this research, go to and search ‘emotional ads’.)

Suffice to say storytelling is a powerful tool when making a connection with another person. Essentially, well-told and purposeful stories initiate an emotional response and lead to greater levels of trust and loyalty.

One company that does this brilliantly is New Zealand based shoe company Merchant 1948. They have a section on their website called ‘Stories’, which includes a collection of anecdotes from the founders; examples of stories about their grandparents, stories about their employees and stories about their products. When I first came across their website I was so impressed with their authentic use of storytelling and their stories that I went to a store the very next day and brought a pair of shoes.

Georg Jensen also have a section on their website specifically for stories. It features 5 leading females in their field including a chef, a comedian, a film director, a world champion boxer and a motor cross rider from Iran (where women are banned from riding motorcycles on the road). Interestingly, each story has minimal text as it is shared via a video. The overriding theme of the stories are, ‘You can never be too much of you’ which is captured in a summary video that features all 5 women.

Why sharing stories can build customer loyalty

Humans relate to stories. A well-told story will lead to greater engagement and connection with your audience. So if you want to increase customer loyalty,consider how you can start to share authentic, appropriate and relatable stories. This is an extract from Stories for Work: The Essential Guide to Business Storytelling.

About Gabrielle Dolan

Gabrielle Dolan is a best-selling author and international speaker on business storytelling and authentic leadership. She is also the founder of Jargon Free Fridays. Her latest book Real Communication: How to be you and lead true, is published by Wiley. Follow this link to find out more about Gabrielle.

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