July 11, 2018

Switched On: What a lamp can teach us about emotional storytelling

House lamps provide a lot of great things. Unfortunately, a gripping storyline isn’t one of them. Or is it?  Learn how to tap into our evolutionary need for storytelling and use the power of human emotions for your next great marketing campaign.

Take a look at this amazing Ikea ad from 2002.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

You feel a bit manipulated, don’t you? Like you’ve had the rug pulled out from underneath your feet. That’s because—as the man on the street so bluntly explains—many of us felt sorry for the lamp. From the gloomy music to the camera angles, we can’t help but form an immediate bond with the lamp, then sympathize with its untimely demise.

It’s probably why the ending is so infuriating.
How could we let ourselves feel for an inanimate object?

The reason is, we’re human. We’re coded to experience our world through more than just physiological reactions. We’re meant to experience it through emotions.

As marketers, we can tap into those emotions the same way Ikea did: through story.

In the book Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, Luke Sullivan explains, “The human brain is wired to hunger for story—that a structure of three acts, taking us from problem to unexpected solution, is something our brains crave. Story just sucks us in. Even when we know how the story is going to end on some late-night TV movie, we stay up later than we ought to just to watch the dang thing. Theorists suggest that story is actually a cognitive structure our brains use to encode information. So in addition to its drawing power, story has lasting power—it helps us remember things.”

Getting Emotional

As a healthcare provider, how can your brand use emotional storytelling to draw in an audience and get them to pay attention to your message?

Here are three suggestions:

1. Leverage the Natural Stories That Occur Every Day in Your Hospital.

Mothers give birth. People learn to walk again. And your doctors literally save lives. These moments are so emotional that TV producers have made dozens of shows that are basically set inside YOUR brand. Use the power of these stories to hook your viewers. Once they’re paying attention, they’ll lean in and truly listen to what you have to say.

2. Use Emotional Storytelling to Talk About the Benefit… of the Benefit.

Let’s say you want to increase the number of colonoscopy appointments at your hospital.
You might not want to talk about the procedure itself (for obvious reasons). But emotional storytelling allows you to talk about the benefit of the benefit, for example:

The benefit of a colonoscopy is to screen for cancer and identify any suspicious polyps so they can be treated. It makes for a somewhat interesting story. But more interesting would be the benefit…of that benefit, like a father who is able to travel through Europe with his daughter and not have to worry about a potential health issue.

As a viewer, I know I’d much rather watch a father-daughter trip to Italy than a colonoscopy.
So challenge your team to use emotional storytelling to talk about procedures or service lines that don’t naturally lend themselves to great TV.

3. Tell an Emotional Story in an Unexpected Place.

TV was made for emotional storytelling. With its combo of moving pictures and sweeping emotional music, the two come together to double-team our senses. But what if you don’t have time or resources for a big production? Can you tell an emotional story in print? On a billboard? On Instagram or your website?

Could you get even more innovative and tell a story on a company vehicle? Cafeteria napkins? Or on a large, exterior wall of your hospital? Stories can live anywhere, as long as you’re open to new ideas.

Turn On Your Next Campaign

The Ikea lamp ad is so great because it not only utilizes the power of emotional storytelling, but it cunningly points out how easily our emotions can be affected.

And while it seems a bit manipulative, remember, humans are wired for stories. We crave them. Stories are the reason we go to the movies, watch TV and listen to Grandpa at Thanksgiving.

When it’s time to launch your next ad campaign, challenge your team to use emotional storytelling and connect on a human level. Who knows, your audience might feel something just as powerful as you did for that Ikea lamp.