As the words “once upon a time” land sweetly in our ears, no matter our age or level of maturity, we anticipate the story that is about to unfold. We are reassured that what is uttered next has the potential to transport us to another time and place, far from the weight of our own reality.

 As human beings we exclusively possess the ability to reason: we process information, infer, and form conclusions. This inclination to reason or make sense of the world around us is often realized by great stories. This is why we are quick to remember the morals of well-known tales: who won the race between the tortoise and the hare? A story transmits information in a way that captivates us with relatable, complex characters, plot twists, conflict, and thought-provoking resolutions.

Storytelling is accessible to each one of us as humans, and we engage this resource more often than we might think. When we allude to the structure of a presentation before we begin, when we use descriptive, appealing adjectives to spice up a dull sentence, or when we add visual aids to help the audience imagine themselves in a particular space, we are leaning on the pillars of storytelling.

storytelling in the information age, an invaluable resource for global brands

The golden amber that historically fossilized a good story was oral transmission. The tradition of passing down stories verbally from one generation to another is why we still conjure up mental images of El Dorado, a city made of pure gold guarded by the gods, or the fountain of youth spewing clear cool water that vanquishes mortality and restores the vigor of adolescence.

On the other hand, modern content has a short shelf-life meant to hit you hard enough to warrant the click of a mouse and is often forgotten by the bottom of the web page. In an age of 140 characters or less, storytelling continues to serve as an invaluable resource. The same techniques that have stood the test of time will re-engage today’s readers and produce a copy that resonates.

What many companies have already gaged is that the feelings associated with a product are much more appealing than descriptive facts and figures. Take the travel service company Momondo, who in 2016 released a study on the effects global travel has on character. In a short video, Momondo interviewed people from various parts of the world on their biases, then asked them to participate in a DNA test which would reveal all the parts of the world from which the participant’s ancestors have derived.

In Momondo’s advertisement we watch various people take an individual journey deep into their family history; we are presented with a story that puts us face to face with relatable characters; we anticipate the reveal of the participant’s genealogy, and we are left with a sense of catharsis as the pain from generations past is purified by the promise of travel and adventure.

It is stories like these that force the absent-minded clicker to make connections and identify something familiar in a new service or product. Integrating stories into your company’s content isn’t always easy and the results can seem forced or incoherent. It is paramount to use stories that will reiterate your brand’s personality.

Using storytelling to increase the impact of your brand doesn’t have to be a work of fiction or a snippet of a murder mystery. In fact, most of the time, the best story is already staring you in the face. For example, American Express has created Open Forum as a platform for small business owners to connect and share experiences. While much of this content deals with fact-based methods to improve growth, part of this platform is dedicated to telling the real stories of small-business owners in a narrative style, highlighting the women and men behind the businesses.

Storytelling is a tool reserved for the human being. While it is not bound by bodily necessity such as cooking or drinking water, the art of storytelling has continuously had a resonating impact on the soul. Whether it is through the cathartic act of writing down a narrative or sitting on the edge of your seat as a climactic scene reveals the murderer, we as humans will continue to feel energized by the transmission of stories.