Staff Writer
Jan 16, 2020

Dare to be human: the value of brand storytelling

In a world focused on automation, artificial intelligence, and first-to-market, brands must dare to be human, have a soul and tell their own story, says Tini Sevak, CNN.

Dare to be human: the value of brand storytelling

Text: Tini Sevak, VP Audiences & Data, CNN International Commercial

As a soon-to-be mother, I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I will build a connection with my child. The conclusion that I have come to is 'Story Time'. One of my earliest memories of my late father is him telling me a story before bedtime, which made me feel safe, comfortable, and loved. These kinds of emotional moments created through storytelling have been around for over 40,000 years and are a fundamental means for humans to communicate with and relate to one another.

What makes a good story is the reason behind why you are more likely to remember dialogue from your favourite film than a fact or figure from a history textbook. A good story elicits three key impacts in the brain:

1. Synchronising of brainswhen the listener turns the story into their own experienceknown as neural coupling

2. More facets of the brain ‘light up’ with stories versus factual reportingwhen processing facts and figures, the Broca & Wernicke areas of our brain are activated

3. Enhanced memory sensors: dopamine levels increase when an experience is emotionally charged, making it easier to remember

Why am I so interested in this? Obviously to ensure my child will grow up remembering how they felt when I told them stories, just as my father has done with me. But, also because in my working life at CNN, we are focused on telling stories that resonate with our audienceswhether that’s news, sponsored content or branded content.

Today, the average person is estimated to see at least 5,000 ads per day, and coupled with shrinking attention spans, it means publishers and brands are competing for just seconds of the audience's attention. Standing out requires engaging with audiences on a deeper level by creating the emotional connection.

As the world’s biggest news brand, we understand the value of telling the stories that matter. Research shows that viewers value CNN for truthful reporting and for relevant stories. This is mirrored in our branded content which integrates facts and emotions to build a connection between consumer and company. It goes beyond conveying why a viewer should buy a product or serviceit also provides brands the opportunity to showcase why they exist and do what they do.

I am fortunate to work closely with very talented creatives, producers and content strategists in our award-winning studio Create. When it comes to deciding how to plan branded content, my team brings the data expertise that helps inform the development of good content to ultimately tell a story that will resonate.

Data science plays a key role in identifying, planning and measuring content strategies, which is why we’ve been working with Realeyes, a leader in computer vision and emotion AI. Using webcams, they measure the attention and emotional reactions of opt-in audiences to determine the most appealing content. Our partnership allow us to optimise the creative ideas to spark the right emotional response.

A recent example is the work we did with Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Centre (JFOODO) in launching their largest sake campaign, ‘Escape the Ordinary’ in October 2019. We sought to understand audience responses to the campaign, and how it compares with other campaigns within the food & beverage category.

CNN's 'Escape the Ordinary' campaign for Japan Food Product Overseas Promotion Centre 

Measuring the emotions and attention of 200 opt-in viewers, Realeyes’ findings helped prove viewers understood and were engaged by the narrative visuals and sounds, which they described as “interesting and appetising.” The everyday language used in the winning creative implementation received more positive than negative responses. The campaign on CNN versus others was much more emotionally-led compared to other creatives, resulting in a +8% Happiness score.

When it comes to telling a good storyfor your child or your brandremember that your audiences have emotions, dreams and aspirations. Without being able to create an emotional connection no one is going to care about what you have to say. Once an audience knows, trust and likes you as a brand they are more likely to buy from you and show loyalty. In a world focused on automation, artificial intelligence, and first-to-market, brands must dare to be human, have a soul and tell their own story.

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