Everyone loves a good story. People are neurologically and biologically wired to connect with stories. We use them to teach valuable lessons to our children because they lead to better understanding and aren’t easily forgotten. If you haven’t yet figured out how to tell your company’s story, you’re missing out. People want more than basic information about what you do. Successful businesses are built on stories because captivating images and meaningful words are what make people feel a connection to the brands they support.

In his book, “Building a Story Brand,” Donald Miller discusses how today’s consumer is hit with an avalanche of information every day, most of which is disregarded. People are 20 times more likely to remember a good story versus facts and figures. For example, try to answer these two questions:

1. How many inches of snow did Fairbanks receive last year?

2. Who said, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Facts are fleeting, but a good story stays with us, especially when the message is simple and hits an emotional chord. Years after watching “The Wizard of Oz,” most viewers still remember Dorothy’s message, “There’s no place like home.”

According to Miller, “The most important challenge for business leaders is to define something simple and relevant their customers want and to become known for delivering on that promise.” Many websites and ad campaigns go into detail about products or services, hoping to “educate” their consumer. Some websites offer page after page of background information, charts, links, random images, and videos. This often leads to customers feeling overwhelmed and uninspired. What they want is a clear message about how you will help them fix a problem or make their life better in some way.

Most people know Steve Jobs for being a great storyteller. But this wasn’t always the case. In 1983, Jobs led Apple’s launch of the Lisa computer. Apple ran a nine-page ad in the New York Times that described every technical detail about it. The ad campaign was a disaster. It wasn’t until Jobs helped create Pixar that he learned the art of storytelling and how to capture his customers’ imagination. When he returned to Apple, Jobs marketed the Apple computer with a two-word ad campaign, “Think Different.” People connected to the message and Apple still maintains an army of loyal fans around the world.

National Geographic has about 350 million global followers on social media because of their impressive storytelling. They provide viewers with a stunning image that grabs their attention and makes them want to know more. The first sentence grips users with something interesting, emotional or unusual. They consistently put images and stories together in a way that helps people transcend their everyday reality.

Several years ago, Dove launched a series of Beauty Sketches that told stories about “real” women who worry about their appearance and often overlook their own beauty. The campaign tapped into the common emotion of feeling insecure, which millions of women could connect with. Unfortunately, the ads alienated men. So, Dove launched a “Men+Care” campaign for Father’s Day and told the story of a military dad in Afghanistan who was having a tough time being away from his baby. Dove brought his family to him and captured the reunion on video. It went viral. Dove showed their target market they are empathetic to the problems they are dealing with, and although the story had nothing to do with soap, dads around the world loved it.

The trick with good storytelling is that it must feel authentic. If Dove’s message was perceived as phony, they would have lost the trust and loyalty of their customers.

Volkswagen had portrayed themselves as a company that cared about producing environmentally friendly cars. But they had been deceiving consumers for at least seven years when they were caught cheating and falsifying emission tests in 2015. To this day, Volkswagen is still addressing the damage caused by “Dieselgate” and has yet to regain the public’s trust.

Authentic storytelling is a powerful way to build lasting connections with your customers. When done right, it cuts through the noise to give them a clear understanding of your values, provides solutions to their problems and establishes a relationship that goes beyond product and service. 

Melissa Brown is a web developer at SimpleDzn.com and former business professor at the University of Alaska. She can be reached at melissa@simpledzn.com. This column is brought to you as a public service by the UAF Department of Applied Business.