We live in a world in which the noise level has become deafening. It used to be that information was scarce, and we relied on the advice of experts to make sound decisions. But, with the explosion of the Internet and the proliferation of digital communications, we have an incredible amount of information at our fingertips. Increasingly, however, instead of finding clear, concise answers we are bombarded with information that can make things more confusing. We not only find an unprecedented level of noise online, but we find it in retail stores. So many choices. So much information to absorb. There seems to be noise everywhere we go. With all the noise, it makes it harder to find the signal. Stories have always been important, but the art of storytelling is becoming more important given the noise that engulfs us. Incorporating your company’s or your product’s story into your point of purchase displays might be the single most important thing you can do to increase sales.
Consumers are more influenced by stories more now than at any point in history. Stories can help us decide what to believe. They are important because they are meaningful, and they are meaningful because they are memorable, impactful and because they create personal connections. Ten or fifteen years ago it would have been unheard of to see storytelling as a part of the curriculum of any top business school. But now there is a growing body of research focused on storytelling, and it is being built into the curriculums of many of MBA programs. Knowing how to tell a good story is not only an important skill of an effective leader, but it is a valuable tool in influencing consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. Jennifer Aaker, a professor at Stanford Business School, has conducted extensive research on the power of story. In this blog, we’ll share the findings of some of her work, and we’ll discuss how it can be applied to point of purchase displays.
According to Aakers, stories have 3 primary attributes that make them effective in influencing consumer behavior:
1) Memorability - Stories are effective because they are memorable. In one study, researchers asked students to make a 1-minute persuasive presentation to their peers. On average the presenters used 2.5 statistics in their pitch. Only one out of ten of the presenters told a story. Ten minutes after the presentations, researchers asked the class to write down every single idea they remembered. Only 5% remembered any statistics while 53% of the students remembered the story. Stories are memorable in a way that statistics aren’t.
2) Impactful - Research shows that consumers are more likely to buy from a company whose story they believe in and which resonates with them. One study at Wharton looked at the best way to raise money for Save the Children. They created two versions of a marketing brochure. The first version included a lot of statistics about the magnitude of the problems facing children in Africa. The second version included a lot of the same statistics but also provided information about Rokia, a 7-year old girl from Mali who was faced with severe hunger.
The study participants were given $5 as compensation for their participation in the study. Before leaving, researchers asked participants if they wanted to donate any of their own money to the cause. Participants in the group who had received the brochure with the story contributed nearly twice as much as their counterparts who had received the brochure that only contained the statistics. The study confirmed that it is not our rational brain that makes decisions, but rather, it is emotion that drives decisions and then we rationalize the decision afterwards. This is also true when it comes to consumer purchasing decisions.
3) Personal Connection - Research shows that if we present statistics, a certain part of our brain gets activated which enables us to understand but not feel. But when a story is shared, the audience feels the story. Our whole brain is activated, and we extract meaning from the story. The meaning of the story comes from the personal connection the audience feels when they are listening to the story, and when a story is well told, the audience is able to be connected not only to the story but to the story teller.
A good story makes you think. A better story makes you feel. A great story makes you remember. When most of us think about advocating for an idea, we automatically go to statistics. We go to persuasive arguments backed by facts and figures. But, studies show people are more likely to remember the message, be persuaded by it, and be personally connected to it when data and stories are used together and people are moved both intellectually and emotionally. For lasting impact, our rationale brain and our emotional brain need to be awakened to create meaning.
Point of purchase displays that incorporate stories are likely to be far more effective and drive more sales than those displays that are designed simply to communicate the bland features and benefits of a product. Let’s look at 3 examples of displays we have designed that incorporate stories.
1) Sseko Designs - The creator of an ethical fashion brand, Sseko Designs hires high potential women in Uganda to make sandals. Sseko’s story of hiring and empowering women artisans to help end the cycle of poverty in Africa resonates with most people. The focal point of the sandal display that RICH LTD. created was the front-facing graphics which provided a vehicle to tell the company’s story. The tagline “Every sandal has a story” draws the consumer in, and the images of some of the local artisans help to tell that story. We added brochure holders to enable interested customers to learn more about Sseko’s products and their vision for creating a brighter, more just, and more beautiful world.
2) Romotive - We were asked to create a display for ROMO, Romotive’s friendly programmable toy robot from outer space. The display needed to be so unique and so compelling that it could stop store traffic and capture the imagination of shoppers young and old. We focused our design on telling Romo’s story. Not only was Romo from outer space, but he had a personality- a cute, friendly, and quirky personality.
After getting to know ROMO, we learned that he could respond to facial expressions, play chase, roam around and connect with family and friends. Creating the right habitat for Romo was an important part of the story. We designed a table top display that was constructed of acrylic and included a clear acrylic space-age dome, an air brushed latex moonscape, LED lights, a digital media player (which helped to tell the story), digital graphics with targeted messaging, and most importantly, a fully powered ROMO robot. The display succeeded because of the story it told and the way in which the display provided a vehicle for Romo to establish an emotional connection with consumers.
3) Flex Watches - We created two displays for Flex Watches, both of which were designed to help to tell the company’s story. Flex Watches is a charity-centric fashion accessories company with a core message of “It’s Time to Make a Difference.” Their colorful watches are fun and attractive, but rather than try to compete as a lifestyle brand, it was important to tell the company’s story through the display. The foundation of their story is a simple business model based on 10 colors, 10 charities, 10%. The company donates 10% of the sale to one of ten charities, each of which is represented by a different color. Flex Watches was the subject of one of the episodes of CNBC’s business reality TV show “The Profit.” We wrote about the 3 key lessons learned from that episode in another blog which you can view here. The two displays we designed are shown below. You can see how the displays help to tell the company’s story about giving back while tying in the theme of 10 colors and 10 charities.