Why Storytelling is the Most Effective Way To Increase Sales

Kyle Crocco
3 min readSep 29, 2017

Use storytelling to raise your audience’s focus, create trust, make them relax, and increase the price of any object by 2,700%.

Storyteller. Credit: Michael Shaheen

In 2009, journalist Robert Walker and writer Josh Glenn had a marketing theory they wanted to test. How much could storytelling increase the value of any given object? To test their theory, they conducted the Significant Objects experiment. First, they visited dozens of thrift shops and garage sales and purchased 100 objects at a total cost of $128.74.

Next, they contacted one hundred writers. Each writer agreed to write a story about one of the objects. After the stories were completed, Walker and Glenn uploaded a photo of each object and posted the writer’s story in place of the object description on their eBay store.

When the experiment was over, Walker and Glenn had sold all 100 objects on eBay for a total of $3,612.51. Pairing each item with its associated story had increased the overall value of the 100 objects by 2,706%.

How was this possible? In his TEDx talk, “The Magical Science of Storytelling,” David JP Phillips explains that storytelling can increase your audience’s emotional investment in any given object by changing their hormonal balance in one of three ways.

This hormonal change creates an emotional investment in any object, just like falling in love, which negates a person’s objective observational skills. This is why you will pay more for an object paired with a story, than one without a story.

How to create an emotional investment with your audience by storytelling

Phillips explains you can create an emotional investment with your audience by using stories to raise their levels of dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins.

When dopamine is released in your system, for example, you feel more focused, more motivated, and more creative. You can raise the dopamine levels of your audience by building suspense and adding cliffhangers in a story. According to Robert Cialdini, author of Influence, nothing gets a reader more emotionally invested than presenting your story as a mystery.

Oxytocin, on the other hand, is a hormone responsible for creating a bond with your audience. When oxytocin is released, you feel more trusting of the person telling a story. You can develop this bond with your audience by creating empathy for your story’s characters.

According to Matthew Luhn, who was a story artist and animator at Pixar for 20 years, you can create empathy by telling a story of transformation. People love when a hero goes on a journey and learns an important lesson about life. Nothing gets a reader more emotionally invested than a story of you or someone else going through a significant change.

Finally, endorphins are responsible for making your audience feel more relaxed. According to Phillips, one of the best way to release endorphins in your audience is to use humor and make them laugh. You don’t have to tell jokes necessarily, but you can use a humorous tone to release the hormone.

Use functional storytelling for any given situation

Phillips says we all have three to four times more stories to recount than we think we do. He suggests you use functional storytelling to increase emotional investment with your audience, depending on your goal.

If you want to focus their attention, you can tell one of your suspense stories. If you want to create a bond, you can increase empathy with a story about transformation. Or if you just want to relax people, you can use humor.

Kyle Crocco is a Marketing and Content Associate for BigSpeak Speakers Bureau and a Content Marketer for Airtime Watertime®.

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Kyle Crocco

Kyle Crocco is the author of Heroes, Inc. and Heroes Wanted.