I have been studying neuroeconomist Paul Zak’s work on storytelling and how it actually changes the chemistry in our brain. When we’re seduced by a good story, we produce cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin, depending on what’s happening in the story,
Introduce us to tension and urgency, and the steroid hormone cortisol floods our system creating within us anxiety and focus. Lead us through trouble and show us success in the story and the neurotransmitter dopamine fires-up our reward system triggering optimism and happiness.
But according to Zak in this TEDTalk, the go-to hormone that we as marketing storytellers want to excite is oxytocin. Zak calls oxytocin the moral molecule. When triggered, oxytocin opens our minds to empathy, morality and connectedness. He describes it as the chemistry of trustworthiness that makes people likable and, well, trustworthy.
Isn’t being likeable and trustworthy exactly what we all want to be, especially when we find ourselves having to be persuasive in a presentation or selling a product or service?
I think a great example of a brand story that serves-up our oxytocin like a hot chocolate on a cold afternoon is UPS’ viral hit called “Driver for a Day.” The backstory of how the spot came about is terrific, too.
UPS’ Your Wishes Delivered campaign is a smart way for a brand competing in a low-priced commodity-driven industry like package delivery to carve out a special place in our hearts and minds. And they do it with phenomenal story-doing and telling.
Watch the mini-documentary above and see if you don’t feel different about UPS and the world around you afterward. It might be the best buzz you experience all day, thanks to our little friend oxytocin and a story that coaxes it into action for our benefit.
Then consider how your next presentation, written report, TV or radio spot, print ad, or user experience on your website might do a better job of triggering that wonderful moral molecule in your audience to create connection, likability and trustworthiness in their eyes for you.