Date of Graduation
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
There is a reason that we know what happens to the pumpkin carriage at midnight, a reason we know that Toms donates one pair of shoes for every shoe bought, and that when an underdog commits to early morning practices and perseveres that more often than not, they succeed. The reason we know about the carriage, the shoes, and the underdog’s success is because of storytelling. Storytelling is the connective tissue that unites people across culture, language, generations, and so many other factors. The reason why storytelling is so impactful is that it is not merely words on a page or an expertly crafted marketing ruse trying to trick a consumer into a purchase, storytelling is real, raw emotions and experiences that allow individuals to relate through a shared understanding and truly seeing one another.
Throughout the modern era of education, storytelling has been condemned to the English, art, and journalism departments of high education institutions. A quick Google search of “University of Arkansas storytelling” brings up a variety of different websites, all linking back to the Fulbright College of Arts and Science, otherwise known as the overarching college for the departments of English, art, and journalism. Storytelling has all but been told what it is and where it belongs.
As technological advancements have allowed for the more accurate and in-depth capturing of data, storytelling has taken on a new role primarily within the realm of business. Phrases such as “converting analytics into insights” and “visualizing your story through data” have become prevalent within the classrooms of business colleges and boardrooms of companies across the country and globally (Andy Cotgreave). Entire institutions have been built around this idea and the proof can be seen in the existence of websites such as storytellingwithdata.com
The idea that storytelling can exist outside the realm of English, art, and journalism is becoming more accepted, and yet, it is only done so when storytelling is viewed as a science. And there is no doubt that storytelling with data is effective, it is a practice that is being adopted more and more by companies and taught in universities, and yet, there is an argument that something is missing. This thesis will explore this argument.
Storytelling through data takes away the emotion of a story. It takes away the connectivity that comes when an individual sees part of themself in a story and relates to the message it is trying to convey. Storytelling with data finds a generally understood truth, belief, or way of life within a target demographic and boils the truth, belief, or way of life down to a point in which analysts can look to it and say “this is why consumers who are within the age range 24-30 are millennials and 34% of them have a bachelor's degree, 76% spend money on new tech products, and 30% feel loyal to brands” (Netzer).
While it cannot be measured by a study, there is a reason why business people, engineers, lawyers and other professional industries do not like the emotional side of stories. The reason is because it has too much of what is often referred to by the 5th grade English teacher to her students as “fluff.”
Fluff can be defined as the “unnecessary details in a text that are not useful to your audience (Grech). Flowery text, or “the writer's opinion or extra information that prevents the article from coming to the point,” is another name by which this text can be defined (Grech). Those professions that focus on data as a means of storytelling argue that the fluff or flowery aspects of the story have no place and that only tangible, measurable information is relevant.
The problem with this thinking is that as consumers are individuals and do not buy solely based on an analysis of our lives in a data driven way, we frequently buy based on emotion; we buy because we have a personal connection to a product, or an extreme hatred for a brand and thus we buy a competitor's product, or because it’s what we watched a loved one buy and now that shopping habit is engrained in us.
For the future of retail, CPG, and business as a whole, to continue to be effective, analysts cannot simply boil down shopping and thinking patterns. These industries must seek to tell stories and connect with people on a personal level rather than because they check four of the five key factors within a target demographic.
Stories must be told. Fluffy, flower stories that to the analyst seem excessive and unnecessary and yet to the 63% of consumers who want companies to stand for a purpose that reflects their values and beliefs, are essential (Adams and Sweeney).
Storytelling is the connective tissue that unites people across culture, language, generations, and so many other factors. And it is needed in order to connect the company's purpose and passions to the consumer who cares as much about the story behind the product as the product itself.
In order to understand how storytelling can be implemented in what will be referred to as its traditional form, those who work within the world of business will need to get back to the basics and understand what makes up a story and how it is effective—and not through the lens of data.
Business must be formed with an emphasis on storytelling. From the initial thought that will eventually be transformed into a company, an understanding of the founder’s reason for creating the company as well as the purpose behind the business must be infused at every step of the planning and execution of the business. This process ensures that the business focuses on the values, beliefs, and needs that draw consumers in through the story that the company tells and the emotional connection consumers feel with their brand.
Storytelling, Business Creation, Business Plan, Branding, Marketing, Advertising
Woodham, H. (2022). Storytelling & Business: Rewriting the Narrative. Marketing Undergraduate Honors Theses Retrieved from https://scholarworks.uark.edu/mktguht/65