Get your free ebook: the seven pillars of storytelling

Emily Bartlett Feb 1, 2022 1:59:52 PM

Audiences are tired of traditional marketing. Facts, figures and bold claims bore us. We switch off at aggressive adverts. But stories? We’re hardwired to see stories as a gift. Stories strike a chord with the listener. Stories get shared. Stories mean business.

Download The Seven Pillars of Storytelling and revolutionise your marketing today. 

In seven easy-to-follow chapters, explore expert strategies, classic storytelling techniques, universal plots and archetypes that will amplify your message and appeal to your customers.

Quickly learn to produce business stories that get to the heart of who you are. Show your team how to find and put together useful narratives that will influence, convince and inspire your audience. 

It’s time to tell your story.

Download your free copy from the Sparkol library today, or browse this extract from the introduction of the book:

How to win at Christmas

Five years ago the UK retailer took a risk and hired a new agency to produce its renowned Christmas adverts. What the agency did over the next few years would send them stratospheric.

The 2011 advert contributed to a 9.3% year-on-year increase of sales and garnered an incredible response on social media.

The following year, using the same approach, John Lewis’s seasonal sales went up a staggering 44.3%. A year later it had its most popular campaign to date and the 2014 Christmas video bagged more than 24 million views on YouTube alone.

By this point the retailer’s Christmas adverts were more than marketing. They had become cultural events, part of the countdown to Christmas in the UK. They spawned media commentary, critical reviews, social trends and spoof and tribute versions of the ads.

So what revolutionary approach did the new ad agency take?

It was exactly what cave people did around the fire all those millennia ago.

They told stories.

Instead of showcasing products, making promotional offers or claims about value, John Lewis told sweet little stories, each with a heavy layer of emotion helped by a schmaltzy cover song.

There was a boy who couldn’t wait until Christmas – so that he could give a present to his parents. There was a snowman who ran away – only to return with a gift for his snow-woman. A lonely penguin who trudged downstairs on 25 December – to find a partner under the Christmas tree.

These adverts do what great stories always have. They tug on the heartstrings and appeal to fundamental human desires – to contribute, to be included, to be loved. They build up dramatic tension and deliver an emotional denouement. They create a narrative that we relate to, that we want to share with others.

They harness the power of story.

That’s what this book is about. Harnessing the power of story for you. You’ll learn the seven pillars of good storytelling for repeat success engaging with your audience or market.

Our brains are wired for stories

Jennifer Aaker from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business was curious about storytelling’s ability to make us remember things. She had each of her students give a 60-second product pitch, secretly instructing one student to focus on telling the story rather than the facts. Her class wrote down whatever they could remember about each pitch.

The results were astounding.

Only five percent of students remembered the stats, but a whole 63% remembered the story. Aaker argues:

‘When most people advocate for an idea we think of a compelling argument, a fact or a figure […] But research shows that our brains are not hard-wired to understand logic or retain facts for very long. Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories.’

So much so that a story can be 22 times more memorable than facts alone.


When you listen to a boring presentation full of facts and figures, two parts of your brain are activated. They’re mostly responsible for language processing – giving meaning to the words we hear.

When you’re told a story, however, your whole brain wakes up. In addition to the language parts, the parts responsible for sensation and emotion also spring to life – and you experience the story’s events almost as if you were living them.


The brain doesn’t look like a spectator, it looks more like a participant in the action. When Clint Eastwood is angry on screen, the viewers’ brains look angry too; when the scene is sad, the viewers’ brains also look sad.

- Jonathan Gottschal, Fastcocreate

Even freakier, in 2010 a group of neuroscientists at Princeton University hooked both storytellers and their listeners to an fMRI machine as a story was told. They were amazed to discover that when a person tells a story to another person, both their brains show nearly identical activity across most areas. Their brains effectively ‘sync up’ with one another in a phenomenon known as neural coupling.

That’s how to connect with your audience.

Other studies using MRI neuro-imagery have shown that, when evaluating brands, consumers primarily use their emotions (feelings and experiences) rather than information (brand attributes, features and facts).

This isn’t a subconscious preference either. Your audience are well aware of what they like – 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story.

No wonder John Lewis won at Christmas.

Download your free copy of The Seven Pillars of Storytelling from the Sparkol library today.