Banish the boring with storytelling


Storytelling can be a magical tool for building brands, engaging audiences, and tapping into our emotions like no other.

After all, people don't fall in love with businesses, they fall in love with the way brands make them feel.

We craft stories to invoke responses, so why not use the power of storytelling to enhance the overall product/experience beyond the initial courting phase and bring life to even the most mundane but necessary user processes?

Stories go beyond marketing

Disney uses storytelling to encourage passengers to complete a pack of paperwork weeks prior to setting sail. You see, before you can hit the high seas with Mickey and Minnie there are a whole lot of forms every passenger must fill out. As you can imagine, when people find out about this pile of homework the day of departure it makes for a bunch of seriously unhappy cruisers.

So the folks at Disney thought, why not make a way for customers to complete this paperwork ahead of time online and avoid the hassle of having to do it moments before boarding ship. The problem? Getting passengers to actually use this online resource.

I’m sure a lot of UX designers and content strategists can relate. You create a solution to improve your product/experience, and then much to your dismay, nobody seems to use it! So what did Disney do about it? They employed one of their most beloved characters to evangelize their cause, and crafted a super cute story in the form of a cartoon that shows customers exactly why they would want to get this paperwork completed using the online tools they provide. It’s engaging, it’s emotional, and IT WORKS. Disney has seen a huge increase in the numbers of passengers filling their paperwork out ahead of time.

Stories create better user experiences

Let’s face it, explanations and instructions are about as exciting as waiting for Windows updates to install. If you have a process that your audience is resisting, and you’ve already ruled out usability issues, consider that the lackluster response might simply be because you failed to illustrate how the process really plays into their desires. The storytelling approach allows us to communicate dry information in a very human or even anecdotal way. So, next time you’re faced with the challenge of getting your audience engaged with a less than thrilling process, try offering them a meaningful and emotional experience instead.

P.S. Here's a great related article from Smashing Magazine. It's more UXD focused, but content strategy/marketing/copywriting peeps will find it useful, too.