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6 Powerful Ways To Inspire Emotion With Storytelling

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

6 Powerful Ways To Inspire Emotion With Storytelling

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Have you watched an advertisement that made you cry, got you angry, or gave you goosebumps? Rihanna’s Road to Halftime ad gave fans everywhere goosebumps. Apple Music is the new sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime show in a new multi-year agreement with the NFL. They just gave fans an alternative way to experience this event with headliner Rihanna, calling it “Rihanna’s Road to Halftime.”

In building excitement ahead of Super Bowl LVII, Apple released an ad that paid tribute to the singer’s childhood in Barbados titled “Run This Town.” The ad tells a great story, following a girl who puts on her mother’s sunglasses and struts down the street, going past Rihanna’s childhood home and along Rihanna Drive, renamed in 2017 to honor her success. It ends with the girl and her friends flying kites with the message, “My whole life was shaped on this very road. I was just a little island girl flying kites in the cemetery…but I had big dreams.” Rhianna said she represents immigrants, her country Barbados, and black women everywhere for Super Bowl LVII.

What’s truly amazing about this story is that we watched the first pregnant woman perform at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, with no special guests, saying loud and proud that a pregnant woman can handle this. She then opened with the song "B… Better Have My Money" which was inspired by a real-life experience of an accountant that cheated her of her money. In one decade she became a billionaire. She opened with that song on her own stage, pregnant, with no special guests, and closed with the song "Diamonds" (she has all the diamonds) on top of a stunning product placement of her Fenty brand, all while grabbing the attention of 113 million viewers. Rihanna is the wealthiest female musician in the world (worth $1.7 billion), second only to Oprah Winfrey. This is no small feat!

Knowing Rhianna’s story makes this ad, this Super Bowl Halftime Show, and her brand much more interesting and relatable. When stories resonate and connect with us, they trigger an emotion in us that leads to the formation of a deeper, more meaningful relationship with your brand. This is called emotional branding.

Let’s take a look at what emotional branding is and how to inspire emotion with storytelling.

What Is Emotional Branding?

Did you know that people buy emotionally, even if they don’t realize it, and then justify their decisions rationally? Fifty percent of brand experiences are based on emotions. Creating an emotional bond with consumers requires more than good marketing.

Emotional branding refers to creating a deep emotional connection between your consumers and your brand. Marketers can achieve this by appealing to consumers’ natural desire for love, power, emotional security, and ego gratification.

At the heart of emotional branding is storytelling. So how do you inspire emotion with storytelling?

Inspire Emotion With Storytelling

We all have a story to tell. Great stories can connect with audiences on a deeper, more memorable level, creating more meaningful relationships. Here are six ways that storytelling can be used to inspire emotions.

Make The Audience The Hero

One effective way to inspire emotion with storytelling is to make the audience the story’s hero. This can be achieved by crafting a narrative that resonates with the audience’s experiences, values, and aspirations. By doing so, the audience will become emotionally invested in the story and feel empowered to take action or make a positive change. To achieve this, the story should highlight the audience’s strengths and potential while also acknowledging their challenges and struggles. By portraying the audience as the hero, the story can inspire them to overcome obstacles, pursue their dreams, and make a difference in their lives and the world around them.

Drive Empathy

To inspire emotion with storytelling by driving empathy, it’s important to create characters that the audience can relate to and care about. This can be achieved by showing the character’s struggles, fears, and desires in a way that resonates with the audience. By creating a sense of empathy between the audience and the characters, the story can evoke powerful emotions and create a lasting impact.

Another way to drive empathy is to use descriptive language and vivid imagery to create a sensory experience for the audience. By appealing to the audience’s senses, the story can create a more immersive and emotional experience, helping them feel more connected to the story and its characters. It’s vital to use storytelling to break down barriers and connect with the audience on a human level. By sharing stories that are honest, vulnerable, and authentic, the audience can feel a sense of kinship with the storyteller and the characters in the story. This can help to drive empathy and create a powerful emotional response.

Make It Emotional

To harness emotions with storytelling, it’s essential to understand the emotional journey that you want to take your audience on. First, build tension by creating a sense of anticipation and excitement in your audience by building up to a moment of emotional impact. This can be achieved by using suspenseful language, foreshadowing, or cliffhangers. Second, create an emotional impact by contrasting emotions. For example, you could start with a moment of sadness or despair and then follow it up with a moment of hope or triumph. This can create a more powerful emotional response in your audience. Third, use repetition (repeating a phrase or image throughout your story) to develop a sense of familiarity and emotional resonance with your audience. Fourth, use symbols that are universally understood to create a deeper emotional connection with your audience. Fifth, use music and sound effects to create a more immersive experience.

Build Suspense

Suspense is a powerful tool in storytelling that can be used to create an emotional impact on the audience. By building tension and anticipation, the audience becomes emotionally invested in the story, eager to discover what happens next. This can be achieved by establishing high stakes for the characters, using foreshadowing, creating a sense of mystery, using cliffhangers, and varying the story’s pacing. Using these techniques, the audience is taken on an emotional journey, experiencing a range of emotions such as excitement, fear, and anticipation. When the suspenseful moment is finally resolved, the emotional releases can be cathartic and rewarding, leaving a lasting impact on the audience.

Be Vulnerable

Embrace vulnerability in your storytelling. It’s important to share personal experiences authentically and honestly. By sharing stories that reflect your vulnerabilities, you can create an emotional connection with your audience. This connection is often built on the common ground of shared experiences and emotions, which can help your audience to empathize and relate to your story. Use descriptive language, describing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures to create an immersive experience to draw your audience in and help them to feel the emotions that you’re describing. Also, allow yourself to be seen as imperfect, flawed, or uncertain. By showing your own vulnerability, you create a sense of authenticity and honesty that can be very powerful for your audience. It can also develop a sense of connection and empathy, as your audience can see themselves in your story.

Don’t forget to be courageous in your vulnerability. By sharing your personal experiences and emotions, you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of rejection, criticism, or judgment. However, by being brave and sharing your vulnerability, you create a space for others to do the same, which can be very powerful and healing for you and your audience.

Visual Storytelling

Use descriptive language to create a vivid picture in your audience’s mind. This can help your audience to better visualize and feel the emotions that you’re describing. One way to use visual language is to paint a picture with your words. Use descriptive language to create a detailed picture in your audience’s mind, focusing on the sensory details that help to develop a sense of atmosphere and emotion. For example, instead of saying, “The sun was setting,” you could say, “The sun was casting a warm, orange glow across the sky as it slowly descended towards the horizon.” This kind of description helps to create a sense of warmth, peace, and tranquility and can help evoke a sense of emotion in your audience.

Another way to use visual language is to create a metaphor or analogy that helps your audience to understand better the feeling that you’re describing. For example, you could say, “Her heart was a heavy stone, sinking deeper and deeper into her chest with each passing moment.” This kind of language can help your audience to better understand the emotion of sadness and can make it easier for them to empathize with the character in your story.

By following these steps, you can develop a strong emotional connection with your audience through inspiring storytelling. If done right, you can increase brand loyalty, enhance your brand’s overall equity, drive more qualified leads, and increase your customer retention rate.

Start building your brand leadership. For a step-by-step guide on how to develop a brand strategy, check out my book, How to Develop A Brand Strategy. You’ve got this!


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