Your eyes are heavy.
Each blink lasts a little longer.
Your body is unable to move from the couch.
But your brain says… “Just one more episode!”.
We’ve all been there. And the good news – it’s not our fault.
Our brains are hardwired to keep watching, and seek out new narratives. And it’s not just streaming platforms that can make the most of this. Any business can tap into our biological appetite for video. All you need is a bit of understanding about how our bodies react to the powerful combination of well-constructed narratives told through powerful moving visuals.
5. Our brains are visual machines.
About 90 percent of the information our brains process is visual. Instead of me telling you, how about I show you.
Take a look at the image on your right –>
Now, read this:
“Imagine a sun-lit field of tall grasses and leafless trees swaying in the gentle breeze, with a wooden barn in the distance. A bearded man is sitting down in the tall grass, with his eyes closed. He inhales the warm early morning air as the soft sunlight bounces off the profile of his face.”
On average, that scene description takes about 20 seconds to read.
Looking at the image, your brain can get all of that information in milliseconds. In fact, your brain processes almost 60,000 times faster than text. It’s the reason you toss that instruction manual in a drawer and watch a product demo instead.
In combination with the chemicals released when we watch video (more about that later), we rely on this process for quick information and better recall.
4. We remember better.
We all have a favourite book from childhood. Now compare that with how much you can remember from your favourite cartoon or movie. Sure, from the book you remember the characters and what happens, but videos cement our emotions into memories. You remember how you felt during the ups and downs, and you can recall that feeling even if you think about it now.
Research backs this up. In studies where viewers were shown emotional film clips (both positive & negative), their recall rate was significantly higher than text or static pictures – and this recall was still strong even up to a year later. This isn’t surprising given the average viewer remembers 95 percent of a message when it is watched; compared to 10 percent of text-based messages.
Being front of mind and memorable is crucial for all businesses. With video now being on so many platforms and accessible anytime, you have to earn their attention. In recruiting talent, agencies are reporting 800% more engagement with job ads that have video embedded. The most successful branded content makes an emotional connection, not a hard sell. It shows the audience what they’re about and value of what they produce, rather than spell out their missions and values. And often this best people to deliver this brand message, are the people within your company.
3. Shared experience.
We don’t often think of ourselves as being in synchronization with complete strangers. We are all individuals with our own experiences and emotions – right? Well, when it comes to video we are not as individual as you think.
In a study conducted by Yale that measured the brain activity of a whole cinema audience, they found that as much as 70 percent of their cerebral cortex brain activity was synchronized at any given moment. They saw synchronized activity in an area of the brain (the limbic system’s cingulate gyrus) which connects actions with emotional responses.
Basically, through video the audience all felt the same emotional call to action, at the same time. It’s like the mental equivalent of a room bursting into a standing ovation – a collective action based on an overwhelming emotion.
And this reaction was even stronger when the viewers’ eye movements were more controlled by the shifting camera angles & footage cuts. As a result, videos that exert more control over viewers’ perception have a greater impact on their brain activity.
While that doesn’t mean we are all breaking into applause for every movie action scene or emotional Christmas ad, it does explain why we are compelled to tell people about video. We don’t just want the other person to see this video, we want them to experience what we are feeling.
It’s not just box offices that benefit, businesses are using these techniques to influence customers and their staff. The Center for Neuroeconomics Studies found that people are substantially more motivated by a transcendent purpose (how a company/brand improves lives) than by its transactional purpose (how it sells goods and services).
Transcendent purpose is most effectively communicated through stories – for example, by describing relatable situations of actual customers and how their problems were solved by the companies products or people. By empathizing with the pain experienced, and viewers will also feel the pleasure of its resolution. This is used not only to influence potential customers, but also to help with recruitment and motivate staff at all levels to connect with their companies purpose.
2. The “cuddle hormone”
Puppies. Kittens. Babies. Spa day. Getting a hug. Listening to music.
All these things are known to produce oxytocin.
It’s a naturally occurring neurochemical in the body which sends a “it’s safe to approach others” signal in the brain. It’s makes us feel empathy and motivates cooperation with others. What science is just discovering is that video can increase your oxytocin levels too.
Through research partly funded by US Department of Defence, neuroscientists were able to non-invasively measure oxytoxcin levels of audiences watching video. What they found was a “video formula” of narrative tension and resolution was the most effective at raising oxytocin levels, which leaves the audience motivated to act.
This tension in the narrative makes the audience experience the same emotions felt by the characters. Even after the video ends, this empathy continues, with the audience continuing to mimic the feelings and behaviours of those characters.
The fitness industry is best known for this approach of using empathy and transformation to create content that, quite literally, moves people.
When you’re considering video, storytelling is the key to unlock their attention and starting a relationship. It’s also important to consider who is the best fit to deliver your message.
1. Our brain's reward system
While we think of ourselves as complex creatures in charge of our own lives, but neuroscience continues to reveal that something else is really in charge – brain chemicals. They are the naturally occurring compounds that our brain uses to motivates all of our decisions and reward behaviour.
The way these compounds work is a two-step chemical process. Firstly, our brain needs to get our attention. This is where cortisol comes in. It’s produced mostly in times of distress, like when we hear an upsetting story so we pay attention to possible threats in our environment. Basically, it’s the awareness reaction that most marketing uses: Present a problem that your company or brand can solve.
However, getting someone’s attention isn’t enough. Our brains also need to learn and remember in order to turn these thoughts into action. And to do this our body bribes us with dopamine – the pleasure chemical. When it comes to storytelling, dopamine helps regulate our emotional responses and keeps us engaged. Our brains actually use dopamine to reward us when we follow a story.
So while cortisol helps with awareness & introducing a new idea, dopamine is the prize our brains gives to our bodies when we stick with the journey.
So while telling a story and constructing a narrative may seem like a creative choice, through science we now know that it’s a powerful solution to creating action.
As the saying goes, a story only lives when someone want to listen. So before you go back to your next streaming binge (and blame it all on your chemically-induced brain), take a moment to think about how your story can start a conversation.
Whether you’ve never tried video as part of your business strategy before, or you’re ready to make new content that cuts through, we’re here to answer your questions.