Communication is not merely the message you tell; it is also how that message is processed in the brains of your target audience. This applies to conducting a conversation, but also to writing and reading a text. With my interest in psychology, I am very grateful to the (behavioral) scientists of the 1970s and 1980s for connecting psychology and economics. It gives me enough interesting reading material, but—most importantly—ensures that we can make shifts in behavior happen!

This is how a story becomes ingrained in your brain


The role of emotion

In recent decades, scientists’ view on humanity has shifted from homo economicus—completely rational and always focused on their own interest—to a complex, multifaceted being, driven by social instincts. In other words: an emotional human being. And with a growing stream of information, the role of emotion is becoming even more important in marketing communication. How do you ensure that your target audience picks up on those emotion in your text? By making sure you use all the key elements for telling a successful story.

The (sub)conscious brain

We make about 35,000 choices every day. If those choices were to all be made in our rational brain, we would get incredibly tired. Behavioral psychologist Daniel Kahneman divides the brain into two systems, which he conveniently calls System 1 and System 2. System 1 is our subconscious brain. 3 x 3 = … whether only ‘9’ or also the tune of Pippi Longstocking comes to mind—this form of fast, associative, and emotional thinking typifies System 1. System 2, on the other hand, is slow, rational, and conscious. Looking for facts, weighing pros and cons—basically everything that needs full attention happens in System 2.

Back to those 35,000 daily choices: they are largely made in the subconscious brain. System 2 is rather lazy. If possible, the choices simply rely on the information that is processed in System 1. In order to influence behavior as a communication professional it is very interesting to focus on System 1. What’s happening over there? How does this part of the brain work? And how do you respond tactically to that?

Storytelling of course!

That is where the power of storytelling lies. Storytelling works. Why? From an evolutionary point of view, stories contain important survival information, and they have a pattern that is easy and quick for our brain to pick up. As a result, our (System 1) brain automatically filters out the noise around it, and those stories attract us. And creating attraction? That is exactly what you want to achieve as a brand.  

Cool story, but how?

Does it mean that as a content creator, you should turn every message into an elaborate fairy tale? No. Definitely not. Because although our brain likes stories very much, it also likes simple, logical information. As you know: lss s mr—that too is storytelling.

So how do you write a simple, logical, and enjoyable story?

  • Limit your text to one core message. If I throw one tennis ball at you, you’re more likely to catch it than if I throw five at once.
  • Avoid jargon. “Go for words that most people use” vs “Go for high-frequency words”—which one you think sounds better?
  • Each message activates a frame: a kind of thinking scheme in which someone reads your text. So make sure it works to your advantage. Do you approach climate change as “hell and damnation” or do you fight for a world without CO2 that people want to fight for and want to be part of?
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat! The holy grail of brand making. Because repetition leads to recognition. This means being unambiguous in your choice of words and spelling, but also in your tone of voice and style. Make it as comfortable as possible for the brain of your target audience.
  • Show, don’t tell.  By using words creatively, you bring a text to life. Go more into detail of what you have done for the customer in the past and offer more insights on how your product works. But don’t get carried away, you are not writing fiction. Stay on the point. 

Know your language tricks!

So important. For example, avoid negatives in your core message. So write ‘avoid negation’ rather than ‘don’t use negation’; your brain automatically ignores words like ‘no’ and ‘not’. And if your text allows it, choose the magic of three and go for a combination of three words or sentences. ‘Build your brand’ sounds nice, right? And finally, rhyme and alliterate because those are great patterns for your brain. These tricks help ensure that your target group accepts your message as truthful and it sticks better. 

In short: stories have power. They contain important information, and as a communication professional you use it to get your message across. Never underestimate the importance of text for your brand. Would you like to discuss the words you use to create your brand?  📝 

PS Interesting, right? I know! Also read “Thinking, Fast and Slow” van Daniel Kahneman, “Supercharge your stories” van Paul Hillesum or take a look at

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Want to brainstorm? Have a question? Contact: Renske