How Great Stories Unlock the Emotional Brain

The brain is the most powerful organ in the human body, and one of the most effective resources available to marketers…

Psychology is playing an increasingly important role in social media, as brands look for new ways to gain a better understanding of their audiences on an emotional level.

Emotion inspires action; it can inform purchase decisions, increase conversion rates, heighten visibility on social and can even help brands to build trust with their consumers.


Most marketers know that making an audience feel is crucial to success in the digital sphere. But where does emotion stem from, and what role does great storytelling play?

Social secrets of the mind: the limbic system

It was the neuroscientist Paul D. Mclean who put forward the theory of a triune brain structure. Mclean states that the brain consists of three main parts: the reptilian brain, the limbic system (paleomammalian complex) and the neomammalian complex (neocortex).


The limbic system concerns both emotion and the formation of memories. Within the limbic system are the amygdala (our emotional centre) and the hippocampus (memory). Both work in tandem when met with positive or negative stimuli.

The amygdala is activated by an external stimulus i.e. a pleasant smell. If that stimulus has a lasting impression, it will be encoded into your memory by the hippocampus. Likewise, if we were to smell that same smell again, we would connect it with a past positive memory.


By making someone feel, you can create a long-lasting memory within that person’s subconscious. The combination of emotion and memory can be powerful, giving rise to more examples of vivid storytelling on social.

SkyBet x Social Chain: Huddersfield Town v Reading [Case Study]

As part of our partnership with SkyBet, we conducted a social-first campaign around the English Football League play-offs.

The series followed several life-long football fans in their bid to reach the play-off finals. One of these stories included that of Matt Beaumont, a passionate Huddersfield Town fan whose team later gained promotion to the Premier League.

Our videos focussed on emotive and impactful storytelling by following an engaging narrative around the agony and ecstasy of the event – two feelings that most football fans can relate to.

We built suspense and anticipation to tell Matt’s story while capitalising on the conversation surrounding league football’s biggest prize, thus keeping Sky Bet front of mind and tip of the tongue.

The final video – a fierce and rather tense penalty shootout, won 4-3 by Huddersfield – generated 2.9 million views, with 25,000 engagements and reactions, showing the sheer power, influence and overall importance of social-first storytelling.

The importance of emotive storytelling on social

Psychology and neuromarketing within any campaign can have a transformative effect.

Likewise, not all stories need to draw on positive emotions to have an impact. You can just as easily make a person feel shocked, fearful or sad – particularly when the aim is to raise awareness around a serious subject.

This video appeal from Save The Children is a perfect example.

The American psychologist Robert Plutchik outlines that there are eight primary emotions: fear, anger, sadness, joy, disgust, surprise, trust and anticipation. Tap into one of these emotions – or several – and you have a high chance of attaining significant engagement. 

We recently asked whether social media alone can make a person high due to the high amounts of dopamine release from live streams and competitions.

Read the full story here.

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