A particular type of consumer enjoys stories with plots,
characters, and imagery that allow them to get lost in the narrative, according
to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research.
"Stories have the power to change people's
behaviour," write authors Tom van Laer (ESCP Europe Business School), Ko de
Ruyter (Maastricht University), Luca M. Visconti (ESCP Europe Business School),
and Martin Wetzels (Maastricht University).
"Contemporary examples include
the persuasive power of Latin American telenovelas, which influence family
planning choices and enrolment in adult literacy programmes, as well as internet
users sharing written stories, photos, and videos about themselves and their
The authors wanted to understand what kinds of stories
allowed consumers to mentally enter a story, a phenomenon called
"narrative transportation". They also wondered which kinds of
consumers were more likely to identify with the narratives.
articles written in five different languages that dealt with the theme of
narrative transportation and tested consumer reactions to those stories.
They found that consumers were most likely to engage with
realistic stories with identifiable characters and plots that easily lead to
mental imagery. They also identified five characteristics that made
participants more able to be transported: familiarity, attention, ability to
fantasize, higher education, and female gender.
"Consumers who are 'transported' are changed by their
experience. People who lose themselves in a story, accept the story is true and
relate to the characters," the authors write. "As the Hopi proverb
goes, 'The one who tells the story rules the world', and now we know how." (Picture: Woman watching TV from Shutterstock)