Anyone who has spent time around kids knows that the incessant “Why” query is applied to just about everything. But asking “Why” isn’t just a way to annoy adults. It’s their natural inclination to better understand the world around them using storytelling, a form of communication hardwired in our brains.
Sanden Totten is co-creator of a new podcast, “Brains On!”, which has kids asking their most burning questions about culture, science, art and the like. Totten came upon the idea that kids can be the perfect journalistic tool by observing the way adults responded to them.
On WNYC’s “The Takeaway”, Totten mentioned that scientists spoke differently when talking to adults vs. kids. For example, when explaining El Niño to an adult, scientists might say,“Part of the ocean that we call ‘Niño 3.4’ heats up two degrees above average…”
But when kids asked the scientists the very same question, they turned up their storytelling mojo: “El Niño is basically a weather phenomenon that happens when part of the ocean gets really hot and it messes with all of the wind patterns and sends storms to places they normally wouldn’t be.” Bingo! By giving the microphone to kids, the great questions about the world were not only put within their storytelling context, adult comprehension was boosted as well.
For over a decade now, SBR has helped complex product organizations (like health insurance and financial services) create marketing communications that better reach their consumer audiences. During this time we have tested numerous communications against standard industry barometers like health literacy, which measures a person’s ability to read and understand health-related information. But simply writing communications at a certain grade level doesn’t mean that they are compelling.
When you’re selling something as banal as light fixtures or as complex as health insurance, creativity is often replaced with a product description. Instead of product dumping or feature selling (listing product features one by one), use stories to add both an emotive component to common products and help consumers understand how a product could support them. For example, instead of listing the features of a health insurance plan (deductibles, copays, premiums) create a story about how the consumer will use the product: “When you go to your local pharmacy, you’ll show your membership card to the pharmacist, pay the prescription copay of $10, and then you’ll be on your way.”
You can also use kids to test the relative persuasiveness of your marketing speak. If they can understand it and are maybe even intrigued by it, chances are your adult consumers will as well.