Will Storytelling Be Able to Let the Old Dream of Marketing for a Better World Come True? Developing a Conceptual Framework of a Transformative Storytelling Approach” and Sketching an Agenda for Joint Research Efforts: An Abstract
To persuade people of new ideas, to set new values, and to change existing attitudes as well as deeply grounded behavioral habits actively challenge business corporations, nonprofits, and social entrepreneurs who are engaged in implementing social marketing or, e.g., especially sustainability marketing programs. At this point, the art of storytelling seems to represent an efficient means to move society and consumers on the path toward a better world. While in analytical persuasion high levels of involvement are required to reach people with specific societal and environmental topics and challenges, this is not the case in narrative persuasion because “viewers or readers of an entertainment narrative typically appear to be far more engrossed in the message” (Slater, 2002, p. 171). The persuasive/influencing power of stories lies in narrative transportation meaning the extent to which the story receiver gets lost in a story (Green & Brock, 2000, p.702; van Laer et al., 2014) or enters a new world evoked by the narrative through the activation of empathy or mental imagination of the story plot (val Laer et al., 2014). Furthermore analytical persuasion focuses on logical consideration and cognitive evaluation, while narrative transportation appears to be more unintentionally affective in nature and is represented by strong affective responses and realism of experience without careful evaluation of arguments (van Laer et al., 2014). Existing research on narrative transportation has already confirmed that this kind of “traveling” through a story can lead to transformational experiences by the story receiver (Phillips & McQuarrie, 2010) resulting in strong and long-lasting effects on affective and cognitive responses, attitudes, beliefs, and intentions (Green, Garst, & Brock 2004; Green et al., 2008).
Following the abovementioned insights partially originating from findings of psychological influence as well as from neuroeconomics, storytelling seems to provide excellent opportunities for realizing demanding social marketing tasks regarding the change of consciousness, values, attitudes, and behavior patterns. Based on both (a) our empirical insights regarding the deficits in sustainability awareness and behavior as well as promising attempts of provoking sustainability conscious behaviors and (b) an overview over existing knowledge about storytelling, its design, and possible impact, we aim to develop a well-founded and integrated conceptual framework which shows the relevant prerequisites, influence, and design factors of a “transformative storytelling approach” which appears suitable to effectively and efficiently influence the consciousness of consumers toward sustainable consumption and especially the necessity to really change behaviors. Moreover, several ideas for designing empirical research to analyze the effects of theoretically developed transformative storytelling approaches will be discussed to invite to take part in joint research efforts.