Visual Marketing

​Why Storytelling Is Not Fluffy Stuff: It’s Survival

By April 7, 2016 No Comments

Park Howell - InstagramTargeting the Reptilian Brain

When his son left for film school, Park Howell became very curious about his education as it related to storytelling. As a result, Park began studying and researching storytelling until he understood its underpinnings in our subconscious and reptilian brain. 

After finding Joseph Campbell’s, “A Hero’s Journey,” which outlines a 12-step process in our universal storytelling formula, Park condensed these ideas and themes into a 10-step story cycle process for businesses.

Park’s main hypothesis is that the human brain only does anything in the interest of survival. He believes that storytelling is just another form of survival that garners you power, attention, and respect. By telling personal stories, especially ones that highlight flaws, failures, and vulnerability, we gain the trust of our audience.

People seek to learn from our mistakes, thereby avoiding similar pitfalls.

Thus, Park encourages businesses to focus on humanizing their process, noting that “B2B marketing” is a misnomer because businesses don’t sell to businesses; they sell to people. He contends that they best way to create a bond with a consumer is to build empathy and grab attention by revealing our weaknesses. He encourages all professionals to get in touch with their feelings. This may seem like fluffy stuff to some, but it’s all in the name of some not so fluffy concepts: survival and success.

A brother from a similar mother, Park Howell also runs a podcast under Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert umbrella: The Business of Story Podcast.

Listen in as Park explains how to use storytelling to sell something really well, and also save people’s lives in a really interesting way.

In This Episode

  • Why stories are important from a Darwinian perspective
  • Park Howell’s 10-step story cycle process for great storytelling
  • What is the right length of story for today’s attention span
  • What to say to cynics who don’t believe in the power of storytelling
  • How to get executives on board to create a bold story for your brand to lean into
  • How REI did it right
  • Why you’re already a great storyteller
  • How to re-structure your pitch to gain power and attention


Quotes From This Episode

“I make executives, much to their chagrin, get in touch with who they are and why it is they do what they do, and then sell from that position. Not sell from a features and benefits position. Tell stories about what human element is actually connected, made better, and empowered through their services.” —@ParkHowell

“Brands really no longer own their stories like they used to. Brands truly are story makers and allow their customers to become the storytellers.” —@ParkHowell (highlight to tweet)

“It isn’t about owning them for that day at the cash register, but it’s owning their hearts throughout the rest of the year.” —@ParkHowell (highlight to tweet)

“This is not rocket science; it’s just that we were all at the tops of our storytelling game in kindergarten, and our educational systems, cultural environments, and political correctness have silenced our innate storytelling.” —@ParkHowell

“Once your audience has empathy for you and you don’t use it against them, you are the most powerful person in the room.” —@ParkHowell (highlight to tweet)

“How succinctly can you tell a story that really triggers an emotion in a person, builds empathy, and gets them involved to where they’re buying with their heart? If you can do that on a napkin at a bar, trying to land a piece of business, that’s how long your story needs to be.” —@ParkHowell



What did you want to be when you grew up?

Park dreamt of being a composer as a kid. “I wanted to be a composer of music for movies. This was back when you had little tape recorders that were really crappy, but I loved it. I would do my own music; write and record it onto this crappy little cassette player.”

Park followed his love of music through high school and into college where he studied music composition and theory. “I really thought I would like to be either a writer/composer of music for movies or soundtracks or a producer of music. And I did a little bit of that in my 20’s and it just didn’t really take off and I had to go where I could actually make a living. That was in the advertising marketing world.”

Before you start feeling too cynical, Park has intentions to return to his childhood dream. “In this next chapter I might sneak back over there and do a little bit of music composition for movies. That’s what I ultimately wanted to do.”

Park Howell shows us that at any age, it’s not too late to pursue long-ago dreams. His thorough understanding of storytelling will no doubt aid him in this quest.