I can recall watching for the first time—a film that would go on to become a pop culture classic—and would also become one of my personal favorite films—American Pie. The film, released in 1999, is a risqué coming of age comedy about a group of four Michigan high school seniors and friends that make a pact to lose their virginity before they graduate from high school.
As I sat in my cramped bedroom watching the hilarious DVD of the film on my television with four of my friends (who, like myself at the time, were also teens struggling with talking to girls and hoping to gain some knowledge from the film)—one particular part of the movie really stood out to all of us.
The segment of the film that I’m referring to, is when one of the characters (Kevin), perturbed due to inexperience—turns to his older brother to find out how to…let’s just say—satisfy his girlfriend on prom night. Reluctantly, Kevin’s older brother tells him a story over the phone about where he could find a manual, hidden in his high school library—that would teach him just how to accomplish his mission.
Now, the crazy thing about this manual is that each year, it was passed down to one student deemed worthy enough to obtain the knowledge that it possessed; knowledge that the other guys who came across it also added to throughout the years.
The reason why that particular part of the film stood out to me—is because although fictional—it showed the power of our inherent yearning to obtain information from a good story. Which is something that Gen Z wants brands to do much more of.
What exactly does Gen Z want more of?
According to a recent survey of Americans between the ages of 13 and 25, conducted by Morning Consult, 64% of Gen Zers say that they enjoy engaging with a brand’s “storytime” videos. Which are videos that consist of creators providing details about a particular event or situation.
In the same survey, 62% of Gen Zers also said that they enjoy “fun fact” videos. Which are videos where the creator gives an interesting piece of information about a particular topic—sort of like providing behind the scene details about the topic.
While 55% of those surveyed said they enjoy "nostalgia" videos where the creator discusses either products, brands, or experiences from their past—which further confirms Gen Zers eagerness to receive a great story.
What these stats tells your brand about Gen Z
As author and marketing leader Jim Signorelli says in his book, StoryBranding 2.0, “Marketing shouldn't feel like marketing. It should feel like a story.” I couldn’t agree more with Jim on that marketing theory. Great marketing should indeed, feel more like a story rather than the annoying offers that most people have come to expect from brands throughout recent years.
What the stats above tells brands, is that Gen Zers also agree that marketing should feel more like a story—and they want brands to give them more great stories; as opposed to ordinary offers.
Which is why Gen Zers tend to gravitate more towards the TikTok and YouTube videos that take them through a journey in the form of a story. Instead of the myriad of simple sales offers that their smartphones and laptop screens are swamped with on a daily basis.
How to give them what they want
There’s no doubt about it, we’re all intrinsically susceptible to being open to receiving a great story. And Gen Zers are no exception. So, if you want to grab their attention and influence them to take a desired action—a great story will have a much better chance at accomplishing that feat than a great offer will.
“Humans are not ideally set up to understand logic; they are ideally set up to understand stories.” Says cognitive psychologist and entrepreneur Roger C. Schank.
So, instead of simply making logical offers of why people should purchase your products or services—bring your audience in closer towards your brand by building story bridges. One way to do that is by posting TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat videos telling your brand’s story and divulging cool tidbits about your products and how they came to fruition.
The goal here isn’t to directly try to sell anything. It’s all about engaging your brand’s audience by telling them great stories that are both entertaining and informative. And what does every great story contain? A protagonist! Which in this case, is your brand. And as you may have also noticed, in every great story—the protagonist will have:
Implement the three elements above for telling a great story in your videos. Also, be sure to show your audience how they fit in that story by subtly attaching your brand's mission to something that will help make their lives better—by either helping them attain something they want—or by avoiding something they fear.
After doing all of the above, over time— your brand’s audience will gravitate towards your story bridge. And as a result—will become much more emotionally connected to your brand.