The science of the mind is endlessly complex. While scientists have uncovered a better understanding of how human beings process information, there’s still a very long way to go. One thing that is certain, though, is that human beings are trained to learn through storytelling. The brain craves stories. It’s why the most compelling speakers can spin a yarn. It’s why movies and books remain popular. It’s why fireside chats and dinner parties devolve into storytelling sessions. What does this mean for companies? It means that any cogent branding strategy must involve story. Here are five ways that storytelling can improve a brand’s message.

Making the customer feel like the hero

People are selfish at the core. Even those who practice altruism spend most of the day thinking about their own problems or the problems of their immediate family members. When you use storytelling as a brand concept, you can posit your customer as the hero. Successful storytelling as a brand strategy can put the focus on the customer, who they are, and what problems they face. This catches the attention of human beings, who view every situation with an ego-centric eye.

Demonstrating empathy more easily

The best brands are those that show that they understand what a customer is going through. Brands can show empathy in a number of ways. The most effective way is by communicating in a clear manner the customer’s problem before the customer even realizes he or she has the problem. Imagine, for instance, a maid service that communicates an understanding that a customer not only has a dirty house, but also has marital discord because of the dirty house. The brand has shown empathy and earned a customer’s trust as a result. When a brand uses storytelling as a part of its marketing strategy, it can more easily demonstrate empathy.

Positioning the brand as the helpful guide

The proper role for a brand in the story is not as the hero, a role reserved for the customer. Rather, it’s the role of useful guide. All the best stories feature guides that help the hero solve a problem. Every hero from Harry Potter to Huck Finn has had this guide. The brand’s job is to help the customer get to some outcome that he or she wants. Organizing marketing through a story allows the company to see its proper role in the grand tale of its customers.

Communicating compelling obstacles that customers must overcome

In order to motivate a customer to take action, a brand must identify problems or threats facing the customer. For a criminal defense lawyer, this is easy. The would-be client is facing prison time or some other bad consequence. For the theme park, this is more challenging. Maybe the threat or problem revolves around children who don’t get to live out their best childhood. When a brand uses story to communicate with its customers, it can effectively identify those problems and threats. Customers will see that and be more likely to take action because they, too, want to avoid the negative that’s lurking below.

Today’s best brands have learned to use compelling stories to connect with customers. It’s a much better approach than simply laying out the company’s qualities and expecting customers to react. As long as human beings are designed to appreciate and respond to stories, there will be a place for storytelling in marketing. Companies just need to know their proper place in that story while also putting the customer and her needs first. This will generate the responses that companies are looking for when they invest money in marketing.