Storytelling Unlocks Innovation

Our perspective on this topic is grounded in our own in-depth qualitative research of the barriers and accelerators to innovation in corporate culture. For more insight into work that has shaped our understanding, check out a related case study.

We believe leaders at most companies aspire to some degree of innovation; be it with a new product, service or experience. The challenge with driving real innovation, however, is it often requires an organization to shift to a new way of thinking, followed by new ways of working. Meaningful innovation demands change from within, which creates two problems:

First, leadership faces an engagement challenge. Business leaders may have line of sight to strategic opportunities to innovate, but generating buy-in at the implementation level to rationale and changes associated with innovation can be difficult; particularly in the largest of organizations. A company cannot innovate without the buy-in of its employees.

Second, internal audiences are fatigued by corporate communications. PowerPoints and their counterparts are not compelling enough to engage internal audiences because they are so pervasive and largely considered white noise. Data and analytics, while appealing to business leaders, lack the details and emotional pull to engage the broader organization. The net result is leadership cannot generate the buy-in needed if their message cannot break through the white noise.

At STORYLINE, we are delivering new ways of thinking and unlocking new ways of working. The power of storytelling has been known for centuries and yet market research has largely gone away from it in favor of analytics and structured data. Here are the reasons to believe in storytelling for market research and what our client partners are saying:



Not only is empathy the centerpiece of our in-depth approach to understanding people, it is critical to driving engagement with the content resulting from our work. For some of our clients, experiencing their customer's world first-hand during a ride-a-long to a contextual interview is enough to emotionally connect with the heart of the matter. The majority of stakeholders cannot break away from their day-to-day activities, however, so that emotional connection can not be generated in the same manner. For the majority, empathy needs a vessel and we generate it through storytelling. Doing so enables the sort of engagement business leaders strive to achieve.

"I never did see such broad emotional engagement," said a Vice President of Marketing of our work. "It was a very, very diverse team from different businesses with different interests but they were still engaged… people have been emotionally touched. People were enthusiastic about it and that leaves an emotional impression.”


Employee engagement is paramount to achieving success in business innovation. Stories can connect employees with their customers in ways they have never experienced before. We take great care in crafting the delivery of our content to ensure the highest levels of engagement possible.

Following a walkthrough of a customer story, a Global Director of Integrated Communications said, “people feel very connected to this market study. I think the storytelling played a critical role in the project because the presenters really engaged people.”


Stories establish a level of credibility with the audience that helps foster alignment among internal teams. Unlike surveys, they can give us a rich picture of the 'why' behind customer attitude and behaviors. We base the foundation for our stories in the voice of the customer which establishes a degree of rigor that is unmatched and further lends to the credibility of the content we generate.

"It's this bold representation of the truth," said a Senior Director of Insights & Innovation, "and you can’t help but learn something through the experience, no matter who you are.”


Once you accept the power of storytelling for market research, it opens new doors into presenting insights in compelling ways. Our charge is to make our content as sticky as possible, because it matters to those who shared their stories with us and to those evangelizing new ways of thinking and ways of working within their organization.

"You know what it says to me," said a Director of Global Integrated Communications, "we don't believe in PowerPoints anymore."