Empathy is storytellers’ key to the hearts of consumers: Neelesh Misra

In a session titled 'The Art of Storytelling,' at Goafest 2024, Neelesh Misra, a journalist and storyteller, said that brands have trapped audiences in Excel sheets. In front of those Excel sheet columns are human beings

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Niveditha Kalyanaraman
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Neelesh Misra

Neelesh Misra

Mumbai: In a world saturated with products and advertisements, it is the power of storytelling that sets certain brands apart, weaving an emotional tapestry that resonates deeply with their audience. 

Each story told is a bridge between the brand and the consumer, crafted with authenticity and passion, inviting people not just to buy, but to believe. 

In a session titled 'The Art of Storytelling,' at Goafest 2024, Neelesh Misra, a journalist and storyteller, emphasised the quest brands go on, to create stories for their audience. 

"You and I are looking for that moment when your audience feels the same emotion as you do," he said, emphasising the comfort audiences feel once brands manage to empathise with their narrative.  

The journey of empathy that content creators have, opined Misra, is a superpower that can be leveraged by brands to sell, educate, or promote. The choice of which rests in the hands of the brands. 

Furthering the accusatory vision of the lack of empathy in the brand's storytelling, Misra said, "Brands have trapped their audience in Excel sheets. People have become just numbers. In front of those columns, there is a human being. In front of those columns, there is a 45-year-old mother who does not use Instagram. In front of those columns, there is a 13-year-old child who sleeps during the day, and that is why you labelled him that way. But at night, he hears my story and cries. In which Excel sheet should he be kept?"

He opined that brands have commoditised and productised their audience in an attempt to adapt to changing times. 

“He was in your Excel sheet. You were missing him. As you tried to adapt, the audience started looking for their own world, their own people, and their own stories,” said Misra.

Brands have the power to decide what people will consume, what they will drink, what they will wear, and the choices they will make. 

He added, "Sometimes, our country's greatest communication machinery is not always understanding me."

He explained that the biggest secret sauce that God has given storytellers is empathy. 

"And I would love it if that empathy, somewhere, percolates in the messaging I receive from this monolith," he added. 

He believes that brands need to assure their audience that they're not points of convenience just to be sold something. 

"Can you make an effort to make my life a little better?" is the question he believes the audience looks into. 

According to him, stories are a nuclear device. Through COVID, storytelling was used to convince the cause of vaccination. Storytelling has been used to drive home the message of saving water.  

He emphasised that brands should focus on their conversation and communication, and should never be transactional. 

In the era of AI, brands need to remember that their audience is also adapting.

He ended the session with a few thought-provoking questions for brands, including, "Can our communication not harm people? Can our communication not convince people to buy things that we know will ruin their lives?"