22 Sep 2023 World leisure: news, training & property
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Attractions Management
2023 issue 1

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Leisure Management - The power of stories

Editor's letter

The power of stories

We all know that storytelling is key to our industry’s success, but it’s vital to measure exactly how, and why

Scientists understand how immersive storytelling alters brain chemistry Photo: Goksin Doga/shutterstock

When Bob Iger was reinstated as CEO of Disney in November 2022, one of his first moves was to send an email to his teams promising to “put more decision-making back in the hands of our creatives” and place storytelling back at the heart of the business.

This was seen as an acknowledgement that Disney had begun to put business metrics ahead of the storytelling and creativity that made the company so successful in the first place.

We know good storytelling is key to creating great attractions and experiences, but what does that actually mean? How can we measure the commercial value of the stories we tell in our attractions? Is there an objective way of measuring how they affect audiences and what’s the future of storytelling, given how fast it’s evolving in this digital age?

For this edition of Attractions Management, we asked industry experts to drill down into some of these key areas to explore the power of story, trends in storytelling, the business case for it and the science behind it.

One of our contributors, Paul Zak, is a neuroscientist and neuroeconomist who has spent decades measuring how stories shape us. Over the past 20 years, he has studied more than 50,000 brains, identifying a neurological state he calls immersion – a measure of how much attention we pay to something and how our brain ‘values’ it.

It’s fascinating science that can be used to create and tailor experiences and then measure exactly how effective they are.

When it comes to the commercial value of good storytelling, Zak’s research shows that creating stories that visitors connect with can change their behaviour by altering their brain chemistry. In his words: “The neurochemicals that form the basis for immersion create a desire to repeat peak immersion experiences.”

It’s not just the experience of the attraction itself; Zak argues that the narrative should be built into every phase of the journey, from buying the ticket to leaving the attraction and post-experience add-ons.

For this issue, Zak and his team headed to Disneyland to scientifically measure the impact of different rides on visitors’ levels of immersion. You can read the surprising and enlightening results in terms of which ride ‘won’ in our report on page 40.

Magali Robathan, editor magalirobathan@leisuremedia.com

Originally published in Attractions Management 2023 issue 1

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