Remember the value of storytelling

Stag lying down in a green field

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Snapshot : Unfortunately, most advertising is ignored or forgotten. But when you add the value of storytelling to your advertising, it’ll stand out and be more memorable. We share examples from the world of whisky advertising, cooking shows and travel to inspire you to create better advertising. Advertising that’s noticed and remembered. 

How many adverts do you think you see each day? 100? 1,000?

We remember a media agency training deck from years ago telling us that is was around 3,000. But we knew that number would probably be out of date. 

And it was. 

Because, latest estimates put the average number of adverts per person at somewhere between between 6,000 and 10,000 a day. For the purposes of this article, let’s split the difference and call it 8,000 adverts a day on average. 8,000 adverts that each of us see.

Every day. 

That’s a lot of advertising

So, it’s important for your advertising and media to stand out amongst all that other advertising. For it to get noticed, be remembered and make customers so something. 

The success rate of advertising

Because, think about how many of those 8,000 adverts actually have any impact.

In fact, think about adverts you’ve seen or heard today. How many adverts did you notice? How many can you actually remember? And more importantly, how many actually persuaded you to do something

We’re guessing a lot less than 8,000. 

In fact, you could count the number of impactful ads on your fingers. So, let’s call it 8 impactful ads a day. It’s probably over generous to advertising, but it makes the maths easier to follow. 

So, even if 8 ads are impactful, that means a “success” rate of advertising of around 0.1%. That’s 8 out out of 8,000. Or, put another way, 99.9% of advertising is ignored or forgotten. 

Suddenly, the creative team, the client and the media agency start to feel a little nervous. Because, after all, who wants to do something that doesn’t work 99.9% of the time? Who wants to pay for something that doesn’t work most of the time? 

But, here’s the thing. 

One advertising spot doesn’t drive one sale

If you think one advertising spot sales, it’s like thinking one walk around the block will make you fit and healthy. 

That’s just not how it works. 

Advertising and media works best when its repeated over time. As per our guide to media planning, frequency of advertising makes a difference.

You’re much more likely to notice, remember and be persuaded by advertising that you see multiple times, rather than one time. 

And, of course every consumer who your advertising persuade to buy, doesn’t necessarily just buy that one thing, one time. They’re much more likely to buy it again, so the value from advertising has to look long-term. Advertising creates customers who drive repeat sales too. 

But there’s also many ways to make advertising work. One of those ways is what we wanted to cover today. 

Storytelling. 

As per our guide to storytelling, storytelling works as a communication mechanism on so many levels. The value of storytelling lies in its ability to explain difficult things simply. It’s a way to make content more engaging. And it’s a way to make your audience more likely to remember your brand. 

Let’s look at the value of storytelling in doing those things. 

The value of storytelling in explaining difficult things simply

Firstly, storytelling is a great way to take complex topics, and make them easier to understand. 

Let’s, for example, say we wanted to explain some of the challenges in international advertising. Your business is based in one country, but want to expand its reach overseas. That happens a lot, right? 

And from our experience, we know that cultural norms differ internationally. Advertising that works well in one country, won’t necessarily work in another, because of culture. It’s not “rocket science” as a topic, but neither is it a simple topic either. 

How would you explain it?

We could look at studies and research and quote statistics to explain it. If we wanted to cover it in a course or training session, we’d definitely do some of that. And you’re smart, you’ll get it right? 

But how would you get the point across if you’ve only got a two minute conversation, or a few hundred words to explain it? And do it in a way, that’s easy to understand. 

Well, that’s where the value of storytelling and stories come in. And that’s basically an excuse for us to tell one of our favourite marketing stories. 

A story about whisky. Or not.

It comes from the world of whisky, though the point of the story is not actually anything to do with whisky. Not really. It’s about international advertising and cultural norms. 

We wanted to put a link to the source of the story, and the advertising it refers to. But, despite a lot of searching on Google this morning, we can’t find either. Probably, usage rights somewhere stopping it being put up on You Tube. 

So, you’ll just have to trust us that it happened.

A Collection of three whiskies on a table - Glenfiddich, Jack Daniels and Bruichladdich

And to be honest, it’s too good a story to be made up. We know it’s a good story, because we can still remember it. And that’s important. Because you can use that same principle when you create advertising. 

The story in one of the marketing magazines was about Glenfiddich, the single malt scotch whisky. It had just created a new global advertising campaign, which featured the stag (it’s their logo / symbol from the front of the bottle) walking though an eerily deserted city landscape.

As we said, that ad surprisingly isn’t on You Tube that we can find, but this one is similar.  

So, the story was that they tested this advert in eight of their ten biggest markets. Consumers everywhere loved it.

Like “Top 2” boxes in preference, high likability and intent to purchase, and all that other pre-test stuff that makes market researchers jump up and down with excitement. 

Except for two countries. 

Firstly, Brazil. 

The word “stag” in Brazil Portuguese is derogatory slang for homosexual. And, in Latino cultures at the time, homosexuality was way less positively accepted than it is now.

That aside, the word can also be used to mean f*cker. And not in a good way. That’s probably, not the association Glenfiddich would want. So, the advert didn’t run there. 

But more interestingly, it didn’t work in Germany, either. For an entirely different reason, though. 

Because, German culture and thinking is strong on literal thinking, but much less on lateral thinking. Advertising that features analogies or symbolism generally don’t work there. 

In this case, research showed the respondents querying how the stag could be in the city. “Because, stags live in the forest, not the city.” Imagine that sentence in a German accent. 

That logically makes sense. But clearly, German whisky drinkers just couldn’t get what the advert was trying to symbolise. This ad never ran in Germany. 

Now, if someone asked us to explain how advertising works in either Brazil or Germany from a cultural perspective, before we heard this story, we’d have struggled. We’ve have probably ended up talking about football or something, given both countries are among the most successful World Cup contenders. 

But with this story about the Brazilian slang word, and the German literalism, you get the point quickly, right? It’s a nice easy way to show the value of storytelling to make difficult topics easier to understand.

The value of storytelling in engaging people 

So, this lesson in storytelling, we step away from the world of advertising, and in to the world of reality TV. No, not Celebrity Love Island, But our favourite show of the last few weeks, and that’s Junior Masterchef

Watch the Australian or UK versions of Masterchef, and when you know a bit about the mechanics of storytelling, you can see that the producers are as much Master-Storytellers as the contestants are Master-Chefs.

The story arc of the series always starts off with us meeting the “heroes”. The contestants, in this case. We get to understand their “quest”, one of the 7 story types that Christopher Booker outlines in his book, the 7 Basic Plots.

Their quest is to win the competition, and show they are the best cook. We meet their “guides”, the judges and guest chefs and food critics who help them along the way. We follow their “journey” as they have ups and downs along the way. 

And here’s the masterful part of the storytelling. 

The downs and ups of Masterchef

If you focus on the “downs”, the contestants who hit a wall, or something goes wrong so they need to re-do a piece of the recipe, they’re almost always the ones who succeed in the end.

Those fondants that don’t ooze. Those panna cottas that don’t wobble. Or, that risotto that has the wrong texture.

It’s the comeback from these set-backs that make your root for those contestants. (and we obviously mean the more mainstream meaning of the word root, not the rude Australian one).

Much more so, than the ones who get it right every time. You know those ones. The perfectionists. Undoubtedly talented. But less interesting to watch. And you don’t root for them.

You root for the ones who overcome challenges. The ones who show more character. They’re more watchable. And, more likely to make it to the end. 

Archetypes

If you know about character archetypes from storytelling, you could argue the contestants were all playing the role of Child / Innocent. But this season’s Junior Masterchef did a great job of bringing out the additional character types behind that. 

We had the Joker / Jester archetypes of Filo and Ben. Two future comedy stars, if they don’t make it in the food world. 

We had the Caregiver archetypes like Carter and Dev. They went out of their way to be supportive, polite and helpful to the other contestants. 

And we had the Creator types like Ruby and Laura who experimented with what’s possible with food. Their character type was to push the boundaries and take the cooking skills to another level. 

And then of course, finally, Georgia, the eventual winner. The tiniest contestant of the group, but fiercely determined, proud to bring her Sri Lankan and Australian food heritage to the competition, and one who battled against the odds to win. 

A great Hero / Heroine story to remember. 

The value of storytelling in making things memorable

We close our little article on the value of storytelling with a brand that’s clearly going to be in pain right now, and that’s Qantas. But as we covered recently, they are just about surviving, and we did hear one of their planes fly overhead as we were writing this. 

Qantas advertising could talk about the features of their planes. It could talk about their safety record or the friendliness of their staff. 

But they don’t. 

Because those stories would be about Qantas. And actually, they see what they do for their customers as more important than telling people about Qantas. Because the stories in their advertising, they make the hero the customer, the people who use Qantas. 

And that leads to some memorable advertising, just like this one.   

We first saw it in an Adobe marketing technology conference at the Sydney Opera House. Qantas do a lot with Adobe, and the Qantas marketing director gave the audience a sneak peak of this, their new (at the time) advertising. 

And safe to say, after it ended, you could literally feel the audience of hardened marketing professionals gulp. There was tangible emotional impact in the audience.

Because that long journey home is an experience anyone who lives in Australia has felt. It tapped into deep emotions that people feel when they reconnect with friends and family when they get home. And Qantas is there as the guide to help their customers along the way. 

The way they tell the story in this advert? 

Amazing. 

For Australians, there’s no one else you’d want to come home with, than Qantas. 

So, if you do want your advertising to be in that 0.1% of advertising that’s noticed and remembered, work out how you can tell a great story, that makes the customer the hero. 

Because that’s what the value of storytelling can do for you.

The end. 

Unless of course, you want to learn more about storytelling from our skill guide. Or you want to contact us, to help create and build your story.

 Photo credits

Stag PhotoJuan Jose on Unsplash

Glenfiddich, JD and Bruichladdich Photo : Ridham Nagralawala on Unsplash

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