Out of the imagination of a single mother came one of the greatest modern stories of all time. How can a bespectacled, very ordinary orphan with quaint magical powers, spawn such enormous success for one J. K. Rowlings? Now the richest women in the U.K. her make believe prodigy, Harry Potter is the most famous story of the century. So much fame and so simple a formula – that of the great art of story telling.
Christ employed the parable to deliver messages and values long before the advent of modern technology, Aesop was followed by Hans Christian Anderson with the brothers Grimm not far behind. All used the great art of fascination, shaping tales of wonder and heroics. From the prodigal son to the ugly duckling, each held the key to the dispatch of meaning, deeper than the story itself.
It’s proven power will soon be resurrected by the advertising industry and I know this, how? For one thing it’s already reflecting itself in politics. Take President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union Address in which he regularly used the stories of success, persistence and tragedy to capture the American people and redirect a pathway to a more bipartisan approach; and that’s just the beginning.
It is such a gentle way to make us think. It cannot be confused with preaching, neither can it be seen as selling, because what it does is to create a thought bubble allowing us to ask questions of ourselves. In marketing we all know that the consumer hates to be sold, but they love to buy. Preach, and the perception is that you’re selling; tell stories and the perception is that the customers are buying… and they are.
Have we in the advertising industry given up on the great examples of Aesop, dismissed Anderson, Grimm and Tolkin? For a while perhaps… but in the light of the success of Rowlings, Dan Brown, Harold Robbins, Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson, I hope we can revive the art of story telling and move quickly away from the faceless testimonials, infomercials, free offers and mundane crass crap which our client’s demand to ‘sell’ their products
Advertising needs a saviour , not because advertising doesn’t work, but because it doesn’t work well enough. Generally it no longer relates and if it doesn’t relate it is probably irrelevant. Of the thousand of radio, press and television ads, only a few engage in the age old practice of story telling, of parables and fables and we sit bemused as to why our fellow beings just, ‘switch off’.
There is a great tale in all of us and as psychologist Eric Berne once said, “We need to let the ‘Child’ in us out to play every now and again”
It worked for Obama, it’ll work for the commercial world. So to all those businesses that are about to make a decision on their advertising commitment, demand a story or two. Yell, scream and beat up your agency until they deliver a best seller and it doesn’t have to be a fairy tale.
There are two sides to every story and in business the important side, is for you to reach your customer base, with relevancy. Make it beautiful, moving and a welcoming part of what we all walk through each day. It’s about heart over head… but that’s another story.