Published: 25/02/2019
Cutting through the clutter with stories that resonate

Every time I log on to a social media site, it hits me anew that content is being produced at a truly astonishing rate; from photos to videos to blogs, individuals are creating and uploading faster than ever before. As a result, brands are now competing with consumers to be seen and heard. In such a noisy environment, how can brands cut through and hold people’s attention?

Great storytelling is the key to making brands memorable in a content-cluttered landscape. Stories deliver messages in specific and emotionally impactful ways. Telling the story of your brand in an impactful way immediately sets you apart from your competition.

However, generating fresh ideas and developing them into great stories on a continuous basis is challenging for many brands, particularly in Asia’s diverse landscape where local nuance is key. But instead of competing with consumers’ content, why not harness their inventiveness and work with them as co-creators of impactful brand stories?

What makes a powerful brand story?

It has been proven that stories engender empathy in people, drawing us in and engaging us. This fact is already being leveraged by brands: soap operas keep us tuned in to memorable character plots, and the advertising platforms are key repeat marketing opportunities. Our minds are greedy for stories; they resonate with us and fire our imaginations - which is why there is a lot to be gained from crafting the right one for your brand.

There’s a great quote from author Christina Baldwin: “Words are how we think, stories are how we link.” Any great story needs to have the following elements:

a)     A relevant plot

b)    Relatable, memorable characters

c)     Strong storytelling technique: Making sure your story has a clear beginning, middle and most important, an END that brings it all together.

d)    Engaging plot development

Ariel’s Share the Load is a great example of a story that uses these ingredients to quickly connect and create memorability. The campaign picked up the current hot topic of gender equality, using daily activities of contemporary Indian women and drawing attention to the uneven distribution of domestic labour.

The ad features two older women acknowledging with delight the success of one of their daughters-in-law who earns more than her son. This optimistic start develops into a less positive reality as we see the woman working in the background, and finally her husband asking her why she has not washed his shirt. The clip ends with a provocative question, “Is laundry only a woman’s job?”

Share the Load built a strong human story, but also contemporised archetypal characters to reflect the cultural change that is happening in India. It captures all elements of great storytelling in just 30 secs:

a)     A relevant plot: two mothers at the table catching up, the professional woman rushing around before leaving for work and then the demanding husband enters the scene

b)    Memorable human characters: the mothers, wife and son, all based on cultural archetypes

c)     Engaging storytelling technique: in this case, the ‘fly on the wall’ observational lens

d)    Plot development: the story develops rapidly, from the mother-in-law’s comments about a changing generation, to the husband’s traditional expectations from his wife

Creating fresh brand stories with prosumers

So how can brands source inspiration for fresh stories and develop them into compelling campaigns within the short timeframe demanded by today’s frenetic marketing cycle? The answer lies in turning to their audiences for inspiration right from the start.

Prosumers, creative consumers who are digitally savvy and brand-focused, are the perfect partners for brands looking to develop immersive and compelling stories. Fabric softener brand Comfort turned to prosumers in China when faced with the task of creating a fresh and original campaign that would appeal to a new target audience for them - millennials.

The brand engaged prosumers to do two things: to unearth and develop stories that would resonate most effectively, and to identify the most appropriate channels to tell these stories. The community of prosumers came up with an assortment of ideas, from which the brand selected the most ownable ones to develop further into ads. This resulted in the campaign “Clothes Care Matters”, highlighting how glowing, well-kept and fragrant clothes can make you shine, thanks to Comfort. The digital ad campaign did well at pre-testing, so well in fact that it was re-crafted for TV. Prosumers also advised on how to take the campaign across the different media options, creating a digital ecosystem around the campaign. The integrated campaign created very high levels of engagement and resulted in a significant sales uplift.

What does this mean for marketers?

Stories are a powerful tool to make brands distinctive and memorable in a world overflowing with content. With brands constantly challenged for new and compelling story ideas, prosumers make ideal co-creation partners.

Their role is to help identify insightful ideas to inspire the creative process – the real-life stories rooted in daily moments that they identify with, being themselves consumers. Elevating brand narratives through co-creation is not just about designing one ad but about collating the many ideas that help create entire ecosystems anchored in powerful consumer life truths. Identifying and exploring these stories through the eyes of consumers is a valuable tool that brings to life the moments that matter, and leads to honest, captivating, and relevant campaigns.