A seminar by chief executive Daniel Zeff and Asia vice-president Amy Lavalette examined what brands can learn from popular children’s tales. Indeed, Zeff presented his young son as being similar to a typical consumer, in that he was impatient, surrounded by enticing new things and loves stories by default.
The pair drew parallels between advertising initiatives and a number of celebrated books that included The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and The Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Among the ads they said exhibited good storytelling characteristics were a McDonald’s spot featuring a pregnant woman craving pickles, Volvo’s ‘Epic Split’ and an initiative by Dove in Japan that asked people to compose haikus about a product after using it.
Their key lessons ran as follows:
- Great bedtime stories have simple structures, with an element of surprise.
- Familiarity breeds contentment. Familiarity is in fact “a huge tool in a marketer’s arsenal” when it comes to telling stories, according to Zeff.
- Stories are the best way to convey truths.
- Bedtime stories are ahead of us in innovating how to convey information in an entertaining way.
- There can be many levels to a single story, depending on who experiences it.
- You can’t just invite people in. Your story has to be “irresistible” or “suck them in”.
- Elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary can have, well, extraordinary benefits if done well.
- Finally, good stories get re-told.
Campaign’s observation: We found some of the links between the stories and ads a bit tenuous. However, the principles make sense. Simplicity is as essential for brand stories as it is for bedtime stories—yet that doesn’t mean the stories can’t also have depth.