We know that unique, interesting content is a powerful driver of traffic, catalysing social sharing with minimal effort. Most digitally successful businesses understand the commercial value relevant content can deliver.
Let’s look at a few examples of storytelling by Indian brands that stirred the desired emotions in their target audiences.
However, with the now-ubiquitous mediums built for sharing and creating conversations, the paradigm has changed. The way a story is told and how it spreads has undergone a transformation.
Take these two recent examples:
The insight that Indians relate strongly to family and parental bonding led to the creation of British Airway’s (BA’s) ‘Visit Mum’ campaign. The video showed BA surprising a mother in India by facilitating a visit by her US-based son. That simple story based on childhood and the emotion of a son meeting his mother after many years had a powerful impact. The video has nearly a million views on YouTube – views escalated at a rate of 10 per minute when it was launched – and went viral on social media with the #VisitMum hash tag.
Air Deccan’s ‘Old Man and the Sky’ ad captured a similar emotion, telling the story of a father taking his first flight ever after his son sends him a ticket. Roughly two and a half minutes long, it was a very long commercial for its time – it found mention in the ‘Limca Book of Records’ as the longest Indian commercial in 2007 – but it held viewers spellbound simply because it told a story India identified with then. Not surprisingly, it won several awards and is remembered even today.
More recently, two campaigns by evolved marketing machines stand out. Both capture the high-tension, yet joined-at-the-hip India-Pakistan relationship on a positive note. The Google ‘Reunion’ and Coca-Cola ‘Open Happiness’ campaigns went viral as soon as they were launched. Both brands capitalised on the relationships shared by Indians and Pakistanis, and what binds them together –sports, food, music –to showcase the bigger story of how they can now connect in real time.
It’s true, of course, that ultimately consumers don’t buy a story. They do, however, buy in to it.
They listen to a story and get influenced. What they buy is a truth, captured in that story,which directs their behaviour.
All the brands mentioned above had great stories to tell, which in turn impacted their businesses. Now, with social media, they can reach far larger numbers than they ever could.
Like Lifebuoy’s ‘Help a Child Reach Five’ campaign that was backed by startling facts about many Indian children dying before the age of five due to infections like diarrhea. Lifebuoy has reached out to 130 million people across the world to teach them healthy hand-washing habits. This is a perfect example of multi-channel storytelling through which Lifebuoy called us to action – by taking a pledge on its Facebook page – to ensure that every child escapes infection to reach the age of five.
There was a time when the winners in the marketing communications race were the brands with the deepest pockets. Social media shattered that reality. Today, as stakeholders are bombarded with messages, the ones that stay with them are those that tell a story they can relate to.
This is where public relations (PR) has the edge. PR professionals are, essentially, storytellers of the brand. Essentially custodians of the brand story, they are also the best drivers of conversations and practitioners of social media.
The question is, can the PR industry strike quickly to assume the marketing communications centre stage? The window of opportunity will not be open forever.
Ashraf Engineer is Vice-President – Content & Insights at MSLGROUP India. In his previous avatar, he was a journalist, working with leading media houses in India such as The Times of India and The Hindustan Times. At MSLGROUP India, he oversees all thought leadership content work, including executive reports, research and insights, blogs and authored articles. Follow him on Twitter: @AshrafEngineer
Aakriti Kaushik is Manager – Social Media and Digital Content Strategy, Police Mutual, UK. Follow her on Twitter: @aakritik