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Storytelling Marketing; Effective and Sentimental PR

The ‘Story Era’ is in full swing. Stories are being used in many ways, such as in the use of face-to-face communication. In addition, they are being used in marketing, for advertisements, sales, and promotions. As storytelling is becoming more wide-spread and stronger, storytelling marketing is becoming more popular. This is a good way to catch people’s attention because they see the stories in merchandise and in advertisements. These days, stories play a pivotal role as marketing tools.

Storytelling is a compound word comprised of ‘story’ and ‘telling.’ This word means convincingly communicating a funny and interesting story to others. Thus, storytelling marketing shows a product with a story which many people are interested in. As the merchandise is shown to us with story, storytelling marketing works because it can communicate more easily and sentimentally.

When did storytelling marketing originate? This form of marketing was used in a water advertisement in France. In 1826, ‘Evian,’ the first bottled water brand in the world, was born. This water brand gained popularity by using storytelling. The story goes that there was a legend in the Evian province. In 1790, a noble stayed in Evian because of his bad health. In this place, he only drank spring water for three months. Surprisingly, he became healthy. After this, many people started to sell the spring water. As a result, this water was commercialized as Evian in 1826. Nowadays, Evian has a 60 percent worldwide market share.

Why has storytelling marketing become so popular these days? According to Chun Seung-woo, associate professor of Marketing in Dongguk Business School, he said that there are three main reasons. First of all, digital storytelling has developed. Digital storytelling is storytelling that uses digital media, such as User Created Contents (UCC), smart phones, and can be shared though online communities. In the past, most advertisers generally used text media, such as newspapers, magazines, and booklets. This method was boring and did not catch people’s attention effectively. Nowadays, however, advertisers can choose the proper digital medium, and combine a variety of culture codes to meet consumer demand everywhere. They can create an effective and interesting way of promoting through digital mediums. On YouTube, for example, most advertisers insert their product’s advertisement in any video. This advertisement is shown to viewers as a short clip, so it is not boring but can stimulate viewers’ curiosity. If the advertisement’s main theme is connected to the video’s main subject, the advertising impact can be maximized.

Secondly, advertisers started to recognize that TV commercials can create issues. TV commercials could be a gripping medium for people. There are lots of TV commercial aimed at teenagers. As teenagers are sensitive by nature, they can feel sympathetic when watching commercials that show love, friends, and parents. In addition, many housekeepers may want to buy a refrigerator after seeing commercials that depict, “Because I am a woman, I am happy.” These examples show that TV commercials can tell the story to the viewers. Advertisers can attempt to emphasize the meaning of a product, not necessarily by showing the product’s external features. They can pursue an issue and a hot topic through real and funny story arcs. A Ferragamo shoes commercial serves as another good example. Ferragamo is an Italian high-end brand and this brand’s shoes have become very popular due to a specific TV commercial. In the American film ‘The Seven Year Itch’, Marilyn Monroe, the heroine of the movie, shows her long dress being blown up because of the subway grates. In this scene, the Ferragamo shoes she wore really highlight her attractive legs. Ferragamo used this anecdote as a point in their commercial. Thereafter, the shoes gained popularity.
Thirdly, because of the economic recession, people tend to look for more sentimental brands. Ordinary consumers want to buy cheap and high-quality merchandise, but they also want to buy intimate and narrative merchandise. They hope to communicate with brands, such things as “Why do I buy it?” Advertisers can give an audience the answer to this question. They can show the product’s story and give a reason why consumers should buy that product. Of course, the recession has made many people close their wallets, so sellers and advertisers must try to promote differently from others to gain a competitive edge in the market place.

Storytelling marketing has a particularly strong point. Chun added, “The most important characteristic of storytelling marketing is its symbolic value. Take for example, a motorcycle made by Harley Davidson. Why is this motorcycle so popular? It symbolizes manhood, charisma, and enterprising spirit. If Evian had not had any story or history behind it, and had been advertised as just another water bottle from the Alps, what would have happened? Evian would have had no competitiveness and symbolic value. The iPad and iPhone also become popular because this merchandise also had a story behind them: the life of Steve Jobs. Jobs spread his story and style so people associated the products with the story.”

Examples of storytelling marketing can be divided into two types. One is marketing that contains a brand’s history; the other is sentimental marketing through TV commercials. Through a brand’s story, consumers can feel symbolic value and pride. ‘Chanel’, a French luxury brand, is a good example. Gabrielle Chanel, who created Chanel was so poor that she worked as a dressmaker in the afternoon and a singer in a cafe at night. She made clothes for women’s rights. People think that makers of high-end brands have enjoyed a luxurious life, but this was not her case. This story of Chanel is a driving force that has helped it to survive as a top brand. ‘3M’, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, is also connected to storytelling marketing. Post-It was invented from an engineer’s mistake. He made an adhesive of low-quality, but, his friend used the adhesive on a paper and this became what we know as Post-It in the present market. This background story was inserted in commercials, so it gained more popularity. According to Fortune, 3M is one of the global 500 enterprises that have made storytelling a working principle.

Advertisers look at consumers’ feelings and emotions. In the TV commercial for Choco Pies, a popular snack in Korea, funny phrases appear: “If you do not say, I do not know.” and “Speak what we could not say because of affection.” In the past, “Although you do not say, I know your feeling.” is a catchphrase of Choco Pie. One university student says, “Recently, Choco Pie commercials are fresh and make me feel sympathetic. There are many people who cannot speak their mind actively. This commercial understands a contemporary man’s mind.” Bacchus, a popular pick-me-up beverage in Korea, uses heroism in their TV commercial for storytelling marketing. In this commercial, a salary man, a homeless man and a soldier are envious of each other’s lives. All of these people are tired, so the commercial suggests we should be satisfied with our lives and take encouragement from this. Kwak Tae-eun, a manager of the Communication Team at Dong A Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. said, “We thought an ‘emotional’ commercial would make people happy so we sought to use warm and humane storytelling.”

Everyone loves a good story and this is exactly what storytelling marketing is taking advantage of.  Advertisers focus on the story of the merchandise, and consumers want to buy these products because they now feel they have an intimate connection with them on an emotional level.

Kim Kang-su  wellmade01@dongguk.edu

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