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Guest Times: Cracking the successful story-telling code

Karan Kumar, Head, Brand and Marketing, fabindia, writes on some essential ingredients that can go into creating that magical recipe which delivers successful stories, irrespective of their medium of broadcast – be it on TV or newer digital platforms

Karan Kumar

I still remember the first day when I joined marketing. On that day, one of the first “peaks” I had set for myself to conquer was to make a television commercial. I was convinced that it was my first television commercial that would unequivocally announce my arrival in the brand marketer’s fraternity. Since then, several happened, some admittedly more spectacular and effective than others. The better ones delivered on their marketing objectives, steering several of my brands to positions of leadership in their respective segments and industries. The others, well, were more an exercise in brand message broadcast.

But what was it that made the better ones, well, better? Here is what I think. The better ones told stories – stories that actually communicated with people, stirring their emotions. Stories. Yes, that to me is the critical word that distinguished them. Equally, a word that is often spoken about in passing and almost in a tone that dismissively suggests “oh, we all know how to craft those”. Yet in reality, and unfortunately so, it is actually stories (their crafting and telling) which I see as the single biggest challenge most marketers face today – a challenge that sets them off to furiously pursue, albeit secretively, that magical recipe which they hope will help them get it right.

Make no mistake, the need to master this skill is direr today more than ever before. I say that because I strongly believe that today, more than ever in our past, our brands live in an “always-on” multi-media ecosystem, where they (and by extension, their marketers) are expected to be conversing with our audiences 24x7. And while lead media may have changed with digital taking the arm chair at the marketing table, the basic rules about creating stories that work, haven’t.

The purpose of this piece is to bring powerful story creation and its effective telling back at the centre-stage of all marketing conversations. It is an attempt to distil and present some of my key learnings on this subject, dipping into my experience of having worked with several CPG brands, from across diverse categories and targeting various audience groups. Some essential ingredients as it were that think must go into creating that magical recipe which delivers successful stories, irrespective of their medium of broadcast – be it on TV or for that matter, newer digital platforms that have been much in vogue.

  1. Successful stories spread happiness. Consumer choices are strongly driven by emotions and given that, brands must endeavour that their messaging drives positivity. Positive messaging spreads optimism and hope, reassuring consumers while setting up the mood for consumption. It is therefore important for brands to reiterate this emotion, if contextually applicable, in their every engagement with consumers across their pre, during and post purchase journey.


  1. Successful stories have a way to “move” you. All successful stories invariably trigger an emotion, maybe even an action. The choice of tonality of course, as mentioned above, is dependent on the context of core message that needs to be delivered. Happiness, sorrow, triumph or pain, irrespective of the overall tonality, a good story will make you live through these emotions. Stories must educate and build trust. They must be relevant and therefore stay with you in your subconscious mind, nudging you to remain interested and actively search more about them.


  1. Successful stories have a way of “surprising” you. They almost lead to an unexpected “aha” moment – making you exclaim and wonder how the brand knew what you were thinking! The secret to achieving this is that effective stories are almost always crafted around a discovered insight – something which while being very important, has been only gleaned from everything that has been left unsaid and unspoken about by the consumer. If the brand marketer manages to peal through the many layers of consumer’s sub-conscious mind and reach that insight, 10 out of 10 times stories built around them will prove to be extremely effective.


  1. Successful stories don’t “hard-sell”. Consumers love to buy, but they absolutely hate being sold to. That is quite simply because a sales pitch ends up playing into a very common consumer belief: both brands and their marketers are always trying to sell them what they actually don’t need, almost unscrupulously eyeing their hard-earned money. This perception hinders creation of trust, which is something that is extremely critical for eventual brand adoption. My advice on story-telling would be to introduce your brand’s belief system through stories that educate, told in a sincere and unpretentious tone, in simple language and with absolutely no over-claims. The days of hyperbole are over.


  1. Successful stories make you believe you are getting more than what you are paying for. Effective stories allow consumers to buy into a larger value, invested in a larger vision which is beyond the product that is being sold. In other words, and as an example, it is not about money being spent to acquire a silk carpet but rather that in the action of acquiring it, the consumer is actually buying into a traditional and timelessly exquisite Kashmiri craft form. The money being exchanged is therefore only as a form of token salutation towards the master-craftsman invaluable skill and knowledge of his craft and culture to which otherwise a price can actually not be assigned. That repositions the concept of product pricing and ownership.

Effective stories, therefore, are those that magically weave brand’s purpose and its role in the overall context of the consumer’s current social and life-stage. They must be allowed to permeate without actively invading the conscious mind. That essentially is the difference between stories and discourse, with the latter being perceived as invasive while being anchored in the brand’s own self-indulgence.

I do hope the above pointers help marketers young and old to craft more evocative and effective stories. While digital may be replacing the television as the lead platform of choice for brand communication thereby marking a change in “peaks” that need conquering, I do believe that the basic gear and preparation required to scale these peaks haven’t really changed! 

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of BestMediaInfo.com and we do not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)


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