The art of storytelling is as old as the hills, maybe older. A parable however is different. It aims to teach a lesson or make some point. It is in many ways an analogy. But uses contemporary, easily understood references and beliefs to make a point. All parables are stories, although all stories are not parables. A parable invariably works at changing a belief or behavior. It is usually moral in nature. The reason why it works so subtly, perhaps, is because it disguises the guilt associated with the behavior it is trying to modify by using an identifiable scapegoat! It’s not you! It’s the other person. You are a good person!
Now if you look at successful brands, the users all have a story to tell- and they are invariably parables. The brand has helped them become better at a skill, more efficient at work, or climbed up the promotion ladder. This is how it works: The problem, the search, the failures and finally the solution. Stories have plots, actors, subplots and happy endings. All testimonials are stories, but all testimonials are not real life stories. Do we really believe a famous actor uses a banyan or undergarment of a not so famous brand? But we all love a good story. Because as a race we are inherently curious as apes!
To be a parable, there has to be lesson to be learned. The tear jerker Google Pakistan TVC uses actors to tell a story but this one’s a parable. It’s not just a story. The brand is the hero as it helps bridge a gap. It has a moral to the story and Google is the facilitator.
Most TV ads have a sequence of events that is needed as a script. They do have story-lines, but they are not real brand stories. Some will demonstrate their brands ability to attract the opposite sex in herds! Its pure hyperbole. But the annoying thing is even hyperbole will work, if it’s a story that told well. And it does not make wild promises.
Dos Equis Beer creates a magnum opus form nothing. Do watch “The most interesting man in the world” series. Sheer wit, tongue in cheek and a character that is lovable. It does not promise that the brand can make you like the protagonist, but the associative brand use is enough. And now, the brand planners have decide to change the character to a younger person. Will the stories still work? Will we still want to believe?
Good brand stories are open ended (read extendable). The character is larger than life, someone whose life you can admire and would like to emulate. Or generic enough for you to replace. The characters usually have some quirk that sets them apart. The stories have coherence and leaves you with a clear single minded message, so you know what you are supposed to do. Good brand stories have a “repeatable” character about them. Sometimes a quirk that makes it recountable and so, easier to share on social media. Which is really the Big Mouth of stories!
So, if you are selling real estate, get your home owner to tell their story. But let there be a plot. How a couple “found” their perfect home through a series of misses and close shaves and finally how the brand came through for them. Your audience loves gossip and interesting details! So don’t leave out the juicy bits.
And please don’t forgot the little puppy in the story. What puppy? The one who ate up dad’s new running shoes. Awwww! So cute. Must share this one
The Author is Cedric Serpes, an Associate Professor at The Goa Institute of Management. Of late he has been confirming all rumours and denying all facts about himself. Does he have a pup called Shut Up?