When the wife of Persian King Shahrayar cheats on him with a slave, the king decides not to trust women anymore. Although he marries every day, the bride is killed the next morning after the wedding night, so she doesn't come upon foolish thoughts.
Sheherazade, the beautiful daughter of the king's grand vizier looks at this for a while. Finally, she decides to offer herself to the king as a bride and he agrees. But on this wedding night, everything is different. That's when Sheherazade starts telling stories to her husband. She talks the whole night and the king listens intently. When the sun comes up and the executioner is already waiting in front of the door to bring the newlyweds to execution, Sheherazade stops her story just before the end. All the king's begging does no good. Only the next evening is she ready to share the outcome.
The following night she tells the end and, because the night is still long, she starts a new story. She leaves it unfinished at dawn. And so, Sheherazade captivates her husband for 1001 nights with her stories, during which time she gives birth to three children, impresses the king with her wisdom and finally convinces him of her loyalty.
Advertising like 1001 nights?
What Sheherazade did in 1001 Nights was achieved by brands in their best moments with their communication: enchantment through the power of story-telling. Some of these stories are still told today. The wobbly Elvis of Audi, the slap of Mercedes, the you're-not-even-complaining of the TUI belong to this. There was a time when they went to the movies extra early to avoid missing out on the commercials of Levis, P&S and others before the main feature. And sometimes ad-double pages in the papers told stories as exciting as the journalistic posts. And the readers liked to tell the stories.
Last week I was in the cinema, looked away from the main commercial time three times to peruse my usual newspaper reading. A disappointing experience: Aside from very, very few exceptions, what's called classic advertising has now forgotten how to tell stories. Stories that captivate, fascinate, enchant and thus inspire their target groups. Even in the former strongholds of storytellers, such as the car advertising, a severe lack of advertising is present. Instead, there's a lot of technical effort, a lot of noise, a lot of price and a lot of linguistic "corporate bullshit bingo". And at the end, nice-looking 30-second stills at best. Is that what customers and audiences should emotionally connect with the brand? And what makes the brand identity stand out?
Storytelling is in the genes. In effect.
I wonder why so few marketing departments and agencies take into account people's desire and joy in good stories and their desire to continue telling stories. And why so much money is spent on meaningless things. And in times when you hear at every turn, how important storytelling is, and which content can be told, posted and blogged again decides the success and failure of brand communication. Is not it then negligent to renounce storytelling? After all, as the old management and marketing guru Tom Peters (author of the classic "In Search of Excellence") states, storytelling is actually in our genes. And he concludes, "Story is more powerful than the brand, best story wins!"
That was true in the times of Sheherazade. That's true today. And that's especially true for the future. It's by no means the case that storytelling only works on digital platforms. On the contrary, classic advertising is not dead, but the way its channels are used today already is. Maybe it may help to just read the fairy tales from 1001 Nights.