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Start with Sharpie: A story about telling stories

Category : Commercial Codes in English

Stories, stories, stories… That is the advertising trend of 2012. We can read almost everywhere essays about the importance of storytelling and how to do it.

Stories are all around us: on ads, presentations, digital platforms… But what exactly is storytelling and how can we write it; where should we begin?

The ad of Sharpie that we’ll look at this week seems to shed a light to all these questions.

“We don’t sell a nail; we sell a hole where you can hang the pictures of your loved ones.”

I believe a teacher of mine said this sentence while I was studying Advertising, I don’t remember who said it originally. But its message is as clear today as it was that day. It underlines the very essence of advertising and marketing communication: we do not sell the product but the benefit. I think the essence of writing good stories also lays in defining what you sell very clearly.

Man is actually a simple creature; its desires are very evident. Though the products and services become increasingly diverse and sophisticated, the essence stays the same.

We all have fundamental motives: to love, be loved, belong, be strong, be liked, be safe, be protected, be sheltered, find our identity etc.

Actually these fundamental motives are the last stop where all our stories reach, thereby where all the product and services answer. When we buy bleach, we actually buy inner peace, instead of “hygiene”, our car represents our status and charisma, we buy our mobile phone in order to emphasize our identity and character, maybe to show our belonging to a certain group etc.

If you want to build good brand stories you have to find the most basic motive your product answers. In other words, catching insights that go beyond the benefit of the product should be the primary objective of marketing and communication professionals.

Our example, Sharpie starts working with this apprehension. Though there are many other ‘direct’ ways of making a pen commercial, Sharpie has caught the fundamental motivation that the product answer very good, by deep investigation. They defined this motivation as ‘achieving one’s dreams’. In other words, Sharpie pens positions itself on the famous Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs Pyramid on top, namely ‘self actualization’.

After making this evaluation and determining the fundamental motive, there comes the theme of your story. But the secret of writing a good story lies in details…

First issue is depth: The remoter the point you start from the end point, the better is the dramatic effect and depth of the described challenge. This way you can deliver your message to your audience’s not only cognitive mind, but also deep enough to influence their emotional intelligence and leave an imprint.

That’s exactly the case in Sharpie example. The ad isn’t based on the realization of dreams of a young American boy. The reason for that is, American or Western youth, whose motto is already achieving their dreams, wouldn’t provide an impressive enough challenge for our story.

It can also be said that in that case what Sharpie was saying would be like the writing on the water. But our young man is from Malaysia, which has far more big issues even like survival and where chasing your dreams is rather a luxurious act. So his story, his process of self-realization offers a more deep and influential (inspiring) story.

Second issue is sincerity and credibility: Yes, the efforts you make should worth the outcome but you shouldn’t expect to change the world with a single ad. Beside the right depth, right dramatic dosage it is also very important for sincere penetration of the story.

For example, Sharpie ad tells us the story of our hero’s drawings on paper cups. But they do not tell that our hero earns a living through this act. On the contrary, he does this in order to feel happy and even if it has a financial contribution, it isn’t important enough to mention in the ad.

The reason for that is, if he was portrayed as earning his life by selling these paper cups, the audience will give reactions like, “C’mon, are you kidding me?”

No one would believe the rubbish that the guy can earn a living by making drawings on paper cups with a pen, no one can see himself in such a story and no one takes life that lightly.

Furthermore, if the ad was shot that way, Sharpie pens would have embarked a way below its head mission and made an over-promise. And that would make their ad too much “commercial” an a lot less credible. So another important point in building up the story is to have the right aim and proportions.

Third issue is continuity and right amount of ambiguity: The ad does not finish the story; our hero starts his world tour with his pens and paper cups.

So it gives space to its audience for developing the story further and dream about what’s to come. It doesn’t matter if the consumer would actually dream about it or not, the important point is that the ad leaves space for it. That leads the story to stay alive. And that makes the ad, something beyond an ad; makes it a human story.

In short, the trick to build up a good story is not only to know your product or service, but also know human beings. And I guess it starts with knowing our own story. So we should read our fundamental motives in life and the experiences we get along the way right. And then, you have a story worth telling in your hands.

Oto Aygaz: It is always about performance. But how?

Category : Commercial Codes in English

Hello folks.

This week’s example from my hometown, Turkey…

Before we start, here some background information. Turkey has the most expensive oil prices in the World. Therefore LPG (Liquid Petrol Gas) converted automobiles are a valid and widespread alternative.

However when it comes to LPG converted vehicles, performance is always a question. Thus LPG converted cars mainly considered for commercial use, namely for taxies. That’s because the clear economical advantage of LPG cars always surpass performance disadvantage when it comes to commercial use.

However in personal use, the competitive set and imagery is completely different.
While LPG converted cars image is relatively poor and obviously less status oriented compare to regular gas based alternatives, its performance issues also another big barrier. So how you tackle all these barriers into a single TV copy?

This week’s example, Oto Aygaz deals with that question.

Slogan: “Extra perfomance, in extra cold!”

Fuel and tires are low involvement products. This is a well-known global fact. It also means very low attention span and possibly low engagement value when it comes to advertising and specifically TV copies.

Throughout the years advertisers has been relying on performance shots, extreme angles and other cues such as music etc. to deal with that phenomena.

However this solution had a one big side effect which is losing insight and hence losing of relevance.

When a fuel of tire copy relies on extreme shots and driving skills to demonstrate performance it also means that most of the time you are relying on “wide angle shots” as well. This means your copy will no longer have any differentiation from the whole automotive world and 90% of the automobile copies. This fact also valid from brand personality perspective too…

In that cases you probably end up with having a nice corporate film or trade show demonstration film rather than consumer oriented TV commercial. It is an expensive way of impressing competitors and definitely waste of money.

I am not denying the importance of performance shots and driving skills to deliver performance perception. All I am saying it is not enough to differentiate and build your brand. You also need an insight platform to build your brand on top of it and make your product relevant.

OtoAygaz TVC seems it found a way to deliver all of these issues in a single copy.

It is also good example to underline the difference between “literal” and “lateral” thinking.

So your client brief is simple to “deliver performance in winter”. But how? When you take this literally you most probably end up with shitty creative work.

But if you think about on performance “laterally” and laddering it up, you will probably see its equivalent in your local culture and in your specific target audience. In Turkey case it is the notion and idiom of “getting carried away \ gaza gelmek”. When you have a good vehicle under your command you eventually get carried away and want to demonstrate your performance and driving skills as a sign of your competence and maybe masculinity. Ok. Now we found relevant angle on performance in target audience’s life.

But it is not enough how we are going to bring it into our ordinary consumer’s everyday life in a relevant and aspiring way? After all he is not a Michael Schumacher. ..

This is where you dig your target audience demographics and psychographics deeper.

You should have already seen from the data that he is a father. The question is what kind of father does he want to be? A passive and boring father or a friendly and cool father…Off course the answer is second one. So as a cool father he probably wants to be a friendly figure. This means being a “bigger boy” but still being a boy, a gang leader, a friend.

And boys, like the men do also want to demonstrate performance and test their limits. In their world, this phenomenon called as “being naughty”. And other fact is boys always be the boys even if they become a father.

“Naughtiness” is your common denominator between fathers and sons. It is the attitudinal equivalent of performance. Now you have a common framework.

All you have to do is inserting winter in it. So what is better than a snowball fight deliver all those :)

Now you have a single TVC which portrays a cool father figure and performance of your product in everyday life and especially in winter conditions at the same time. In other words, personality is there, key message delivery is there, engagement and branding is also there.

In short with one stone you shot all the birds. It is also another proof of demos is still the best ways to deliver your message in “product” communication and a good perspective and eye opener in terms of demos in advertising.

So well done to those contributed :)

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