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Time to move from pitching to storytelling

Our work involves listening to consumers and we hear more and more consumers talk this language. Maybe not in those words, but in that sense. Tirthankar Dash writes.

india Updated: Jun 12, 2011 20:25 IST

Don't chase me every minute and everywhere. I hate being followed around.

Don't plead in front of me. I am in no mood for charity these days.

Don't keep asking me what I want. Many a time, even I don't know what I want.

Don't try to satisfy me. You never can. I tend to move away from satisfaction very quickly.

We hear a tired consumer
Our work involves listening to consumers and we hear more and more consumers talk this language. Maybe not in those words, but in that sense. We find a sense of fatigue in their minds. Too many brands seeking to capture share of restricted consumer attention. Too many messages, benefit statements and potential payoffs to digest. Too many choices to make.

Too many brand pitches
The consumer mind space has not expanded to cope up with the ever-expanding amplitude of noise levels of the selling pitches. Certified by the best institute, created by five world experts, 32 antioxidants, 50% more attendance in school, three times whiter, 40% smarter… Welcome to the RTB era of marketing. Gloriously called 'Reason to Believe'. Endless pitches to convince you and make you believe. Unfortunately, the RTB paradigm works with the premise of consumer disbelief. Hence, the need to convince them with a strong pitch of reason and rationality.

From 'pitch' to 'story'
The time has come for brands to move from the business of 'pitching' RTBs to the craft of 'storytelling'. Stories are at the heart of each brand. Consumers, in some sense, see their brands as stories - some stories are leaps of fantasies, some are about rescue and hope, some are about fighting back, while some are about eternal love. All brands are, in essence, stories. Once marketers see themselves as storytellers, they will change the way they engage with consumers.

Everyone loves a good story. Stories are simple. Stories talk to people mythically, engaging them at a different level of imagination. Stories tell the message in a way people want to hear. A story simplifies complex things before they reach people's minds.

The Upanishads were too cryptic for the common man. The sages, realising this, contemplated: how can we take the message of the Upanishads to the masses? Thus came to life the Bhagwad Gita (a story which takes the message of Upanishad and blends it into a saga of victory, loss, betrayal, pretence, bravery and wisdom).

Most of the major religions in the world have avoided the route of pitching and have leveraged the power of storytelling. Brands should draw their inspiration from them.

Stories can build brands
Stories are told, not sold. People don't seek a 'reason to believe' when they hear a good story. Stories talk about people, their experiences, and journeys, and not 'about' things. People want to hear about their heroes and their deeds and not about the five things a brand has to offer with the percentage discount.

Stories are simple to understand. Hence people digest stories better than lectures. Stories build memories. And memories build great brands.

The writer is Senior VP, Quantum Consumer Solutions

First Published: Jun 12, 2011 20:21 IST