"Successful marketers don't talk about features or benefits of products; instead, they tell a story that the consumer wants to believe," said Madhukar Sabnavis, country head, discovery and planning, Ogilvy & Mather India, at a workshop conducted by Ad Club Bombay.
Stories created around products, observed Sabnavis, increase their value. "For example, consider a regular 'jhumka', in comparison to the 'jhumka' which Sadhna dropped in Bareily's market, or the one once worn by queen Padmavati - which one would sell more? Of course - the last two. This is the value of products, increased by the stories crafted around them," he explained.
However, the most common things across all stories, he added, are that they have a protagonist. There's some obstacle which the protagonist has to overcome - there's a weightage or significance of the weightage, there's an escalation of the obstacle and a resolution.
In India, Sabnavis said, the resolution is mostly happy as compared to Western stories, where the ending can be a tragedy. He explained that one of the major differences between Indian and Western story telling is that in the West, stories are mostly linear, while in India, stories have multiple characters.
According to Sabnavis, there are seven basic plots of storytelling - overcoming the master, rags to riches, quest, voyage and return, comedy of errors, tragedy and rebirth.
There are nine commandments, Sabnavis added, to make a great marketing story. These are - it has to sound true; it has to make a promise; earn trust; be subtle; happen fast; appeal to logic and senses; rarely aimed at everyone; don't contradict; and agree with the world view.
He put forward the example of Blackberry, the smart phone brand and how it has changed its positioning depending upon the change in world view. "After establishing itself as a valuable business partner, it is now getting into the personal space," he explained.
He also cited the cases of brands such as IBM and Mills & Boons and explained how these changed over the years, depending on the change in their TG (target group). The brand James Bond, he said, is another example which has changed over time in terms of magnitude of stunts exhibited by Bond, his fallibility, gadgets used and especially the role of women.
Talking about Indian brands, he said that Indian story telling takes inspiration from the nine basic emotions of life, called navaras. He gave examples of ads such as Neo Sports, Clinic Plus, Harpic, IPL, (campaign against) Domestic Violence and Kinley, which fit one or the other of these emotions.
"Of the nine emotions, fear and anger remain untapped emotions in Indian advertising as we like happy endings. However, I feel that we should not shy away from negative emotions but use it in an effective manner, depending upon the needs of the brands," he concluded.
For the record, the workshop was the first in a series of events being planned by the Ad Cub Bombay, in collaboration with some of the topmost business schools.