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How to Win the Story Wars in the Digitoral Era

Blog| Our Take on It.

Remember the fairy tales and stories of characters living in a fantasyland that you read as a child? Remember reading the ancient myths of Zeus, Aphrodite and Odysseus that were assigned for homework? You probably remember at least one or two of them. Why? Because they taught you a lesson, opened your eyes to a new world, allowed you to explore another side of yourself that you may not have been aware of prior to reading that story.

According to Jonah Sachs, author of the newly released Winning the Story Wars, these stories are brought to life everyday through marketing, where brand messaging has continued to embrace the oral tradition of storytelling. The same storytelling themes that have been used for centuries continue to be used by the best brands, the brands that find a home in the audience’s mind, the brands that win the story wars.

Jonah Sachs articulately and powerfully explains how those brands have become the brands that win. In what he terms the “Digitoral Era,” a time where our society has moved into a space where Facebook updates, text messages, emails and tweets consume our daily lives. There is a cluster of messages that are thrown at us from all angles while we go about our day. This new digital culture has, maybe without meaning to, opened the door to a re-birth of the oral tradition.

The Digitoral Era has obliged marketers to embrace the world of social media and use it as a tool to share their brand’s story with audiences. A Facebook status can be shared and commented on. A company’s tweet can be retweeted or replied to, a blog post can turn into a conversation of comments. A brand’s message and ideas can now be owned and modified by anyone who comes across it. This is the new oral tradition that the Digitoral Era has created.

Winning the Story Wars cover

In a world where everything is moving into the digital space, people are beginning to wonder how these stories will stay alive. How will mythology and the stories that were passed around for generations upon generations continue to live in our society? What has happened to the oral tradition?

This is where the timeless storytelling themes come in. Marketers must learn to integrate the themes that have worked for centuries into their brand’s story. Because those are the brands that will remain in their audience’s mind and those are the brands that will gain attention through the clutter of mass-messaging.

So why should we believe Sachs? How do we know that his theory has truth to it? Besides the fact that Harvard Business Review has published it and put their brand behind it? Take a quick look at one of the brands he references, one that has risen above its competition.

Brand: Old Spice

Campaign: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

Story Theme: Desire for Validation

Why it Worked: Sure, Old Spice’s target audience is men, but what woman doesn’t want their man to smell good? Old Spice leveraged this concept using a catchy line and a comical commercial. After only 24 hours of it’s posting, the video was shared with almost 6 million people. Old Spice used social media to make the campaign come to life, even having the actor from the commercial answer customer questions in video segments. The audience was moved by this story and took ownership of it, hundreds of spoofs have been created based on it, celebrities tweeted about it to their fans, and Old Spice truly earned its 107% rise in sales within the first month of the campaign. Today the commercial boasts almost 43 million hits on YouTube and was YouTube’s most popular online commercial message in 2010.

Just as the story of Odysseus tells us he spent 10 years traveling back to his homeland to reclaim his position and validate himself as king, Old Spice used The Man Your Man Could Smell Like to intrigue women and to evoke the desire for validation in their men.

According to Sachs, it is now the marketers time to become the present day mythmakers. It is the marketers who will tell their brand’s story, share it across all digital platforms, and invoke a renewed oral tradition amongst their audience through social media tools.

The Digitoral Era brings about a fresh set of rules for these new mythmakers. Not only is the competition as ferocious as ever before and your audience has a shorter attention span, but now your brand’s story also has multiple storytellers. Your audience will be hearing your brand’s story from your followers on Twitter, your fans on Facebook, those who subscribe to your blog, and those who create a conversation of comments on their experience with your brand—the new oral tradition.

So, what underlying theme resonates in your brand’s story? What is the classic theme that your audience will be able to connect with and understand on their own personal level? Think about your audience’s needs and desires, and as Sachs eloquently puts it, “introduce yourself as a catalyst for helping them meet those needs, and a story instantly begins to unfold…”

Amanda Jennison

Amanda helps give Bates Creative its voice. She executes our marketing strategy, and we’re continually breaking new ground. You could say her job includes show and tell. Among other things, she stays up-to-date with content marketing and social media trends. She also works with the design team to share our insights about pending shifts in design and marketing in an interesting and compelling way.