4 storytelling trends that are revitalizing marketing

A shoemaker’s free footwear for poor kids. Movies about a Rust Belt town. And a George Clooney ‘wedding’ video. A Norwegian marketer talks trends.

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A blonde wakes up in a hotel bed—hung over, maybe?—and realizes she’s wearing a ring with a fat diamond on it.

What’s going on here!? She looks around at the mess—a man’s shoes, a room service cart, and … a wedding dress?

A man emerges from the bathroom. Her new husband: George Clooney.

The video for a Norwegian bank spins a fantasy yarn (if Clooney’s your cup of tea). Let’s be honest, the kicker is a stretch: “Some people are lucky in life. For others, it’s kind of smart to save.”

But the video sparked a major change for the company and its image across Norway, says Arnt Eriksen, chief innovation officer at DDB.

Skilled storytelling can do that. Here are some brand storytelling trends the Norwegian speaker, writer, and executive suggests you try out:

Attraction marketing

Assuming Clooney’s a guy you’d like to wake up to, the Norwegian bank woos its audience. Done right, a fresh approach like this can change a brand.

DNB bank (not to be confused with DDB, Eriksen’s agency) used to be a hated bank that wasn’t winning points for its customer service, Eriksen says. But the Clooney ad marked a change, as the bank began using social media as well. It now has a social media team of 70 people on day and night to deal with customer complaints.

“At the moment, they are the most valued bank in Norway, and the most engaged brand,” Eriksen says.

Good for DNB. But let us not forget those discriminating Norwegians who, rather than swooning, produced parody videos.

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Movement marketing

Can a brand start a movement? Forget it, right? You’re in it for the money.

Well, that’s not how the admirable (if apostrophe-challenged) Toms shoes sees it. During a trip to Argentina, the founder saw impoverished kids whose families couldn’t afford shoes, Eriksen says. Some had fabricated footwear of cardboard and tape.

He decided to start a movement. As Eriksen explains it, “Whenever somebody buys a pair of Tom shoes, he actually gives a pair of shoes to a kid that needs them.”

The founder is urging the rest of the world to go without shoes for a day to experience what the world’s poor do.

All right, you may say. Shoes then. But can other brands launch such a crusade?

Sure. American Express started its Shop Small movement in 2009 in response to the recession. It urged people to support the business owners who “put everything into their work, their name on the door, and their heart into their community.”

AmEx even lobbied Congress to declare a nationwide Small Business Saturday in November.

Engagement marketing

In this scenario, two organizations cooperate and, in doing so, boost each other’s brand.

Levi Straus & Co. partnered with struggling Rust Belt town of Braddock, Penn., providing donations to preserve the first Carnegie library in the U.S. and create an urban garden.

According to Eriksen, Levi said, “OK, So what’s Levi all about? We have to get back to the original roots of the brand. And the brand started out as work clothes 100 years ago.”

The company photographed and videotaped working people in Levis, even creating a long film that was shown on the Sundance Channel. The campaign drew stories in media such as The New York Times and NPR.

Content marketing

Content marketing, of course, seeks to draw customers or fans by curating stories, photographs, videos, and other digital information.

Pepsi Pulse offers trending pop culture news such as “The five biggest things in a comedy right now” and (stop the presses) word that inexplicably famous youngster Justin Bieber “gets new ‘mom-friendly’ tattoo.” (No word yet on any Clooney tattoos.)

“By building the platform, they actually aggregate and share a lot of content that makes people come to their site and engage the brand and their site,” Eriksen says.

Is pop culture too shallow for the likes of you? How about daredevil feats? Red Bull sponsored Austrian crazy man Felix Baumgartner, who parachuted from a balloon at 127,852 feet.

Plus, Nestle barged in on the act by launching a Kit Kat into space “in solidarity” with Felix Baumgartner.

Eriksen offers a formula for storytelling: 1rE2 zag.


One: Have one message.

R: Be relevant.

E2: Be engaging and emotional.

And zag?

“When everyone zigs,” says Eriksen, “zag.”



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