Welcome to the Tuesday 2¢ . It’s Tuesday, the weekend is a distant memory and it’s time to let off some steam and give our 2 cents on a hot industry topic. This week Ian Truscott talks storytelling and its power to overthrow the nature of the product.
Consider the iconic Marlboro man . The rough, tough, all American with a squidgy pack of cigarettes tucked into his shirt pocket which you presume he can light with a flick of a match on his boot. An iconic image that tells a story.
A story so powerful that it has encouraged generations of smokers since its 1954 launch, despite later knowledge of the health risks. A story so powerful that it even took legislation to protect us (in the UK) from this guy’s dangerous allure. In this case, content marketing was so good that they had to actually ban it.
It’s different in Germany though. Many of my UK and international colleagues arrive at Munich airport and the first thing they comment on is the cigarette advertising, so rare it is to see these days.
The brand may not be Marlboro, but the billboard by gate H34 showing the dude with the messed-up hair, oil stains on his hands, and his apparent tuning up of a beaten up motorcycle, is the modern incarnate of the original Marlboro man.
It’s a common story - an industry wide consistency in telling and retelling the same story, over decades, that smoking is cool.
Of course, smoking isn’t cool.
But maybe the huddle of folks outside most offices, sometimes in the rain, have a common bond. In many organizations it is often joked that you learn more about what’s going on in a business by hanging out with the smokers for a few minutes a day than by sitting at your desk. But in reality, it’s not cool. And that’s of course before we even get to the wheezing, coughing, deathy part.
So despite legislation and changes in society’s view on health, the cool image of smoking embodied by the Marlboro man still lives, however faintly, in many smokers and non-smokers (if only smoking wasn’t so damn bad for us, I could be cool). And it’s not as if the only smokers left in the Western world are those who became addicted when they didn’t know any better, the force still tugs at new recruits.
Is there another story so powerful that it flies in the face of severe health risks and it needed government legislation to kill? Or has been so consistently told, that even people who are rarely exposed to it, still feel it?
OK, so maybe this article is doing a good job of highlighting the questionable ethics of brands when granted the great power of advertising, and that can also be applied to the amount of sugar we put in our bodies and the current obesity epidemic, but this shows that a strong brand story can simply overlook the damagingly addictive nature of a product. An addiction which presumably requires some justification for the addict, which inevitably helps to reinforce the story. Yeah, (cough, cough) I’m cool.
But I’m not suggesting that as marketers, we should step into the dark side, and I hope that everyone reading this has the opportunity to be ethical in their marketing, we have to use these powers for good.
However, it’s a simple example of effective content marketing, the expediential value of being aligned and consistent with a common, simple, and easy to understand narrative in order to leverage the power of storytelling. Is there a better example of the value of the story over the product? Let me know if you find one!
It’s a bloody good story.