Good Stories Win

There are probably few internet users left who have not run across Old
Spice’s campaign from early 2010, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,”
featuring the shirtless football-player-gone-Hollywood Isaiah
Mustafah.  The ads, whose run correlated a doubling of Old Spice sales
in just six months, succeeded in turning the brand from an uncreative
Father’s Day gift to a product synonymous with sex appeal and
satisfying humor.

Sure, the actor is good looking, and quasi-famous.  But plenty of
star-powered and ads throughout history did not come near the success
of Old Spice’s campaign, which launched during the Superbowl of 2010
and by the next morning had touched off 250,000 YouTube views.  In the
ads, Mustafah was not merely a model but a storyteller. His attitude
said, “You could be like me if you want to, and I’ll tell you the
story of that ideal man.”

Old Spice built a powerful brand through storytelling and character
development.  One of the most popular features of this campaign
included Mustafah himself recording snarky video answers to viewer
questions posted on Facebook and Twitter.  He established a character
and storyline, and extended it over time, racking up more sales for
the brand as he built a community of viewers.

This campaign represents a good example of brand integration.  When
done correctly, the process of brand integration weaves branding into
entertainment so deftly that the spectator feels a pleasant sense of
harmony.  It elicits identification with the brand through the
vicarious experience or catharsis that we feel when a good story
resonates.  Consumers connect these pleasant, powerful emotions with
the brand, developing a strong personal link to it.  Once
expertly-done brand integration reaches a broad audience of consumers,
sales climb – at times rapidly.

The creative powerhouse behind “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” was
Weiden + Kennedy, also known for Nike’s “Write The Future.”  Other
creatives gunning for brand integration include Mark Burnett, producer
of Survivor, The Apprentice, and The Voice.  As Burnett told Digital
Entertainment Examiner earlier this month: “Story, story,
story…..And whether it’s going to be on any kind of screen that’s
invented, you need to focus on your quality and through-line of
storytelling.” Burnett is a pioneer of Video In My Back Yard (VIMBY),
a method of bringing branding and entertainment to video screens in
heavily-trafficked local areas in cities throughout the country.
Burnett is currently working with brands like McDonalds and Wal-Mart.
Rounding out his credits is the creation of a new platform for Cliffs
Notes:  cartoon versions of literature, such as Romeo and Juliet,
useful to kids hoping to ace their English essays.  Now there’s
storytelling in advertising!

You might wonder what the differences are between brand integration
and product placement.  In the latter technique, brands are placed
quite obviously in the hands of television and movie stars.  For
example, in 1999 Jennifer Aniston drank out of an enormous wax paper
cup emblazoned with the Pepsi logo in Office Space, and in 2010 Gossip
Girl characters used iPads to video chat.   In these instances, brands
may get a boost from association with stars in glamorous settings.
However, the products are only peripheral parts of the story, and
their prominence within a camera shot may inspire cynicism in the
viewer rather than identification, as spectators remember that their
favorite entertainment has been “sold out” to corporations.

Brand integration, on the other hand, builds stories in which the
brand is the essence of the story – it becomes integrated with the
entertainment.  In our hunger for good stories, we tend to forgive the
corporate nature of the piece so as to appreciate the thrilling
emotions inspired by the stories.  When we experience a good story, we
feel enlivened by possibilities.  Brands that succeed in integrating
can propel their audiences to buy products in their quest to fulfill
these possibilities – like buying Old Spice for your man.  Because who
knows?  He might start to look better without a shirt, tell funnier
jokes, and build your dream kitchen.

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