How Google, Bumble & Covergirl are Telling Stories vs Selling Products
Digital marketing opens the door for brands and companies to reach the widest possible mass of people. However, the challenge is to engage those people amongst the wide clutter of messaging.
People consume media based on their lived experiences, and therefore getting your target audience to identify with your advertising is key to making a significant connection. Storytelling and narrative are extremely effective in grasping an audience’s attention and help in portraying a unique and authentic voice to build brand awareness.
The many faces who are watching
The challenge of getting someone to read the full text on a billboard at a bus stop in London is just as hard as getting someone to watch a full advert that interrupts their YouTube video. The average media consumer will try to avoid advertising at all costs; if there was a “no circulars” option for your phone, I’m sure most people would take it. So the key is to bring them in and tell them a story. Advertisers can connect a brand or product with a narrative and create a new piece of media to be consumed rather than observed or tolerated.
Shifting the task from A) placing a product in front of someone and trying to sell it to them, to B) creating content that is entertaining, captivating and unique, will help the consumer to relate to the product benefits as well as increasing their affinity to the brand. The stories being told need to have purpose for them to be successful; therefore, incorporating the stories of under-represented and minority groups provides advertisers with the opportunity to break the mould and create more meaningful content.
CoverGirl’s 2016 marketing campaign with YouTube influencer James Charles was a groundbreaking move by a major makeup brand to break the mould of what is widely considered a “female product,” and broaden their appeal to a male audience. Charles was the first gay male ambassador for the brand, and subsequent campaigns such as #lashequality have combined LGBTQ+ social movements with brand advertising to shift the focus from selling a product to empowering people by telling their story. The virality of this inclusive marketing has been enormous, with the ‘So Lashy! BlastPRO mascara’ commercial alone gaining over 7 million unique views on YouTube.
Another example of groundbreaking material from a brand is Google’s “The Picture Perfect Life” commercial which tackled the challenging subject of mental illness. The campaign, which features the voice of renowned U.S. rapper Logic, shows real pictures of users from Google’s Pixel service who are seemingly happy. However, it is later revealed that some are experiencing mental distress. This emotive piece shows how a company can make a real effort to connect with their users by facing the tough reality of what their service may not be showing, and display empathy by bringing a challenging issue such as mental illness to light.
Proof that the storytelling approach to their product feature resonates deeply with the audience can be found in one of the top user comments: “I really respect google for this 👏 i was already a huge fan of google and it’s products.”
Empathetic and inclusive marketing isn’t limited to video commercials; there is an entire digital world that can be utilised to deliver a meaningful message and tell someone’s story.
Social networking and dating app “Bumble” released a campaign that showcased the profiles of 112 real users of the app, together with their stories. A video as part of the campaign showed app users of varying ethnicities, genders, occupations and orientations talking about their life experiences and people who they had met on the app.
The campaign stretched across platforms including Instagram, featuring the profiles of those users who appeared in the viral video. Bumble’s VP of International Marketing commented on the campaign saying: “We want to celebrate our users more than we want to celebrate our brand. We could have easily done a campaign that shows 25 celebrities and how they use it. It’s not realistic and it doesn’t work for us as a business.”
This example of empathetic and inclusive marketing doesn’t try to glorify a product’s appeal but instead tells the stories of existing users that will resonate with people and broaden the brand’s appeal. Selling a product comes secondary to telling a story, but will result in heightened awareness and consideration.
Think creatively, not commercially
With the goal in mind to turn people onto advertising rather than off, and create new media to be consumed rather than an advert to be observed, digital marketing can continue to become an exciting realm where creatives and people from all walks of life can come together to create content that is unique and meaningful. A story can connect much more effectively with an audience, and digital marketing can lead the way with empathetic and inclusive storytelling to progress the effect that advertising can have on society.