Why every brand needs a story which is more than just attractively packaged advertising.
Advertising was yesterday, at least according to marketing guru and master story teller Markus Gull at the recent Pro Carton PROPAK Austria Marketing Event. The future is story sharing: the focus is no longer on the product, but rather it is all about relationships and relevance to the individual.
“I spent thirty years working in advertising, but I stopped doing that for a number of very good reasons“, said Markus Gull which immediately grabbed the attention of the audience.
Amongst his many projects, Gull created the brand look for Hofer (Aldi in Austria) and was also involved in a vast number of packaging designs, including the “Origin” brand. “And we simply got it all wrong“, he said provocatively: ”For example, we went for green milk packaging, although everyone at the time knew that milk packaging had to be blue in this market”. His comments on the importance of packaging: “I would hate to be a pack. Packaging has an awful job, it is spread throughout the supermarket and is often the only product promotion, after all you cannot advertise for every single product.”
“In days gone by, advertising was easy, it was simply a request to buy. But today everything is different. Today we have a triple crisis: first there is the management crisis: there is too little entrepreneurial thinking and too much management. Secondly, we have a political crisis: that is more than apparent and the logical consequence is the third crisis, the marketing crisis: marketing as we have practised it for decades, no longer works.”
“The world has changed entirely since 6 August 1991, when Tim Berners-Lee introduced the first online website. We live in a Global Village, in the Capital of Everywhere. The world has become a village, but our village is also the world. Complete chaos. Power has moved to the consumer. In earlier days, advertising simply said: buy me! Today you need a lot more. The consumer must have the intuitive feeling that something is “made for me”. That is what packaging has to deliver.“
Everything revolves around attention: “How do we attract, maintain and reward attention?” Because brands have codes, like heroes in a film, for example, Chuck Norris, Sherlock Holmes or James Bond: With a few simple lines one could draw a logo and everyone would know what is meant. That is what a brand is! The resulting insight was to develop hero branding, making heroes out of brands. But that proved to be a mistake.
TV-ratings are decreasing permanently: for example, in the USA, NBC used to have some 75 million viewers on prime time Thursdays, this was 20 years ago by the way, and today we have 32 million viewers for NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox combined. Print media is also on a downward trend and Facebook ads are ineffective. Worldwide, some 570 billion dollars are spent on placing advertising messages. But Google has proven that 56.1 per cent of the Internet ads are not even viewed. And the promotion ads on Youtube tend to be rather unpopular.
“So, something is not working properly here. People do not do what we want them to do. And they are in a position of power thanks to the Internet: we are no longer just consumers, we are human beings! Today, people communicate 24/7. Markets have become discussions and they are much faster and far more clever than before.”
The focus is no longer on products, it is all about relationships and significance. And this cannot be achieved with “Push“. In addition there is a facts crisis: facts do not work anymore in the markets.
“Facts are rational, they are conveyed inductively and deductively, in the way we were taught to learn. However, we always decide emotionally and subconsciously, and that without us even being aware of this. Intuition combines emotion and experience: and considerable experience at that! The intention of packaging must therefore be: Who can use me? Then the consumer knows at first glance: that is what I want.”
What needs to be done?
“Create a story! The story is the truth of the brand, it is emotional and seductive, makes sense and matches the intellect. We are always concerned with stories, we cannot stop telling ourselves stories! But it is not about story telling, it is about story sharing!“
We do nothing else but look for answers to the ultimate question: “Who am I?“ This search instills our life with a purpose. It was Mark Twain who once said ”The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” This makes sense and we respond with values.
“Our consciousness is a story machine, the values are the building blocks and the story is the tool. And this is how we find out “what is made for me”. What gives me individuality? What is relevant for me? Brands can only give orientation if the story is relevant. Sounds very simple, but is not that easy to implement.”
There is only one story which interests every person. And that is one’s own story. Everybody would buy the book “All about me”. John Steinbeck said it perfectly: “If a story is not about the listener, then he will not listen.” Therefore, a brand story must never be about the brand!
“Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said: “If you want to build a ship, then don’t round up people to collect wood, distribute tasks and assign the work, but teach them about the longing of the sheer endless ocean”. Now THAT is a story, as it does not talk about the ship or the ocean, it talks about freedom! That is a longing we share.“
“We need a radical change in perspectives, away from brands which are heroes, to brands which make heroes! The packaging has to tell the full story. Then communication changes to conversation – when we convey the story, values and significance to the world. Let’s stop the advertising talk, let us find our story and share it. Then this story is shared by others as people start talking about themselves. And then we can gain the most valuable thing our audience can give us: time. Does this apply to all companies? No, only to the successful ones. But one thing applies to all of them: No Story. No Glory!“