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January 19, 2010

Killer Campaigns Volume 3 – Tell A Memorable Story

A rabbi, a priest, and a minister walk into a bar. The bartender looks up from polishing a glass and says, “What is this… a joke?” Ba-Dum-Tsssh!

A good story has a lot in common with a good marketing presentation, and one of the best ways to deliver your marketing message is in the form of a story. It’s how you turn advertising into content, and content into a memorable experience. Web marketing presentations must engage, enlighten, entertain, and above all be memorable. If you leave out any of these elements your presentation will suffer.

The Dog Ate My Homework

We’re all familiar with the kid who goes to school without his homework and blames poor Fido for his trouble. It’s familiar to the point of being hackneyed, but let’s give Fido a break and blame something else, like maybe the young man’s computer. Who hasn’t lost some important work because they pressed the wrong function key, or maybe their laptop was infiltrated by HAL from “2001 A Space Odyssey,” or perhaps they just bought the wrong computer. That’s the story Apple tells in this very clever Switch Campaign commercial.

Apple Switch Campaign

Mac switch Ad – Apple Ellen Feis ‘the original’

Why The Technique Works

1. The Story

Using a story-style presentation provides a framework and structure for delivering a marketing message. All stories must have a beginning, middle, and end; in other words, they must take the viewer from one mental position to another. Marketing stories need to move your audience from curious to motivated. It’s a simple concept to grasp, but not so simple to execute.

One method of peaking an audience’s curiosity is to build your story around a relatable scenario or incident like the computer/dog ate my homework. It provides common ground between the seller and the buyer, and generating common ground is essential to all negotiations. And for online marketers, Web video presentations can be that first step in completing a successful sale’s negotiation.

2. The Storyteller

A story is only as good as the storyteller. It’s the storyteller’s character and style that engages an audience and connects to them on an emotional level, a level that brings believability and personality to the presentation.

There is a common misconception regarding the relationship between reality, acceptance, and motivation in advertising. It’s currently trendy to use client-generated content in advertising, and real employees as corporate spokespersons. Occasionally it does work but for the most part it is a mistake. Great advertising isn’t real, it’s hyper-real: hyperrealism is a communication approach that generates desire and motivates action by presenting a stylized version of reality through a more focused perspective that cannot be achieved by true reality. Reality is messy and confused; hyper-reality is concentrated and clear, and when it comes to marketing messages, concentrated and clear is the goal.

3. The Performance

A great concept, a well-written script, and superior production will still fail if the performance is lacking. The ability to communicate using verbal and non verbal performance skills in front of a camera is not something that should be left to amateurs – after all, it’s your identity and brand image that’s at stake.

The capacity to sell on a one-on-one basis, or even the ability to effectively deliver a speech in front of a live audience is not the same as performing for a camera. A video camera magnifies your appearance, your behavior, and any physical, verbal, or performance flaws you may have. But it’s not just a case of looking good, having a good voice, and getting through a script without stumbling over the words, it’s about leaving a memorable impression and that requires the unique ability to deliver a message with suitable personality and panache. On the Web, boring is as detrimental as incompetent.

4. Solve The Puzzle. Find The Gestalt.

Everyone has heard the expression “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” In the same way a pixel by itself is meaningless but viewed with a lot of other pixels it forms a picture. It’s a simplified version of the Gestalt philosophy that is the basis of a lot of creative thinking. The Gestalt approach stresses the human mind’s search for meaning in patterns. It’s a hardwired survival technique our ancestors needed to learn.

The human mind automatically wants to solve a puzzle, fill-in the blanks, or resolve a discrepancy. Those who couldn’t figure-out the sound in the bushes was something dangerous didn’t survive to procreate, and evolution did the rest. It’s something we needed to learn, and something that is ingrained in our psyche.

The Switch Ad never comes right out and says buy a MAC, the young lady just tells us a story and let’s us come to our own conclusion. By making the audience work at coming to their own conclusion rather than hitting them over the head with an obvious sales pitch, the message becomes much more powerful, and makes a much more memorable impression.

5. A Story With A Twist – Not In This Weather

The following Mercedes Benz commercial is structured very similarly to the joke in the opening paragraph of this article: it tells us a story with a clever twist.

It never verbally mentions the product and it allows the audience to put the puzzle pieces together without coming right out with a sales pitch. It’s clever, it’s smart, it’s sexy, and it has impact. In short, it too, is a Killer Campaign commercial.

Not in this weather! (Mercedes Benz Banned Commercial):

6. Where You End Is Where You Start

The next video illustrates how to combine a story scenario with a memorable tagline. The tagline is your brand destination: it’s the short form mnemonic that people use to remember your company. Finding the right tagline to end your video is the best place to start when developing a campaign.

In this case the campaign uses taboo language to punctuate the stories’ tagline. It’s funny, bold, and provides an unexpected shock. Like it or not, you’ll remember it.

Cause If It Ain’t Memorable, It Ain’t Content

The campaign of a few years ago was a hysterically funny series of videos all based on presenting bold, relatable stories, superior storytellers, topnotch performances, and a “can’t believe he actually said that!” tagline.

In addition, this campaign squarely comes to grips with the idea that you have to give something up in order to gain something in return. Some people will absolutely hate this series of videos, but those that get it, will forever have the brand image embedded in their minds. All too often marketing fails because companies try to appeal to everyone, and that is an unachievable objective. It is a blueprint bound to lead to boring, uninspired, and instantly forgettable advertising.

Television has rules and broadcasters are licensed, so advertisers inherently lean towards the bland and innocuous so as not to offend anyone. Instead they rely on repetition and sound compression (make it loud) techniques to the point of psychological torture. The Web is different, your audience is not a captive of primetime programming and can choose what to watch and when, and most importantly, they expect you to provide a memorable experience, or they’ll never come back.


WaySpa Forgot Video:

People are always willing to listen to an interesting, funny, or entertaining story, so if you have trouble getting potential customers to listen and remember what you have to say, then you should consider using the story technique as a way to get your message across. Wrapping your marketing message in a metaphorical story scenario is just one way a company can turn advertising in content and content into a memorable experience.

Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design and marketing firm that specializes in Web-video Marketing Campaigns and Video Websites. Visit,, and Contact at or telephone (905) 764-1246.