The Art of Storytelling: What We Can Learn from P&G

Story book

The most engaging Facebook pages are those that tell a story. Some do it with images, others use words to tell little known facts about who they are, what they are doing, and why. Sometimes the story is implied, like in Visa’s Global Cheer campaign, sometimes they are more literal, like in P&G’s Raising an Olympian.

Yes, Procter & Gamble are the masters of the craft, engaging audiences not with empty messages, but with true stories about their consumers.

P&G’s latest Raising an Olympian campaign for London 2012 Olympic Games, features stories of Olympic athletes and their mothers – short documentaries featuring real people in real life. Few people know just what it takes for athletes to come so far – we can only imagine. But what is it like for their parents, for their mothers? No other brand ever considered to bring these stories to life, not like this. You’d expect such stories to come from established documentary channels, from Eurosport, ESPN, CNN, and BBC. But from a global brand? And yet, here they are, Procter&Gamble’s most successful advertising campaign to date, because instead of featuring products, it features people.

Did you know that gymnastics gold winner Gabrielle Douglas lives miles away from her mom, with a “host” family? Her story, a short 5 minute documentary, introducing athlete’s mom Natalie Hawkins and host mom Missy Parton:

If you see P&G, proud sponsor of moms, on Facebook, you’ll notice that every day brings a new story, and that each story is focused on people, rather than P&G products and brands. This time, the people are Olympic stars and their mothers, but their life stories apply to millions around the world.

Ondina Lopez, mom of Olympic athlete Diana Lopez, draws from facing her fear of snakes to advise her kids to face their own fears:

Gao Xiu Yu, mom of Olympic athlete Lin Dan, let her son go when he was only 9. He couldn’t achieve so much greatness from the little village he called home, and yet, he couldn’t do it without her constant encouragement and support:

The stories go on and on, reflecting not only great athletes, but great company values for P&G. But it tool the age of social media to inspire brands to change the way they reach out to customers. Before, when only television was around, commercials were served “in your face” presenting the product and what it does. We cannot call P&G’s Raising an Olympian commercials, and yet, this is what they are. Commercials in the social media age, when consumers are no longer influenced by hard sales pitches.

Brands have to change the way they communicate with consumers, and stories are a part of this natural evolution. Can they be told, as effectively, without video and images? No. Not because words are not captivating, but because, to get social media consumers to read the words, you first need to capture their attention with something more impactful. A beautiful picture will make them linger longer, a captivating video will make them stay till the end.

There’s a lot to learn from P&G’s skilled storytelling campaign: unique stories, which reveal so many little known personal details about athletes, are not boring. They captivate and engage. Viewers become more than spectators: they become brand ambassadors, sharing the stories with other people, talking about what they learned. Each story ends with a catchy “P&G, proud sponsor of moms.” Those who watch the videos may not talk about P&G to their friends, but which product will they choose next at the department store? Most likely, a P&G product, because deep down, at a subliminal level, P&G managed to make consumers believe that the company holds high core values, that P&G cares about people, about moms.

And now, the million dollars question: how would you use P&G’s approach to marketing in your campaigns?

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