Markus Gull

Are you still pushing or already pulling?

In 1864, the world's first advertising agency went into operation. As a media agency, so the legend goes, which supplied the creation - at that time naturally limited to the design of advertisements - and received the famous agency commission as a reward. Then, at the latest, it was officially established what advertising wants: to push an irresistible offer in front of as many people as possible. Welcome to the Advertising Age.

This push thinking has not changed until today. Even though we have long since recognised that we have to target precisely for the sake of efficiency in order to avoid wastage, the syphilis of the advertising planner. Welcome to the Adverstalking Age.

Yesterday, for the first time, I was pushed interrupt advertising in a video on Facebook. It was for a product I didn't know, at least made for the Asian market. It looks like someone needs to work on their stalking skills a bit.

Storytelling as a key business skill

Speaking of skills. There is a global consensus that storytelling is one of the most important business skills of our time and probably always has been. Just think of Jesus (of Nazareth), for example, who had storytelling successfully in his skillset.

Storytelling now makes it into every relevant strategy, storytelling appears at every conference. There are fewer empty seats than at Helene Fischer concerts. I am sometimes invited to conferences as a storytelling keynoter, where I need some imagination to see the connection. Maybe I'm just sometimes mistaken for Helene Fischer.

Storytelling derives its buzzword suitability from another buzzword, namely content marketing. Because even in those companies that don't admit it, they have now understood that advertising as we know it no longer works the way we would like it to. People no longer do what we want them to do. Welcome to the Beyond Advertising Age.

Content marketing? Yes please!

Content marketing is the right way to go, and it's not all that new. After all, the Bible is still the best-selling book in the world. Sorry, Harry Potter.

If content marketing mercilessly focuses on the benefit of the audience and is developed from the brand core, from the brand story and thus nourishes the brand value, then this is not only a particularly effective method of connecting a brand with its audience, but also a particularly respectful, i.e. intelligent one. It is precisely in these details that the devil sits, ready to attack.

Is noise enough to attract attention?

The vast majority of examples that are celebrated via mega-reach, views, click rates and similar parameters and are often apostrophised as cool actions or awesome shit are limited to exactly one thing: attention. They thus create awareness - usually with some money underneath - for the known, live from the spectacle and, through widespread dissemination, awaken the deceptive hope of the effect that is expected of them. Many of these undoubtedly well-made campaigns - increasingly presented as films on the internet - are so far removed from the brand story that the brand claim cannot or could not even be added because there is simply no connection.

Behind this is the greed for mass distribution, the illusion of actually being able to produce a so-called viral, a video that people share like crazy and thus ensure the sales success of products for free. That's not content marketing, it's surreptitious advertising at best, but in reality it's a shot in the oven. In other words, nothing but the noise before the defeat, as Sun Tsu, Chinese general and storyteller, already stated in 500 BC.

Push is dead. Long live Pull.

If nothing changes in the thinking from 1864, i.e. if we continue to think that it would be a success if we push our stuff in front of as many people as possible, things will get dark. The special effect of storytelling and content marketing lies in the direct opposite of push, in pull.

If we inspire our audience with things that bring value in their lives, then we don't have to pursue it desperately, people will come to us. The prerequisite for this is that every brand understands and activates three simple principles:

  1. Which core value do I address in a sustainable way, i.e.: which longing of people do I share?
  2. How can I satisfy and nourish this longing in equal measure?
  3. What can I stimulate, distribute or initiate that is so important to people that they continue to distribute it because it tells them more about themselves than about me?

The very best - and successful! - example of how to do something like this is the #likeagirl by Always , which I praise again and again. Be sure to check out this project.

The principles are simple, but their implementation is not. The basic prerequisite is a change in attitude in the company itself and not just a lot of young people with Snapchat accounts in the marketing department. This starts with the company management and includes all departments, especially of course marketing, sales, service and first and foremost human resources - keyword employer branding.

You can't do epic shit with basic people.

And then you need communication professionals on the implementation side. Fortunately, there are more than enough people who have the much-vaunted good ideas. There is also no shortage of technological wonder weapons. What is needed are people with the right ideas who then use technology in a way that makes sense and not as a weapon of mass disruption.

What is hard to find, however, are people who actually master storytelling and do not systematically confuse real storytelling with exciting actions and well-told jokes. As in many other fields, many feel called, but few are chosen. Because as the saying goes, "You can't do epic shit with basic people."

People become human through stories.

Stories and storytelling are what make us human. This ability has transformed us from Neanderthals into Homo Narrans, ultimately doing no less than ensuring the continuation of our species. Behind this have been archaic principles since time immemorial, which have long been researched and are ready for application. The best thing for any company is if this understanding is developed and anchored in-house, because only if you can do that will annoying push turn into magnetic pull.

And even if storytelling is now driven through every village as an annoying buzzword, the following applies to every company, young or old: "No Story. No Glory."

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