Narratives Hold the Promise of Key Message Delivery in Advertisements

Powerful narratives influence our brains

Remember Mark Anthony’s speech in Julius Caesar? Friends, Romans, Countrymen…His emotionally charged narrative turned the tables on his enemies and the crowd that had been unwilling to even let him speak, rushed to carry out his intent–even though he did not even voice it! Persuasion at its best.

Research has shown that our brains produce a chemical called oxytocin in response to real life stories and narratives reproduced on the screen. This explains the emotional response to calls for donation showing a malnourished child, for instance. For the chemical to induce action, the first requirement is attention. The emotions aroused while watching and listening can make one act.

Powerful change narratives can compel action

This awareness has prompted the airing of advertisements that use stories strategically to convey key messages that go beyond the limited purpose of selling a product. Some change narratives are a call to action–in a subtle or even clear unequivocal terms.

A campaign that comes to mind almost instantly is the Tata Tea Jaago Re campaign that has been hailed as “a champion of cause marketing.” The Tata tea advertisement Jaago Re is a wakeup call. “Jaago Re” literally means “Wake up!” but connotes an awakening–inspires the viewer with the thought of awakening consciousness, rather than the mere physical act of waking up from sleep. It is about the here and now–about making tough choices and walking paths that are not easy. In a series of advertisements that highlighted social issues and matters of general concern like taking the responsibility to vote, corruption, discrimination, etc., almost never voiced by advertisers of retail products [certainly not while selling their products!] Tata Global Beverages gave voice to the concerns of people at large. The campaign had set out to combine its products under one umbrella but the poignant messages touched a million hearts and did much more than that.

The latest one in the series [The alarm has not yet sounded] is about the symbolic ringing of an alarm that everyone waits for instead of taking heed, being alert, and rising up against the unacceptable in society. It tries to thaw the indifference of law-enforcement agents that wait for the worst before taking action. It is also about shaking the mute public out of its slumber of oblivion. Presented with satirical overtones using the powerful street-play medium, it urges the society to read the writing on the wall and warns against waiting too long before crime strikes: The alarm has not rung out yet. In other words, the message is: Do not wait for the alarm to be set off: Act now–before it is too late! Clearly this is a brand story that stands out with its focus on thought leadership and cause marketing.

What’s your story?

Every organization has its own unique story. There is also the key question: what drives it–keeps it alive and buoyant? Figuring out what makes your organization special and creating a narrative to share that, is key to a memorable campaign. If you are interested in finding your story, contact Stirista to get started. Stirista recently won a Silver DMA ECHO Award for helping Great Clips tell theirs, and we would love to apply some of those winning strategies to your business.

About the author

Jaba holds a PhD and a Masters in English. She heads Stirista’s India operations bringing experience to the young team at Bangalore. She took over as Director at Stirista Solutions Private Limited, Bangalore in 2016. Prior to this, she was a Professor of Management Communication at a premier Business School in India. A life lived in three continents across the world has helped Jaba feel at ease with most cultures. Having traveled through the US, parts of Africa, Europe and...


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