One day, a girl’s boss gave her a pink balloon. This was no ordinary balloon. It was a balloon that could stay up forever.
“Go and tell the world about our wonderful balloon,” he said. “We want everyone to buy one.”
So the girl took the balloon and set off. But the world is a big, noisy place. People are busy, and most didn’t notice the girl and her pink balloon. The ones that did couldn’t see that the balloon was special. She needed help.
First she called on Penelope Rogers, a charming woman who worked in pr and knew absolutely everyone. Penelope adored the pink balloon. “I know what we’ll do,” she trilled. “We’ll fill Buckingham Palace with pink balloons for the Queen’s birthday party and the whole world will see them and…”
“…#balloonselfies,” interrupted Sophie Mac, a friendly girl of few words and Penelope’s latest recruit.
“What you need is a responsive website backed up by some SEO and a PPC campaign,” said Dick and Dom the digital twins, emerging from a darkened room in the basement of Penelope’s office block. The girl bravely hung on as Dick and Dom extolled the virtues of HTML5 and CSS3.
None the wiser and needing some air, she was back on the street when she bumped into her boss’s old friend Derek Moseby. “Just BOGOF,” said Derek with customary directness.
Was BOGOF the right path to take? But then what about the Queen’s party and all of the other good ideas she’d been given? The girl was confused.
Deep in thought, she wandered out of the city and found herself on a winding, overgrown path. At the end of the path stood a beautiful old house. Its door was open.
“Come in,” called a voice, so she stepped inside.
“Are you lost?” said the Storyteller, whose house it was.
“In a manner of speaking,” the girl replied. She told the Storyteller about the pink balloon, and the challenge she had been given.
“I just don’t know which way to turn.”
The Storyteller smiled. “Let me tell you a story about a girl not so very different from you, called Scheherazade, and a Persian King.
“Many years ago, in a land far from here, lived a man whom experience had made mistrustful. King Shahryar believed all women were destined to be fickle and incapable of loyalty. To rid his kingdom of these vile creatures, the king took a new wife each night and every morning had her killed.
“In the Kingdom, there was a clever and brave young woman called Scheherazade.
“Scheherazade vowed that she would put a stop to the King’s wicked ways and offered herself to him as his bride. On her wedding night, Scheherazade told the King a story about a merchant and a genie. But she told her new husband that he would have to wait until the next evening to hear how it ended. So intrigued was the King that he postponed her execution and the next night she told him how the tale ended. But she didn’t stop there. She wove into the story another new tale that she refused to end – and again the King postponed her execution.
“The storytelling marathon went on for 1001 nights, during which time the King became so captivated by Scheherazade and her stories that he fell in love with her forever, and changed both his beliefs and his behaviour.
“Scheherazade was the first of our kind,” explained the Storyteller. “Her stories had everything from erotic love to romance, tragedies to comedies, poems to history. Each story ended with the King wanting more. If you want people to get to know and love your balloon, you must find its stories. You must tell them in many places and in many different ways. Penelope and Sophie can both help, as can Dick and Dom, and Derek too. If your stories are good, people will share them. If your balloon is as good as you say, soon everyone will want one.”
The girl smiled.
“But 1001 nights?”
“Don’t worry,” said the Storyteller. “It needn’t take that long. Let me tell you another story, from not so many years ago. More tea?”
There are 1001 definitions of what content marketing is.
Just about every marketing services company has one – with a particular angle depending on what discipline they excel at – digital, pr, direct marketing, advertising, social media.
All of these disciplines play a vital role in marketing brands and all to a certain degree generate content.
Does that make them content marketers? We don’t think so. Brands faced with multiple platforms to reach customers are committing to filling these channels with constantly updated content. Does that constitute a content marketing strategy? We don’t think so.
Yet this is the modus operandi for many companies and brands – whose definition and practice of content marketing is content generation combined with channel filling.
That’s one reason why it’s so often hard to see any brand message in the medium. It’s also the reason why so much content fails to engage the consumer.
At the fabl, we believe that what ultimately defines content marketing is the presence of a strategy and the skills of the storyteller.
That’s how we can tell a never-ending brand story without losing the customers’ interest or engagement across all touchpoints day after day. Get it right and your audience will start telling your story too. That’s how legends are born.
This article originally appeared in The Drum, 28th May 2014.