Storytelling in adverts: using memorable characters [part 1]

storytelling in adverts

Ever noticed how you remember tales from your childhood because the characters are memorable? Because of this, we usually don’t have to re-read the books before seeing the latest movie version of stories like Alice in Wonderland, Snow White and Narnia. Their characters were interesting and went through exciting adventures in some incredible fantasy lands.

When they went into that world, we went with them. We imagined what they saw, the fear or excitement they experienced and we felt better when they lived happily ever after.

So we remember and we ‘get’ the meaning of anything else after that when pieces of the story is used in other context, for example if we say that ‘the Manager was our fairy godmother, she brought us some miracle funding out of the blue’ or ‘Jane met her knight in shining armour’.

Memorable characters in advertising

Many of us also relate better to story characters who have something in common with us, for example their names, the things they are passionate about, or their appearance could remind us of someone we know.

When it comes to adverts and consumers, memorable characters (fictional, mascots or real) in adverts help a lot with making potential consumers remember the message. Just like with movies or reality shows, consumers relate to the characters in adverts and tend to remember the brand’s message the same way as we would remember the story from a movie.

We may also find it easier and less invasive if we’re allowed to connect with a character rather than with a faceless brand trying to sell us everyday items like washing detergent or cereal. We’d notice a breast cancer notice with Angelina Jolie but could very possibly ignore the text-only notice from the same advertiser because of it lacks creativity, it’s boring. We become immersed in whatever the character’s plight or dilemma may be, and then we sympathise with their problems, which are resolved by the product or service being advertised. Remember the Energizer Bunny?

Using characters as ambassadors to connect with consumers

Brands use characters in their adverts to connect with consumers in a humanised way. As viewers, some of us are bound to relate to the character, or know someone the character reminds us of. The brands they are representing are usually part of our lives, in our closets, the living room, the shed, the classroom, you name it. But even if we’re not looking for new information about the brand, their adverts peak our interest if they introduce an interesting character.

The characters are scripted to drive the story in the advert to help us link our needs and wants with the brand in question. They’re there to make us acknowledge that we, too, need this product and that if we follow the example set by the character, we’d succeed in achieving our goals.

Brands use characters to distract and grab attention of consumers

Life today versus life 10 years ago is much busier. Consumers are busy doing what they need to do to survive the economy, including achieve dreams, get paid, explore the world and save the animals and trees. At the same time, many marketers are trying to catch their attentions, each in their own way with different strategies.

With all this competition, it can be hard to get the attention of consumers. So much so that it’s looking like there’s at least one add for every single person in the family. We also see fast-food brands offering toys, games stores allowing the trading of old consoles, while airlines introduce more comfortable seats.

So designing an advert with a well-thought character creates a great attention-grabber to distract consumers from the everyday and the familiar, to make them become aware of the advert and therefore pay attention to the message. Check out the example in this advert from The Guardian.

Read part 2 here

Which character have you connected well with? Which adverts have influenced you most, from a marketer’s point-of-view? Tell us in the comments!

Image from The Guardian’s Cannes Lion Award-Winning “Three Little Pigs advert

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