What Can Fairy Tales Teach Us About Being Better Marketers?

Want to be a better marketer? Become a better storyteller.

Christina Garnett
Jul 14 · 6 min read
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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Fairy tales aren’t just for children and older Disney fans. The modern-day marketer can learn quite a lot when it comes to these timeless stories and the attention they continue to receive. As more and more marketers shift their marketing message to social media channels, there is a lot of content, but not nearly enough stories.

“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.”

― Seth Godin

No matter what you do or how big your business is, you have a story to tell. As marketers, you get to be the crafter of that story, with social media as a living canvas for your words, images, and videos.

To get started, you need to determine the type of story you want to tell and the ingredients that are a part of that story. What will you include? What is important?

Keep it simple.

One essential thing about fairy tales is that the overall story is simple and easy for children to understand. By keeping your messaging simple, you can minimize confusion and also ensure that more people across demographics can engage with your content. No matter what type of business you have, it is crucial that you can explain your mission and value proposition simply. We don’t want your buzzwords.

Your audience needs a simple message that informs them about what you do and what you want them to do. To connect with you and your content, it needs to be easily digestible so they can get it and are comfortable sharing it with others.

The characters.

The protagonist: the brand.

Think about Disney Princesses, for example. They have clearly defined aesthetics (colors, talents, sidekicks, etc.). When reading a book or watching the movie version, you need to be able to recognize the character immediately. In books, you may see this with the use of colloquialisms that instantly help you separate certain characters. Creating on-brand content helps your audience recognize you and pay attention. With the amount of content on our feeds, having content that is easily definable as yours is one way your fans can find your content while scrolling.

Your content should feel/look like it’s yours. No. This doesn’t mean you need to put your logo on everything, but your colors, fonts, and brand voice should be consistent across your content. Your audience should be able to tell it’s you without seeing your logo or name.

The hero: the audience.

Your audience needs to feel empowered to take action to help you. You need them and appreciate them. They have the power to cheer you, share your content, become a herald (brand ambassador) or patronize you, and save you from dragons (COVID and other nasties). A great story makes the reader want to be a part. It’s why you see kids immediately acting out parts of the story. They want to be a part of it. Crafting content that creates an opportunity for them to be a part of your story creates a bond. They can grow attached and become loyal to your business.

Think about the movie The NeverEnding Story. The story is fantastic but goes to another level when Bastian realizes he is the one who can save that world. His ability to play a role within the book creates a unique perspective for the viewer as well. If he can interact with the story, will we be able to at some point?

The villain: threats to your brand

Brands are always under threat. There are bad reviews, economic downturns, cancel culture, and anything else the news can throw at you. When it comes to stories, you can tell a lot about a protagonist by how they battle their villains and win.

Brands can choose to ignore the villains, fight them head-on, fight them behind closed doors, or use it as an opportunity to offer transparency and have their audience heroes come to their aid.

One way brands can do this is by rallying their fans to help them. One small business rallied its community by being transparent about their circumstances. The result? The community stepped up and helped defeat the villain, saving the restaurant.

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Other characters: people want to see who is behind the brand, not just the CEO or owner.

Showcase the people that make your brand special. Your audience wants to see the people that make up the businesses they love. Just like a fairy tale, your brand is made up of charming, funny, and wonderful people that your customers and audience love. Celebrate them. This not only showcases that you value the people who work for you, but it also humanizes the brand. Your brand is more than a logo. Show the people who bring it to life.

Impactful moments.

The protagonist faces a challenge or obstacle.

It can be the result of a wrong decision, a curse, or someone else making life harder on the protagonist/brand, but in the end, it is how the protagonist faces this problem that guides them through their character arc and puts them closer to their happy ending.

The same is true for a brand. If you receive hate online, there’s a PR issue, or you have people complaining about a bad customer experience, how you as a brand handle this crisis will determine how others see you in the end and whether or not you get that happy ending. These obstacles humanize the protagonist and the brand. It’s easy to be a good marketer in the good times. Being at the helm of a crisis and learning how to navigate through the pitfalls will give you more experience than any marketing class ever could.

The moral or lesson: educate but entertain.

Fairy tales were a great way to share with children life lessons while entertaining them at the same time. Whether it’s to not talk to strangers, to be kind to others, or something else, there is always a nugget to keep them safe from the dangers of the real world. As marketers, we need to be able to do the same thing. The internet has put the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, but with that comes a barrage of info that we aren’t willing to (sadly) jump into it. Instead, we want to learn, but only if we don’t get bored at the same time. As a marketer, you need to do more than get my attention. You have to keep it.

And finally…

the ending: aspirational while feeling attainable.

It’s time for the end of the story. The villain is defeated. The protagonist is saved, and the hero is victorious. We have a happy ending.

For brands, this is when we get to the end of the buyer’s journey, they have our product or service, and they are happy. They are delighted. The happy ending isn’t just for the brand. It’s for the hero as well. Due to the hero “saving” the brand and becoming a customer, they get rewarded. They realize they made the right choice. They chose the right side.

The “they lived happily ever after” is powerful because it is aspirational. It’s what we all want, but in the eyes of a child, it feels possible. They believe they can have it. For your customer, you need them to believe that they will get it too, and you need to make sure you deliver that to them. When you provide exceptional customer experiences, they can’t get anywhere else; it becomes a key reason why your audience will return to you. It is aspirational but attainable.

Social media has enough content. Too much content, but not enough stories. Be a storyteller. Be a dream crafter… and then deliver. Until then, I’ll get you started… once upon a time, there was a…

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

Christina Garnett

Written by

Digital Marketing Strategist | Social Listening Analyst | Featured in The Startup, Better Marketing, and Digital Vault, and The Next Web | In The Trenches

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

Christina Garnett

Written by

Digital Marketing Strategist | Social Listening Analyst | Featured in The Startup, Better Marketing, and Digital Vault, and The Next Web | In The Trenches

The Startup

Medium's largest active publication, followed by +731K people. Follow to join our community.

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