Gadre Marine Export, producers and exporters of packaged seafood, were keen to build brands. The company was eager to push its crabsticks and crab claws across the country along with regular seafood.

Crab sticks are processed seafood shaped to resemble the leg meat of a crab.

“They realised a huge opportunity existed in the market, and there was no competition. The company is the largest exporter of crab sticks,” says Jignesh Maniar, Founder of Onads Communication, an advertising agency.

“The product fascinated me though I am a vegetarian. I realised there is a great opportunity to tell a story here given that it is almost like an out-of-box invention,” says Maniar.

Though popular the world over, most Indians don’t know much about crab sticks. So began the journey in 2015, to popularise them in India. After the seafood producer signed Michelin star chef Vikas Khanna to endorse the brand, it kicked off its advertising campaign ‘What The Fish’. The tagline ‘We have made fish taste like crab’ brought forth an innovative story in the brand’s history.

More and more brands are becoming content creators, for “if you don’t have a story, your brand is just another commodity,” says Maniar.

By creating content and not ads, brands are hoping they can reach consumers and build stronger relationships with them.

Gifted storytellers are taking the cue.

“Your story is the foundation of your brand and a strategy for future growth,” insists Prasoon Joshi, CEO, McCann World Group India and Chairman, McCann (Asia Pacific) at a recent session in Mumbai. Joshi says he uses storytelling to humanise brands. As people tend to “consume brands, images, colours and ideas” and not products, the ad man insists he has been churning out story after story and creating a world around the brand.

“Marketers need to package emotions, package life experiences. They need to highlight relationships, the human connect, which sells,” adds Joshi.

Mobile company OnePlus decided to use this strategy with its short film titled ‘The Perfect Partner for a #HappyDiwali’ for its Diwali Dash campaign. With brands going berserk during Diwali, “it was imperative we push ourselves to serve some explosive stuff and break through the clutter,” says Rajesh Narasimhan, Senior Creative Director, Dentsu Digital India, which worked on the campaign.

“People tend to respond to emotions, to storytelling. Marketers need to use their personal experiences, if necessary, to bring out the stories in our world and tell them with passion,” says Anuraag Khandelwal, Executive Creative Director and Creative Head, Soho Square.

Khandelwal has been on crutches since childhood. Public spaces such as temples, beaches, cinemas and railway stations were mostly out of bounds. Thus was born an idea for tile company H&R Johnson, of making public spaces more accessible to those for whom even small joys can take a great struggle.

The first phase of the Red Ramp Project was kicked off at Kiri Beach in Goa, where a ramp using the firm’s Endura Tiles was built to help the differently abled access the beach and “feel the waves gushing at their feet”. The initiative helped hundreds of such people visit a beach for the first time in their lives, says Khandelwal.

With three million views on social media, it sparked a conversation, and paved the way for more ramps to be built in various other public spaces.

“Consumers are emotional beings. And emotional beings are swayed by emotional factors when making purchases,” says Khandelwal, adding that marketing content imbued with emotions can forge deep connections, which in turn makes it harder for consumers to forget a message.

“For brands to really connect with the audience and gain their trust and loyalty, it is important to keep things simple,” says Prasad Shejale, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Logicserve Digital. “Avoid a one-size-fits-all strategy and connect with them on an emotional level to make the marketing activities more relevant and effective,” he adds.

Airline major Emirates used this effectively in its advertisement with Hollywood star Jennifer Aniston, where she is seen relaxing in a First Class cabin. Through a cute story line she follows a little boy back to his seats with his family, deciding to sit beside him and swap seats with an ecstatic mom. The ad touches a chord, and takes the opportunity to show off the aircraft’s interiors. It is using stories with its new $15-million campaign to promote Emirates’ network.

The campaign features the iconic soundtrack ‘Don’t stop me now’ by British rock band Queen, which a scientific study found to be the most uplifting or ‘feel-good’ tune on the UK charts in the past 50 years. The commercial moves between key destinations and Emirates’ flight facilities, creating ‘a picture within a picture’ effect.

Similarly, Mahindra Lifespaces, the real estate and infrastructure developmentarm of the Mahindra Group, decided to unfold a story of sustainability with its ‘Green Army’ initiative. An outreach programme, it was launched in 2014, and is currently in its fourth edition, engaging with about 20,000 students across 100 schools in Mumbai and Pune.

“Research showed that it takes 18 days to form a habit. We decided on an 18-day challenge that would involve our audience, inspiring them to take simple steps in their day-to-day lives that would collectively have a significant impact on the environment, both in the immediate future and in the long term,” says Amyn Ghadiali, Group Director - Brand Communications, Gozoop, a digital agency.

Each day, the brand posted a new challenge, which the audience would need to take up. The tasks were simple: ‘Climb your way to a green India. Tell us how many stairs you climbed today; Zero waste makes way for a 100 per cent better tomorrow. Share your zero waste hacks using #IAmGreenArmy.’

The launch video received over one lakh views across platforms, with total impressions exceeding a whopping 42 million. Total engagement across Facebook and Twitter was over 2.6 lakh, and over some 18 days, the page received around 4,753 comments.

“The outcome reinforced how digital as a medium can truly enable change by bridging the gap between a brand and its audience to create meaningful dialogue,” notes Ghadiali.

Also read: Bring the brand back