Brands

This Piece of Branded Content Made Me Fall in Love

By Shane Snow January 12th, 2015

“Show, don’t tell.”

It’s the most common piece of advice writers get, and it’s debated in every writer’s workshop. Hemingway loved it. Orson Scott Card called it tedious.

The idea is to paint a picture, to create a scene the reader can complete with her imagination, rather than explaining everything. “Henry felt angry” becomes “Henry exhaled sharply, face reddening and jaw clenching.” You know he’s angry without having to be told outright. (And I probably didn’t have to go ahead and tell you that.)

But while literature buffs argue about the merit of “Show, don’t tell” in prose—and I’m on the fence with them—I think everyone working in branded content should get the phrase tattooed.

That’s because when faced with the ongoing dilemma of “How much do we integrate our brand into the content?,” it’s much better to use the brand’s products to craft an amazing story than to talk about the products themselves.

Case in point—this video of a pig surfing:

This is a terrific piece of branded content by GoPro, the camera company. Another camera company might be tempted to talk about its great cameras and the awesome footage you can shoot with them—even showing some of that footage—but instead, GoPro eschewed the sales pitch and shared the story of a Hawaiian man and his adorable pet pig, Kama, who loves surfing.

The tale tugs at your heartstrings, and guess what? While no GoPros were advertised in the film, the film itself was made using GoPros. The product creates the story and scene without having to explain itself.

And I, a former surfer from Hawaii, bought a GoPro after watching it. That’s the truth.

It’s easy to see how a camera company can use its products to show instead of telling, to create compelling stories with its products. But this story would be just as great if it were brought to you by the surfboard company, whose product also plays an integral role. Regardless of medium and category, clever content marketers should have no excuse for “telling” their brand over “showing.”

What makes content marketing different (better) than just marketing is the former pulls you in—”shows”—through stories, while the latter pushes information into your face. This is what GoPro did with Kama, and the story made me fall in love with the product—after I’d seen and ignored “buy a GoPro” ads for for years.

Authors can argue about “Show, don’t tell” in fiction all they want. But in both love and marketing, I’d rather be attracted than verbally convinced. Elvis had it right:

“A little less conversation, a little more action.”

Image by GoPro
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