Disruptive Storytelling in Marketing

Disruption in terms of marketing is a powerful tool, but dangerous to wield. Everything is a question of delicacy and equilibrium between rupture and gratuitous provocation. This is also the case for disruptive storytelling. It means a break in conventions and the usual codes in the manner of telling a story. Here we analyze two cases of disruptive storytelling, one that has known great success and another that remains rather more unknown. But before we get into that, a brief reminder about what disruptive storytelling/marketing is actually about:

Three steps are necessary--

1) Find an area where ads get bogged down or brands have trouble differentiating themselves.

2) List all the related conventions and codes in this particular field.

3) Find an idea for your product which goes out of the way of conventions, breaks the codes. One made of paradoxical thinking.

For example: L’Oréal makes an ad for shampoo and puts forward a veiled woman who hides her hair but who explains that it’s very important for her. There goes an idea of disruptive storytelling. But be careful, this kind of storytelling often brings controversy. It’s a powerful tool, but it’s dangerous.

Analysis of two examples:


A legendary clip that needs no introduction.

Here we have the complete opposite of the virile, sporty, handsome, muscular men that we are always shown in ads for “men’s drinks.” We have a gang of truly boring guys who are lying around in their armchairs while watching a football game. Everyone has done this at one point in their lives. Everyone is obviously going to identify with these guys. It’s banality instead of heroism. It’s a total rupture, but it doesn’t stop there.

Then comes the storytelling element: Wazaaaa.

The whole gang repeats this thunderous refrain: What’s up?! It’s hilarious; it’s comedy. After 5 or 6 well felt Wazaaas, the conclusion falls. The guys calm down again and like the beginning they return to being slumped in their armchair “watching a game, having a Bud.” Then falls the last word which is often the last word of the story: TRUE.

A simple word, a conclusion as terrible as it is true and which is, of course, associated with Budweiser’s logo.

This ad recounts quite simply a true story, some average guys with common looks who are bored but real. They are just bros. Their life is not funny, but it doesn’t matter because they are together and having a good time, a snub to the difficulties of life. TRUE! They live a conflict and they overcome it together. A beautiful story. Worldwide success.

Now let’s look at another example.

2. Stuart Weitzman & Gigi Hadid

Stuart Weitzman, a famous shoe brand, chose Gigi Hadid, one of the world’s top models, to advertise their shoes… We are shown Gigi, very beautiful, perfect, who climbs into the ring to face a series of guys, each beefier than the next. Of course she boxes, or rather she dances, in some fancy evening dress shoes by the famous brand and knocks everyone out. All her adversaries are being coached by an ugly woman who evokes cheesy vulgarity.

The problem:

We might believe that seeing a top model in high heels and boxing is a rupture. But it is absolutely not. All the codes for luxury products are respected. The woman is beautiful, the guys are attractive, the shoes don’t have a spot or a scratch on them, the fight is totally stylized and nobody believes this parody for a second.

Finally, there is no conflict. In the ad “Wazaaa,” at the beginning, one feels rather bad for those guys who appear as a kind of losers. Here, nothing at all. The character does not suffer, does not progress, does not conquer an obstacle. The fights are easy for Gigi; she even seems to be amused by them. Therefore, little sympathy for her. We are not with her, we are not engaged in her fight, worse we know from the beginning how it’s going to end. The shoe brand therefore does not benefit from any emotional return.

See the difference? TRUE.

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