By: Barlow Redfearn on 30-09-2014 in Content Strategy, SEO

By looking beyond the traditional television commercial and incorporating narrative elements into its latest campaign, RealEstate.com.au has proved that storytelling leads to better branded content.

Australia Lives Here

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.”
-Rudyard Kipling

Brand Storytelling

For 7 years we were deprived of his larger than life screen presence; and while the state of California undoubtedly benefited from his governorship, Hollywood lost its most endearing and charismatic action hero.

Since his unremarkable return to the silver screen as the elite mercenary, Trench Mauser in The Expendables franchise, Arnold Schwarzenegger has failed to capture even the slightest semblance of his former screen glory. That is however, with the exception of one small part; a part that few in the US (except for his most loyal fans) will ever see him play. I am of course referring to his leading role in the RealEstate.com.au ad series, Australia Lives Here.

Designed to reposition the online property site as a destination for more than just property listings, the Australia Lives Here campaign reaffirms the idea that storytelling leads to better content.

Five Reasons Why We Love “Australia Lives Here

1. It’s Transmedia

According to the BBC Academy, transmedia storytelling is all about thinking about how your audience can have various points of contact with your characters. This phenomenon is most often associated with major entertainment vehicles such as The Hunger Games, The Batman Saga or Harry Potter, but it can also be applied to branded stories such as the Australia Lives Here campaign.

With this campaign, RealEstate.com.au isn’t simply thinking about one platform of contact – in this case televison – it cleverly incorporates social media touchpoints into the promotional mix. As Eloise Keating from Smart Company states:

“Arnie is just one part of RealEstate.com.au’s ‘Australia Lives Here’ story – the main character is Dylan, an Aussie who went looking for fame in Hollywood and ended up working for The Terminator star – and the campaign incorporates all facets of social media as well as TV and online video commercials.”

2. It Understands the Psychology of Stories

Ever since homo sapiens first started telling stories with cave paintings more than 30,000 years ago (see below), our brains have been wired to respond to narrative. Stories activate the parts of our brain that respond to sensory experience, and stimulate our minds in an extraordinary way.

Chauvet Cave Art

When we hear factual information, all that’s activated in our brains is the part responsible for processing language – Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area. However, “what scientists have come to realize is that narratives activate many other parts of our brains” beyond the classical language areas, according to Annie Murphy Paul.

As we discussed in a recent article looking at the power of Neuromarketing the human brain is divided into three sections: the ‘new’ brain, the ‘middle’ brain and the ‘reptilian’ brain’. And it is the ‘middle brain’ – the unconscious region responsible for emotion and memory – that is stimulated by stories.

In fact, the power of good storytelling is so strong it can elicit the same unconscious responses as physically experiencing something directly. As Shane Jones describes:

“For example, if a delicious entrée makes a cameo in the story, your sensory cortex is activated, making you smell and taste the dish. If the story involves motion, your motor cortex responds. Your brain has the power to take stories and make you experience them as though they were real.”

3. It Uses Pathos

While Storytelling, as mentioned earlier, engages the senses and taps into our emotions, the ‘Australia Lives Here’ campaign packs an added emotional punch through its use of celebrity.

Ale Smidts, the Director of the Erasmus Centre for Neuroeconomics at the Rotterdam School of Management, is an expert in the underlying celebrity effects in advertising. Generally, Smidts’ research confirms that celebrity endorsement does in fact enhance recall, and in turn, brand recognition. However, more recent research out of the Erasmus Centre argues that it’s not enough to simply align any old celebrity with any old product; the perceived expertise of the celebrity must be factored into the equation.

Smidts believes that in order to be persuaded, consumers need to identify the
celebrity as having technical knowledge about the product, or as being an experienced user of it. For example, Michael Jordan is a persuasive pairing with Nike, as is Kate Moss with Rimmel Cosmetics; not only do we recognise Jordan and Moss, but we can easily be persuaded into thinking that they use these products, and that the endorsed products play a part in their meteoric success.

Kate Moss - Rimmel Nike - Michael Jordan

Another study by Vasily Klucharev, also from the Rotterdam School of Management, “supported this hypothesis by demonstrating that a single exposure to an expert celebrity with a product resulted in a long-lasting positive effect on memory and purchase intention, whereas exposure to a non-expert celebrity endorser did not. Examination of the brain mechanisms underlying this persuasive effect of expertise indicated that an expert context induced feelings of trust towards the product, leading to a deeper encoding of the product in memory.”

So what does Arnie have do with real estate? The answer, of course, is nothing. The success of his pairing with RealEstate.com.au is two fold. Firstly, its incongruous, and therefore, unexpected. Yet, the pairing is not only unexpected, Arnie’s character is unexpected, largely devoid of the cliches that have come come to define him over the course of both his acting and political careers.

Secondly, Arnie is a celebrity whose face triggers the retrieval of countless implicit memories, but most importantly, memories that are inherently positive. When you see these commercials you can’t help but positively recall Arnie as he used to be, in his glory days as the Terminator or Conan, and this is a positive association that is subsequently transferred to the product.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan Arnold Schwarzenegger Commando The Terminator Arnold Schwarzenegger Junior RealEstate.com.au - Australia Lives Here

4. It Conveys Purpose

Storytelling is one of the best marketing tools for communicating purpose, and convincing customers you are worth their time.

The story of Dylan’s quest to find Arnie his dream home, is successfully designed to introduce us to the different elements of the RealEstate.com.au site such as: suburb profiles, sold price information, investment data, and editorial content. As we follow their journey the eleven commercials progressively inform us of the site’s purpose.

This is the precise intention of the RealEstate.com.au campaign. Natalie Feehan, the site’s marketing strategy manager describes it as a brand repositioning campaign designed to shift the perception that RealEstate.com.au is just a “rational and functional listings site”. And it is the series narrative that allows them to do this so effectively.

5. It’s Memorable

As Rudyard Kipling’s quote implies: stories are memorable; cold, hard facts aren’t. This is a particularly salient point when applied to advertising, a communication medium that’s primary aim is to form brand memories in the unconscious mind of the consumer. As Scott Donaton states,

“The challenge is clear by now: Intrusive, interruptive, self-centered marketing no longer works the way it once did, and its effectiveness will only continue to diminish in the social age. The question is what will replace the legacy model. There’s a one-word answer: stories.”

Whether you love it or loathe it, the Australia Lives Here campaign is at the very least, memorable. It features defined characters, a clear narrative, and is in no way overtly ‘salesy’. And when you couple these three elements with the fact that its been released in a serialised format, it makes for a damn memorable ad series.

Conclusion

The Australia Lives Here campaign by RealEstate.com.au perfectly showcases the effectiveness of brand storytelling. In the case of this particular campaign, storytelling is the glue that keeps all the elements bound tightly together. The way in which it incorporates transmedia elements, the presence of Arnold Schwarzenegger (and his larger than life celebrity), and the articulation of the product’s purpose, are all able to be conveyed due to the presence of narrative.

Furthermore, the presence of narrative allows RealEstate.com.au to transcend the legacy model of intrusive one-way advertising, and makes the Australia Lives Here campaign a piece of brand storytelling that’s perfectly suited to the cross-media age.

What are some of your favourite examples of brand storytelling? We’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.