Herculean Power of Narration
Outlook Money|September 2021
Chronicles, stories are an imperative part of our existence. They make us cognizant about our past, present and help us pave our road ahead. And finance or investment is very much a part of it. There you need to combine data with the story and look beyond the sales spiel
LARISSA FERNAND

Before the early 1900s, almost no one in the United States was accustomed to the practice of brushing their teeth. It took the genius of American businessman and advertising guru Claude Hopkins to change the landscape.

Hopkins boosted the sales of Schlitz beer by advertising that the company cleaned their bottles “with live steam” (every other company did the same). Coaxed millions of women into purchasing Palmolive soap (Cleopatra’s way to complexion beauty).

Goodyear tyres had 10 per cent more air capacity because they were not ‘rim-cut.’ To make it more comprehensible to the customers, Hopkins reframed the ad campaign to ‘no rim-cut tires’. He emphasised great results for the consumer, rather than the manufacturing process of the producer or the technical details of the product.

When approached by a friend with a new creation toothpaste named “Pepsodent”, Hopkins advertised it as a creator of beauty. After all, who doesn’t want a prettier smile?

This is not an advertising column, so I shall refrain from getting into the technicalities of the ad campaigns, and the astounding success of each. What I will emphasise is how a narrative can have a herculean impact on human behaviour.

People have been telling stories for thousands of years in various formats; information travelling through generations.

Cave paintings depicting dramatic scenes were probably accompanied by oral storytelling. Folk tales were shared around the fire. Reading Aesops Fables as children. Watching Harry Potter as a teenager and graduating to Netflix dramas as an adult.

Stories make us aware of other cultures, races, art, architecture that reside in lands far away from our knowledge. They teach us empathy. They are concerned with moral decision making. They present us with social dilemmas to intellectually wrestle with. They give us hope and meaning in a world full of uncertainty. They help us make sense of the chaos.

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