How to find the Va Va Voom needed for digital storytelling

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I was at a trade show recently, and met the man who created the iconic Thierry Henry ‘Va Va Voom’ campaign for Renault in the early noughties. And honestly, when he said this, my physical reaction was like I’d just met a celebrity. I was excited to be in front of the brain responsible for creating that story.

I knew those words. I associated them with being at school and all the feelings of that time capsule instantly came to my mind with those three short words. I was never much of a football fan (I think he played for Arsenal at that time, right?), nor was I bothered about cars. And yet the story of that advert has outlived its time as a brand awareness campaign for Renault and become part of my childhood. It has become part of my story.

A 30-second advert doesn’t give much time or space for storytelling or finding a narrative that will grip someone. And yet they made it work. In each 30-second advert they made the car sexy, stylish, aspirational. This is no mean feat, even when Thierry Henry is doing so much of the work just by being himself. 

So what do we do with this information? How do we create a storytelling moment that has the Va Va Voom needed for it to go down in the history books, and not just feel like a cheap marketing ploy?

Let’s put Renault’s campaign under the microscope, to see what elements contributed to its iconic status. 

Thierry Henry’s Charisma: One of the primary reasons for the campaign’s success was the charisma of the football legend, Thierry Henry. His magnetic personality and appeal played a pivotal role in capturing the audience’s attention. This highlights the importance of having a relatable and captivating central figure in a storytelling narrative.

Catchy Slogan, ‘Va Va Voom’: The slogan ‘Va Va Voom’ was not just catchy; it was a neologism that sounded fun and mysterious, making it memorable. The use of a unique phrase demonstrated the power of language and branding in digital storytelling.

Storytelling Techniques: Although the campaign was limited to 30-second ads, it managed to weave a compelling story. It used concise storytelling techniques to create a narrative that was intriguing and emotionally resonant. This shows that even in the shortest formats, storytelling is possible

Key Components of Compelling Digital Stories:

Digital storytelling is a complex art that combines several elements to create a memorable experience:

Relatability: A compelling story must connect with the audience on a personal level. It should tap into universal emotions, experiences, or desires. This emotional connection is what lingers in the viewer’s mind, just as ‘Va Va Voom’ did for many.

Authenticity: Authenticity in storytelling is essential. Audiences can spot inauthenticity from a mile away. Being genuine and honest in the storytelling process, even within the constraints of marketing, helps build trust and engagement.

Emotional Appeal: Emotional storytelling has a powerful impact. It’s not just about facts and features; it’s about evoking emotions. Whether it’s joy, nostalgia, or inspiration, stories that trigger emotions tend to be more memorable.

Relevance: Stories must be relevant to the audience. They should address the needs, desires, or problems of the target demographic. Understanding your audience is fundamental to crafting a story that resonates.

Other Examples of Effective Digital Storytelling:

While the Thierry Henry Renault campaign is a prime example of effective digital storytelling, there are numerous other campaigns worth mentioning to showcase diverse approaches:

Dove’s ‘Real Beauty’ Campaign: Dove’s campaign challenged traditional beauty standards and celebrated real women’s beauty. It was emotionally resonant, authentic, and focused on an issue that deeply connected with the audience.

Apple’s ‘Shot on iPhone’ Campaign: Apple’s user-generated content campaign leveraged the stories and images of its users to create a powerful narrative. It showcased the creative potential of the product while highlighting real people’s experiences.

Nike’s ‘Dream Crazy’ with Colin Kaepernick: Nike’s campaign was not just a marketing ploy but a social statement. It engaged with a relevant social issue and took a stand. It demonstrates the impact of purpose-driven storytelling.

By discussing these examples, you can provide readers with a broader perspective on what makes storytelling effective in different contexts. These case studies illustrate how powerful storytelling can leave a lasting impression and how adaptability is key to success in the digital landscape.

Creating Your Own Va Va Voom Moment:

Effective storytelling in digital marketing often follows a specific structure, even in short formats like 30-second ads. To create a ‘Va Va Voom’ moment, consider the following components:

Character Development: Just like Thierry Henry was a central character in the ‘Va Va Voom’ campaign, your brand’s story should have a central character or figure. This character can be a person, a mascot, or even the brand itself. Develop this character’s persona and make them relatable to your target audience.

Emotional Engagement: Successful storytelling elicits emotions from the audience. Identify the emotions you want your audience to feel and craft your narrative to evoke those emotions. Whether it’s humor, nostalgia, inspiration, or empathy, emotional resonance is key.

Narrative Arc: Even in a short ad, there should be a beginning, middle, and end. Start by grabbing the viewer’s attention with a compelling opening, provide a clear message in the middle, and end with a memorable closing that leaves an impact.

Visual and Auditory Cues: Utilise visual and auditory elements to enhance your storytelling. This could include music, imagery, colours, and sounds that support the narrative and create a cohesive brand experience.

The Importance of Authenticity:

Authenticity is paramount in today’s marketing landscape. To achieve authenticity in your storytelling:

Know Your Brand’s Identity: Understand what your brand stands for, its values, and its unique selling points. Authentic storytelling should align with your brand’s identity.

Find Genuine Stories: Authenticity often comes from real stories. Share stories from your customers or employees that highlight the positive impact your product or service has had on their lives. Real testimonials and experiences resonate with audiences.

Transparency: Be honest and transparent in your storytelling. If your brand has faced challenges or setbacks, consider incorporating them into your narrative. Authenticity doesn’t mean avoiding negative aspects but addressing them honestly.

Consistency: Ensure that your storytelling aligns with your brand’s messaging across all marketing channels. Consistency builds trust, and trust is a crucial element in authenticity.

Avoid Clichés and Stereotypes: Steer clear of overused marketing tropes or stereotypes. Originality and genuine narratives make your brand stand out.