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Russian disabled parking campaign uses 3 components of great storytelling

It’s hard to believe it’s Nov 2nd. I was out last week on a pumpkin retrieval mission with my daughter leading up to Halloween. Last year I left it too late and the only thing left was an oversized and overpriced green and white squash, which we carved into Casper the ghost, given its kidney shaped figure. After three stops and sold out pumpkins, it was starting to look like a repeat of last year.  The outing seemed doomed to failure; it was taking too long, it was raining and my head felt like the size of the pumpkin we couldn’t find, with a head cold moving in.

It was in this state that I pulled into a disabled parking spot to be able to quickly snatch what appeared to be the last pumpkin on the north shore. We had spotted it driving by.

I need to preface this with the disclosure that this is not something I would normally do. When I’ve had the occasion to drive for those requiring assistance who have disabled parking privileges, I’ve developed a clear understanding of the need to be close to the entrance, and the extra space for things such as walkers. The decision to park there briefly was a lame move clearly made in the fog of a head cold and a need to get home to bed.

Call it karma, when this clever campaign to combat this exact problem, popped up in my Facebook feed Friday morning! Seems I’m not alone. At least not in Russia, where apparently 30% of drivers routinely park in disabled spots. This has to be the cleverest campaign I’ve ever seen. You HAVE to watch the video!

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The video shows how a hologram appears over disabled parking spaces when able-bodied drivers try and park there. The hologram features different people in wheelchairs berating drivers with things like, “Yes, I’m real. Please find another place to park.” The installation was courtesy of Moscow-based advertising agency Y&R on behalf of a Russian charity, Dislife.ru. The installations appeared in shopping malls and business centers in Moscow including the largest mall in Europe. But beyond the installation, the point was to film how it worked, and capture driver response. Then allow those photos and video clips to become news. That was the power of this campaign.

But at the heart of it, was something more. Why was it so effective? This campaign contained three components of great storytelling:

  1. It tapped emotion. It wins hearts then it wins minds.
  2. It was unbelievable. While holograms may have been introduced in Star Trek, they are not a common occurrence in everyday life. The application of technology is fascinating. Unbelievable becomes instantly shareable in the age of social media.
  3. It shared a universal truth. Each of us everyday sees disabled parking. It is a story we can all relate to. This is especially true if we, or someone we know need to use those spots legitimately.

So what’s the lesson in all this, other then “don’t mess with karma” and respect the proper use of disabled parking spots?

Good marketing uses storytelling at its heart. Stories are memorable and shareable. A year from now your customers are unlikely to remember the details of your current offering, but they will remember your story, and how you made them feel. And if that story in some way taps emotion, is even the slightest bit unbelievable and raises their curiosity, and is at its heart something they can relate to, you will have struck marketing gold.

 

Mary Charleson

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