Saturday, July 16, 2016

Storytelling: Born in a Bathtub

As a marketing strategy, storytelling was born in a bathtub.

The year was 1951. Stories couldn't move merchandise, the Madison Avenue experts agreed.

Then an obscure shirtmaker from Maine, Hathaway, approached an equally obscure ad man, David Ogilvy, with only $30,000 to spend.

To win him over, the company's president pledged never to fire Ogilvy or change one of his ads.

Ogilvy had been mulling the notion that "story appeal" could sell products, and decided to test the theory with his new client's ads. 

He was sitting in his bathtub when the image of the Hathaway Man came to him.

Ogilvy appeared in the office the next day and instructed his art director to find a model who resembled novelist William Faulkner, who'd recently won a Nobel Prize, for the photo shoot. 

En route to the shoot, Ogilvy bought a 50-cent eyepatch at a Manhattan drugstore. He handed the eyepatch to the photographer and said, "Humor me."

Ogilvy's copy assured readers Hathaway shirts—like the men who wore them—were "in a class by themselves." 

"You will get a great deal of quiet satisfaction out of wearing shirts which are in such impeccable taste."

Ogilvy's first ad in the series ran in The New YorkerWithin a week, every Hathaway shirt in Manhattan was sold. "We have never seen anything just like it," said the magazine's ad manager.

The Hathaway Man soon catapulted the company to the top-ranking shirtmaker in the world—and storytelling to the top drawer in every marketers' toolchest.
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