An article in today’s Guardian reported that canonical fairy stories such as Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin are much older than previously thought, with roots that can now be traced back thousands of years to prehistoric times.
Academics that have been studying the common links between fairy tales from around the world gave found that one tale even originates from the Bronze Age, illustrating just how old these stories, first written down in the 17th and 18th centuries, actually are.
The age of this storytelling is hardly surprising: these fairy tales have become enmeshed within the very fabric of our social and cultural identity on a scale that transcends many existing national and cultural boundaries. But as we stand at the forefront of a hyper-connected, global digital society, is this age-old art of storytelling under threat?
Let’s be clear: our role in marketing relies on storytelling: we craft stories designed to stimulate, engage, and inspire action within, our respective audiences. Storytelling as a communications art is more valid than ever. But has the proliferation of digital tools, social channels and indeed, authors, started to erode the cultural stories that we would pass down, themselves?
Research studies have proven that our social and digital behaviours are impacting the hard-wiring of our brains on an unprecedented scale: our ability to focus has been impacted greatly, while the way we consume content has become rapid, fleeting and passive. And the stories we tell as marketers are rapidly evolving to fit this mode of consumption, with the focus on the channels of distribution rather than the message itself.
As consumers’ relationship with digital hyper-connectivity continues to show signs of great strain, is it time we – as planners, marketers, creatives – start to focus less on the reaching audiences through multiple channels at multiple times, and return to the stripped back, raw, and real art of crafting the story itself? Is 2016 the year we shift from the focus on digital storytelling, to crafting stories for a digitally-connected world?
Like the longevity of Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin, only time will tell.