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Why Cinderella Was the Greatest Marketing Campaign of All Time

Madeleine Ivy Baughn
July 12, 2019

Why Do We Love Cinderella?

As children, we grew up reading fairy tales before bed. They kept us imaginative, hopeful and dreaming about our future. The ups and downs of these stories kept us hooked, and captured our hearts. Little did we know as children, this storytelling machine is a science. Backed by data, stories are proven to make people emotional through rising and falling actions, the main character, and the climax. When a story has a moral, audiences leave with a new inspiration--a drive to change some aspect of their life. As marketers, storytelling is one of the most powerful tools in the universe, and not just because a good narrative sells--but because they inspire people and offer value. Cinderella is the perfect example because people can relate to her character and they love seeing her rise and fall and rise again. Everyone has been the underdog at some point in their life and people like the affirmation they will succeed. 

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Cinderella is dealt the worst hand of life, as many people are. Her mother dies and she is left with her stepmother and stepsisters that abuse her on a daily basis. In a world of pain, Cinderella finds her own happiness. She makes her chores fun, singing with the little blue birds that become her friends, and doesn’t give up. Audiences love people that don’t give up because it inspires them to not give up on their dreams even during difficult times. From a business standpoint, this storytelling machine is a money-making machine. Not only can we sell this story so many times, in different ways, but we can also learn from it ourselves, and use it in our marketing strategy

(Don’t give up and call upon your own fairy godmother!)

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The Science Of Cinderella

Kurt Vonnegut studied the shapes of stories from the beginning to the end. In 1947, he started comparing Cinderella to the New Testament and found they had a very similar storyline arc. Vonnegut explains that the endings are identical: “Those steps at the beginning look like the creation myth of virtually every society on earth. And then I saw that the stroke of midnight looked exactly like the unique creation myth in the Old Testament. And then I saw the rise to bliss at the end was identical with the expectation of redemption as expressed in primitive Christianity. The tales were identical.” Conclusion? This emotional story arc sells and resonates with the masses. 

Researchers have tested rise and falls within stories and put them into six categories: Rags to Riches (rise), Riches to Rags (fall), Man in a Hole (fall then rise), Icarus (rise then fall), Cinderella (rise then fall then rise), Oedipus (fall then rise then fall). Using data, they went on to analyze thousands of fiction works and used machine learning to measure the level of happiness a word instigated. They found that words like laughter, happiness, love, laugh, joy, etc. ranked the highest, and that the stories that had highs and lows (similar to life) were the most popular. 

unnamedMachine learning and storytelling are increasing areas of research. Currently, there are scientists using machine learning to generate new fairytales that will rank the highest with people based on the science of the emotional arc. It was Cinderella that sparked Vonnegut interest, which had a ripple effect, and now scientists are studying the emotional arc of stories and how they impact us. 

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It’s relatable, familiar, and consistent.

So many people can connect with this story; whether they have an evil stepmother themselves, face hardship, or face a challenge. This storyline has been recreated dozens of times in the last 20 years, notably, A Cinderella Story with Hilary Duff grossed $70 million in the box office. These stories sell because they are consistent and familiar. We know the storyline, so we can focus in on what really matters, and not grapple with understanding the plot. There are still millions to be made from this storytelling machine. A good story like Cinderella can be retold many times and still create a sense of hope and satisfaction. The fact that the story is familiar, makes the story trustworthy. 

Rags To Riches

In the United States, we love rags to riches stories. Horatio Alger, the pioneer of rags to riches stories, sought to uplift people, and give them hope that they can have anything. People want to live their own American dream/success story. Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, and Barack Obama are just some of the compelling stories that Americans are obsessed with. Cinderella is one of them. She comes from nothing and on her own (with the help of some luck & her fairy godmother), she’s able to completely change the course of her life.

From rags one day to fancy dresses the next, this is what everyday people dream of. It's our job to allow our audience to live their dreams through our content. In addition to the popularity of rags to riches storytelling machine, we love the plight of the underdog. Cinderella’s evil stepsisters seek every opportunity to tear her down, even claiming the glass slipper was theirs, and the entire time we root for her to prevail. And we live for the moment she does, cheering her on every step of the way.

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Six Basic Emotions In Marketing Found In Cinderella 

Cinderella is a great example of the six basic emotions (happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust). We are angry that the stepsisters are so evil. We are disgusted by the stepmother. We fear for Cinderella. We are sad for her. We are surprised when the fairy godmother shows up. We are happy in the end when Cinderella triumphs and gets her prince. These emotional appeals are powerful and make your content exciting. The six basic emotions are universal for all people, so if you use them, you will likely connect with a broader audience and tell a more compelling story.

Learning From Cinderella. 

The fairy godmother represents hope and kindness. Just like Cinderella, many of us need a little help then and again. As a marketer, you deserve a little hope in the competitive digital world. Tools like MarketMuse can help you make sure your content marketing ranks for keywords, helping you reach your audience, and companies like Cortex can help you with social media automation using artificial intelligence. Natural language processing technology is rapidly advancing and is changing the way we can connect with our audience and tell stories. Fairy tales like Cinderella are creative and relevant and will be important in the future. Fairytales allow us to experience success through the lens of animated characters and story texts. This storytelling machine brings a literary and trustworthy component to your writing and helps bridge the gap between marketing a product and connecting with people on an emotional level.

Using the Cinderella storytelling machine on social platforms is strategic marketing. You can use short stories and/or video story, on social media to connect with your viewers and target audience. Video stories are great at telling a story because they are immersive and create a virtual reality for the viewer. Remember to be relatable, familiar, and consistent within your story. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo and create your own modern Cinderella--you should be unique. Use the plight of the underdog, and use rags to riches stories if you can. This will inspire people, and if you can position your product or service as a fairy godmother, you are golden. Cinderella sells. 

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