Coronavirus has taught us many lessons. One of them is that storytelling isn’t dead. Find out how marketing stories survived the pandemic and discover storytelling in the time of corona.

Storytelling in the time of corona: on the Little Prince’s planet

We learned a lot during quarantine and the most difficult moments in the fight against coronavirus.

  • For example, we have seen that the planet recovers due to the “retreat” of people.
  • We also realised that there’s no unconditional freedom. The freedom of movement is no exception.
  • In the end, we understood that by protecting ourselves, we protect others and that by staying at home, we contribute to the fight against the virus.

Yet these few lessons aren’t the only ones we have learned. In my case, I learned that storytelling isn’t dead. Just the opposite, during the pandemic, storytelling “flourished”.

In the post “Storytelling 3.0: the evolution of the art of storytelling”, I defended the point of view that storytelling isn’t dead.

In this post, you’ll learn more about the way coronavirus has contributed to storytelling gaining in importance in the marketing field. You’ll also find ten commercials that illustrate the possibilities and scope of storytelling in times of crisis.

But before that, let’s see why every person who experienced the quarantine turned into the Little Prince for a while.

The Little Prince in fear of coronavirus

In the famous book written by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the main character is the Little Prince.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the main characters were the Great Princes and Princesses. Those are the persons who actively fought against the virus, starting with doctors and medical staff.

On the other hand, each one of us who stayed at home turned into the particular Little Prince.

In other words, we took refuge on our tiny planets in a cold universe of isolation and quarantine. We were looking at the lights on in the apartments of others, just like the Little Prince looked at the stars and enjoyed their splendour.

The more fortunate ones were watering their rose, the most hardworking ones were regularly cleaning the volcanoes on their planet. They cleaned even the inactive volcanoes because, as the Little Prince says, you never know.

And yet, there are two aspects that we all had in common, no matter how fortunate or hardworking we were (or were not).

  • The first aspect is that we were all in fear of the coronavirus, just as the Little Prince feared the baobabs.
  • The second aspect is that we were all spending time in front of computers, mobiles phones, and TVs.

This second aspect exposed us to a significant number of coronavirus commercials.

However, unlike the situation before the quarantine, most of the commercials that reached the planet of the Little Prince came in the storytelling form.

That’s why I decided to modify the title of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “Love in the Time of Cholera” to “Storytelling in the Time of Corona”.

Storytelling in the time of corona

The Little Prince seems to have become an ideal audience for all those brands who realised how scared, lonely, and eager for the intimacy he was. So they decided to send him —or us— a message of understanding and encouragement.

How did they do it? They did it through commercials that abound in stories. Their goal was to reach our hearts and show us the human face of companies.

Ten commercials and storytelling in the time of corona

Several aspects are common to all the stories brands were telling us during the crisis caused by the spread of coronavirus.

  • The first aspect is that in the majority of them, the main character is the Little Prince. The commercials were celebrating those who stayed at home and tried to make the time spent in quarantine meaningful.
  • The second aspect is that they haven’t aimed at increasing sales (at least not directly). The goal was to show understanding, express gratitude, and provide support.
  • The third aspect is that all the commercials talked about the present. During the crisis, storytelling didn’t deal with either yesterday or tomorrow. Storytelling in the time of corona spotted the word “today”.
  • And the last aspect is that each of the stories carried a concise and straightforward, but optimistic and emotional message.

Now I suggest you look at the following ten commercials. Let’s see which stories some of the world’s most famous brands —and one Serbian— were telling us during the quarantine period.

Coca Cola | To The Human Race

Coca Cola and storytelling in the time of corona

Message: Thank you for filling the glass with kindness and hope.

Uber | Thank You For Not Riding

Uber and the coronavirus storytelling

Message: Stay home for everyone who can’t. Thank you for not riding with Uber.

Apple | Creativity Goes On

Apple and storytelling in the time of corona

Message: Creativity goes on.

IBM | Today isn’t a restart. It’s a rethink.

IBM and the coronavirus storytelling

Message: Today we are rethinking how the business moves forward, how the world moves forward. So let’s get to it. Let’s put smart to work.

Pfizer | Join Us In Saying Thank You

Pfizer and storytelling in the time of corona

Message: Thank you for being our light.

Nissan| Ode To Empty Roads

Nissan and the coronavirus storytelling

Message: Stay home, stay safe.

BMW | The Curve Up Ahead: Flatten the Curve with BMW

BMW and storytelling in the time of corona

Message: Today we drive forward without driving at all.

AFI | Insure carefully, dream fearlessly

AFI and the coronavirus storytelling

Message: Keep dreaming.

Audi | We’re In This Together

Audi and storytelling in the time of corona

Message: Keep distance, stay together.

Bambi Plazma | Velika dela nastaju kod kuće

Bambi Plazma and the coronavirus storytelling

Message: Velika dela nastaju kod kuće.

Stories, coronavirus, and a sheep on a piece of paper

In conclusion, storytelling isn’t dead. Just the opposite, many brands have shown in recent months that the art of storytelling is more live than ever.

However, it’s not the coronavirus who helped regain storytelling.

The emotions of people, both positive and negative, have contributed to the commercials in the time to corona being rich in stories. The reason is simple. Stories easily reach human feelings, and the similarities attract each other.

In other words, as long as the Little Prince had to remain locked on his small planet, the brands were offering him, symbolically speaking, a sheep drawn on a piece of paper. They’ve tried to get the message out to us that we’re not alone.

It depended on us whether we would crumble and throw that piece of paper or would do something else.

Those who were more likely to see a hat in the drawing shown in the book “The Little Prince”, probably went for the first option.

However, they must understand the following: It was never a hat, but an elephant.

A Writing-Friendly Question: Is there any other commercial that caught your attention as an example of storytelling in the time of corona?

Stasa Durdic

I'm a content writer, copywriter, and UX writer. Serbian by birth, in Barcelona by occasion, writer by decision. I'm in love with the yellow colour, the art of storytelling, and the following phrase from Don Draper (Mad Men): "The client loves to pay the media, and the CREATIVE loves the PENCILS."

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Categories: Storytelling

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