Disney’s re-make of Beauty and the Beast, which hit theaters nationwide on Thursday, was nothing short of spectacular. As someone who grew up on Disney movies, it brought back all the childhood feels. In fact, even 24 hours later, I still cannot get “A Tale As Old as Time” out of my head. You wanted to sing along, as you remembered details from the movie forgotten over the years. You couldn’t help but love Belle, mostly because she embodies the rebellious spirit many of us relate to. You could understand her disgust over Gaston and her intrigue over the Beast. The surrounding character development and scenery was also spot-on. In short, I cannot wait to see it again.
Whenever I am left in awe over a great story, I usually try to determine why that is. What about it just left me with pure joy? Why am I excited to watch it over and over again? What about it makes me feel so connected to the story that I want to learn more about those characters and expand that experience? There is an impressive “Be Our Guest” scene, and the business person in me was already thinking “this would make an amazing restaurant theme/experience”. I would pay to see elements of this brought to life. I’m sure Disney is way ahead of me on that but when people are in love with a story, the possibilities are endless.
So what does this have to do with content marketing? There were no blogs written, no webinars explaining why you should go see Beauty and the Beast, no ebooks in production breaking down how a film is made. How can this apply to your job? One thing that I have learned to be true is that no matter what form it takes, every story that captures a wide-spread audience can teach us something about effective content marketing.
Share a timely, relevant message
While this tale is a love story at heart - that part has never changed - the surrounding message was changed in this most recent version to show a more empowered Belle than we’ve seen before. Emma Watson made Belle a “Modern Day Disney Princess” - making her more inventive and industrious than we’ve seen in past versions. She is more interested in her education, and expanding her horizons, than she is in finding a husband and getting married. Rather than simply assisting her inventor father, she is an inventor herself. She is fearless, not afraid to speak her mind, and not willing to stand by while injustice is served. It’s an incredibly relevant message in our world today. You left the theater feeling like, not only is it important to follow your dreams, but it is also important to be vocal about what is right, even if it makes you the town misfit.
Another sign of this version of Beauty & the Beast being more progressive than the last was the promise of there being “an exclusively gay moment”. With multiple gay characters throughout the film, Disney ruffles a few feathers across the globe - but they are not swayed by negative reactions. While this theme is kept light-hearted and subtle, it adds a layer of relevance to the film that viewers could even interpret as a funny attempt at portraying a “bromance” - albeit one-sided.
Tell a powerful story
Beauty and the Beast really is a tale as old as time - or at least as old as any of us have been around. Originally written in 1740 by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, it inspired the fairy tale we know today. It is a tale of fighting adversity, overcoming stereotypes, and looking at the world around you with a different lens. But really it is a story of finding love in weird places. Despite our wildest imaginations, we will likely never kiss a buffalo who turns into a handsome prince, but the story is so good that you believe it could realistically happen. (*Disclaimer: I’m not responsible for any injuries incurred from trying to kiss a buffalo) There is no stronger emotion in the world than love. People will do nearly anything to find it and are fiercely protective of those they share it with. Our hearts are happy when love triumphs evil, fear and circumstance.
Character Development is a Priority
Another aspect of this movie done exceptionally well is the development of all of the surrounding characters. You instantly love all of the castle residents - Mrs. Potts is nothing short of endearing, Lumiere & Cogsworth play each other up extraordinarily well, Babiere plays the seductive girlfriend of Lumiere and the sickly sweetness makes you uncomfortable at multiple points - in the way you might be grossed out if you saw your parents kissing. Each character adds so well to the storyline that you never feel a lull. For a movie that is over two hours long, this is impressive.
Defeat the Villain
Any great story plot has a problem to be solved, a villain to be defeated, or both. Here we start off assuming the villain who will need defeating is the Beast. He appears to be the primary threat, imprisoning Belle and her father. The tables soon turn when we realize that the Beast is just lonely and misunderstood - not capable of real violence - and the real villain is Gaston. As his character develops, we see how his arrogance and ego will be his downfall - just as it was the Beasts. When good conquers evil, it reassures us that we can overcome any challenge.
Happily Ever After
No fairy tale would be complete without the requisite happy ending. Not only do Belle and the Beast dance off into the sunset, but all of our surround characters are nicely tied up too. We see the good that came from being different, speaking out, helping others, looking beyond first impressions, and fighting for what’s right. For this, we are rewarded with a happily ever after.
So, when you’re crafting your next content marketing strategy, think about these five things:
How can I make my message timely and relevant to my audience?What is going on in the world that my audience cares about? How can I pull elements of that into my content?
How can I evoke emotion in my messaging that inspires joy, fear, love, excitement etc of my product or service?What keeps your audience up at night? What terrifies them? What makes them laugh? Incorporate those elements into your content.
What character(s) can I create within my story that are relatable to my core audience? Personify your product or service. Create a character that embodies the traits your brand stands for. Pull that character into your marketing efforts.
What problem or villain am I helping my audience defeat? Solve their problems. That’s it. If your product or service does that, you’re well ahead of the game.
What does the happy ending look like? How will my product or service inspire that ending?
I’m a firm believer that great content marketing is really just great storytelling. You know you’re telling a great story when people are clamoring for more. Go forth and defeat the Beast.
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