Originally published in MediaPost's Social Media Insider
The Owl And The Hare, And Other Stories
Have you heard the one about the hare and the owl, or the watering
hole, or the Hall of Wonders? These are no ordinary tales. In fact, they're of
an entirely new genre: folktales for social media marketers.
Among various books and stories I've been reading ahead of my upcoming
trip to the Middle East, several of my favorites have been about the folklore
of Egypt and Arabia. Especially notable have been "
Folktales of Egypt" by Hasan M. El-Shamy and "
Kalila and Dimna: Fables of Friendship and Betrayal" by Ramsay Wood,
plus one anecdote in "
Taxi" by Khaled Al Khamissi. Along the way, I wondered what such
folklore would look like if it was rewritten for our industry.
Below are a few such ideas, each with its own moral for marketers
and agencies. I can't claim to be as wise or as great a storyteller as Bidpai,
the narrator of the tales of Kalila and Dimna. Yet as such stories have a way
of adapting themselves to new audiences whenever and wherever they're told,
perhaps it's fitting for us to have our own pantheon.
Now lean back, make yourself comfortable, and take in these three
new social marketing folktales.
The Hare and the Owl
A hare and an owl made a bet to see who could best curry favor
with the king's vizier who often held court in their garden. When the vizier
was taking a walk through the garden the next day, the hare approached him and
said, "Vizier, as a humble denizen of your garden, I can hear all that is
going on from this kingdom to the next. I can smell out danger. I can see all
who approach. It would be an honor to devote myself to your service." The
vizier answered, "I thank you, goodly hare, but I have many ears and eyes
and noses looking out for our kingdom." The hare hopped away dejected.
Later the owl saw the vizier distraught while sitting on a bench
in the garden. The vizier spoke aloud, thinking he was alone, "If only I
could unburden myself to someone, as I just found out one of the king's
favorites of his harem has proven unfaithful to His Highness." The owl
gently flew down beside the vizier and cooed, "HOOOO! HOOOO!" The
vizier delightedly exclaimed, "Who indeed! Fair owl, I don't need anyone
else to hear, just one to listen." With that, the owl remained forever in
the vizier's favor, and the hare had to fetch mice for the owl all week.
By the Watering Hole
The animals of the plains were heard discussing how well their
week went. The oryx said, "A baby was born, triggering cries of joy from
our dwindling population." The gazelle said, "We found a new expanse
of grasses, allowing ten percent more of our herd to eat with us." The
waterbuck said, "We lost only two to jackals this week, down from four the
week before." The hippo said, "Five of us learned to play the
tambourine." The hippo, measuring not what mattered most, would fare the
worst that winter.
The Hall of Wonders
A king ordered his three sons before him. Each had a different
mother but was born on the same most auspicious day, just moments apart.
"You are all coming of age," said the king. "My
future is becoming more certain, while much uncertainty remains with yours. I
will send each of you into the world with one gift of your choosing, and in one
year you will return to share how you used it. The one who makes the wisest use
of his gift will succeed me on the throne." Each son then accompanied the
king into the palace's Hall of Wonders.
The first son selected a chalice that, once filled with fresh
water, never went dry.
The second son picked a satchel that replenished the gold within
it no matter how much was taken.
The third son chose a cloak of invisibility that would conceal him
whenever he donned it.
The king granted their wishes and sent them off in three
directions to learn the land beyond the kingdom's borders for the first time.
A year later, the king jubilantly greeted his sons as they
returned home. Following a feast, he asked them what they learned.
The first son said, "Wherever I went, I filled my chalice and
shared it with all who were thirsty and declared it a blessing of the king.
Your name has been praised far and wide."
"A shame," said the king, "as when they are thirsty
again and have no chalice, they shall curse me."
The second son said, "I used the satchel to buy up lands and
expand the eastern borders of your kingdom, building palaces in your name in
each city I acquired."
"Alas," said the king, "I now have more lands than
I can manage and my kingdom will be the weaker for it."
The third son was amazed at what his brothers did and terrified by
his father's response. He reluctantly said, "Just beyond our southern
border I tried on the cloak. I was so excited to be invisible that I didn't
realize I was tearing up a local matriarch's garden beneath my feet. I took off
the cloak, found the owner, and agreed to stay and work the land to make up for
the damage. I stayed there for the year and never wore the cloak again."
The king beamed, "You honored my name and my kingdom. In
leaving your invisibility behind, you became truly transparent." The sun
set on the king, the third son took the throne, and his days were the brightest
yet for the kingdom.