The Power of Magical Realism in Marketing


What makes something magical? In metaphorical terms something that is appealing, exciting, and enchanting. But there is another quite literal sense to the word, something that defies logic and is out of the ordinary, the impossible. When that magical something enters our reality we call that magical realism.

Understanding Magical Realism
What exactly is magical realism? The name itself is quite confusing. After all magic and reality can be called polar opposites. A quick search on google will fetch you a long list of books that incorporate it as a theme and a Wikipedia link. The definition does not help much by categorizing it as a literary genre as it is a far more complex idea.
Magical realism is a view of the world with magical elements. Confusing it with fantasy is a common misconception. In fantasy, the world itself is different and strange, in magical realism the world is the ordinary world we live in.

Magical Marketing
The fairly obvious use of magical realism lies in fiction. What goes unnoticed is its use in the marketing of products. I remember seeing an advertisement for Sunfeast biscuits when I was a kid. Eating those would open the door to an amusement park made up of cream. And who can forget the Axe body deodorant advertisements? If what is shown in those would be true, lifestyle coaches and charisma gurus would have gone out of business long ago.
The logic behind this approach in marketing a product is fairly simple. The companies cannot put up a blank screen and display the specifications and features of their product. Imagine seeing the ingredients of the biscuits being read out as promotional material. What is marketed to the customer is a promise, a promise of fulfillment of their requirements and desires through a creative representation. There are innumerable examples where magical realism has been used to make a product attractive.
Furthermore, it has also helped otherwise simple concepts to gain popularity in the eyes of the public. An apt example would be games. An absolutely simple game with a first-person shooting mechanism can be made appealing by introducing aliens into the mix (Half-Life). Here, rather than being at the forefront of the action (like in Harry Potter), the magical element is in a supporting role.
Music has also greatly benefited from this. In the era of black and white, songs would rarely exist outside of movies. The videos of songs would only be the clippings of the singer singing. Nowadays music videos are specially made with studios for people to dance on, funky costumes, trendy lights (party songs). Sometimes a story is told through the video that itself has one or two aspects of magical realism.

Why Does It Work?
When we see magical realism in something we get interested in it unknowingly. It acts as the perfect allure that plays at the human desire to experience adventure. In the ads, we see the most eye-catching are the ones that have an element of surprise. Producers are able to better market their product by using visual and audio stimuli, giving out information in a shorter period of time. This information creates more impact and is also easy to retain.

Case Study
- Five Star vs. Bar One
The chocolate industry in India is flourishing. With more and more new kinds of chocolate being available to consumers, many companies venture into the industry with their products. Some excel while some fail to impress. The chocolate bars, ‘Five Star’ by Cadbury and ‘Bar One’ by Nestle are prime examples.
While Cadbury focused on advertising ‘Five Star’ with magical powers that can transport you elsewhere or make you blissful even in the face of adversity, Nestle’s advertisements for ‘Bar One’ albeit interesting lacked the impact and lost the power to attract the target audience (the kids and youth). This resulted in skyrocketing the sales for Cadbury even though the contents of both the bars are more or less the same.
The phenomenon of Magical Realism exists everywhere. It has seamlessly blended into our way of life. It has its roots in the entertainment of all kinds as well as other fields of graphic design, interior design, the fashion industry, and many more. It is the untold truth of marketing. The more you look the more you can unravel.

Written by - Mayank Tak

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