Skip to main content

It takes a village: Story creation in the digital age

Most often when we think of stories we imagine singular self-contained narratives. The latest John Grisham novel or the romantic comedy at the box office can be consumed in one go or many but exists—and can be understood—independently of any other works.

Many stories are far more diffuse, spanning multiple channels of distribution and even crossing into different genres. Coca Cola’s brand story, for example, or the Marvel universe, is more like a narrative world than a linear story, even though it may add up to a few big ideas.

Untangling story worlds

The billboard you pass on your commute home tells one part of a grand narrative. A different piece of this same story is told in the ad that streams on YouTube, the product packaging you see at the store, and conversations about the brand on social media.

We are rarely exposed to every facet of these story worlds—someone may enjoy the Avengers movies without ever reading the comic books or discussing fan theories—so we each develop a slightly different story in our heads by piecing together those facets we do encounter.

When all incarnations of the grand narrative—every corner of the story world—align, they work together to create a largely standardized impression. Each must overlap sufficiently with the others to allow continuity and cohesion, while also adding some distinct piece to the puzzle.

Brands are noticing the potential in these decentralized storyscapes, but there is still much uncertainty about how to best implement them—and mitigate the dangers they pose. After all, the more storytellers you have the harder it is to control the narrative.

Extending an open invitation

One solution is to stop fighting audiences over storytelling power and instead provide them with the tools and opportunity to cooperate in the creation of brand narratives. Snapchat allows brands to do just that, with virtual overlays that feature sponsored content.

During the last Super Bowl, users could select an augmented reality lens that simulated a Gatorade cooler being poured over their head. The lens’ reach was 50% larger than the game’s, with over 150 million people either seeing or using it while interacting with friends.

The upside is indisputable. Not only are people more open to ideas presented by—and amongst—friends, but the ability to bring together Gatorade’s story with their own makes the brand’s message more personal, more relatable, and truer to their daily experience.

Epic Games harnessed the power of narrative world building to spectacular effect with the release of their most recent title, “Fortnite”. The game’s story, founded on its creative game mechanics, is being told on at least a half dozen platforms by thousands of storytellers.

A spectrum of content creation

Players live stream games on Twitch, adding their personal flair and commentary to build large communities of followers, while fans on Reddit share memes they create about their shared experience. Twitter connects game developers and players seeking to improve the game.

In a promotional coup, Epic announced the Support-A-Creator event. For several months, Fortnite storytellers—be they live streamers or bloggers—will be awarded a 5% cut of the in-game purchases made by their game-playing fans, who spend over $200 million per month.

Recognizing the value they add, Epic has chosen to cut independent Fortnite storytellers in on the game’s massive revenues instead of threatening them with copyright lawsuits. It is less than clear, though, how Epic’s recipe for success can be applied by marketers in other industries.

Five principles for curating story worlds

Storytelling remains critical but today the victors are those who curate story worlds with content from multiple co-creators.  Getting this right is hard, with effective practitioners mastering five principles:

1. Be purposeful.  Begin with a clear idea of brand purpose. Maintaining consistency across the branches of your story world requires a focused vision of the value that a brand contributes to consumers.  Budweiser sells an authentically American beer, while Patagonia produces high quality outdoor gear. Budweiser’s brand purpose is thus closely interwoven with the ideas of tradition and the quotidian, while Patagonia’s brand is in constant dialogue with the natural world.

2. Apply brand purpose to consumer well-being.  Mastercard gives consumers access to the credit they need to accomplish their goals. As CMO Raja Rajamannar said in a recent interview, “It’s not enough to tell stories about priceless experiences…We need to…help [consumers] create their own.”  Mastercard’s new marketing strategy seeks to better align company practices and messaging with the brand’s purpose. A campaign of annual meal donations to the UN Food Program is part of a larger story world in which Mastercard enacts its mission.

3. Bring consumers into the conversation. Instead of just bombarding audiences with ads, draw them in with useful content (e.g., how-to videos), competitions (e.g., Lays’ “Do Me a Flavor” campaign), and the tools they need to tell their own stories about the brand (e.g., Snapchat lenses).  For many years, Doritos ran an annual competition, receiving tens of thousands of independently created ads, with the winner receiving a spot in Doritos’ Super Bowl advertising.

4. Be responsive to consumer contributions. The Mastercard meal campaign demanded an almost immediate readjustment, as audiences complained the donations—some of which were tied to goals scored by soccer stars–ought to be given freely, rather than used as a marketing ploy. In a matter of days, Mastercard changed the campaign and agreed to donate a full million meals—irrespective of goals or gimmicks. Bringing audiences into the conversation means listening to what they have to say, not just giving them a forum to speak.

5. Let consumers live the brand. Successful brands won’t just enact their purpose in a way that reaches consumers, they will encourage their audience to share the ways the brand has empowered them to manifest their own purpose—just as Epic games is supporting independent content creators.  Airbnb similarly leveraged the visual power of Instagram. Using the hashtag #AirbnbShorts, the brand asked users to share their favorite things about their city in 15 second videos—promoting not only the brand, but individual users and regional communities as well.

It takes a village

It is no longer possible for brands to tightly control their narrative, and consumers don’t really want them to; they feel entitled to have a voice in the development of brand stories, and to manage the interactions between brands and the communities they are a part of.

To succeed in this new environment, brands must define the rules that govern the narrative space within which they operate. Through which avenues can audiences engage with the narrative? How do each of these offer different opportunities for engagement?

The object is not to build a world that audiences can lose themselves in—it is to create a space where they can achieve their goals in a way that aligns with the brand’s purpose and values—it’s about creating a shared experience between brand and consumer.

The post It takes a village: Story creation in the digital age appeared first on Marketing Land.

via Marketing Land


Popular posts from this blog

How to Get SMS Alerts for Gmail via Twitter

How do you get SMS notifications on your mobile phone for important emails in your Gmail? Google doesn’t support text notifications for their email service but Twitter does. If we can figure out a way to connect our Twitter and Gmail accounts, the Gmail notifications can arrive as text on our mobile via Twitter. Let me explain:Twitter allows you to follow any @user via a simple SMS. They provide short codes for all countries (see list) and if you text FOLLOW to this shortcode following by the  username, any tweets from that user will arrive in your phone as text notifications. For instance, if you are in the US, you can tweet FOLLOW labnol to 40404 to get my tweets as text messages. Similarly, users in India can text FOLLOW labnol to 9248948837 to get the tweets via SMS.The short code service of Twitter can act as a Gmail SMS notifier. You create a new Twitter account, set the privacy to private and this account will send a tweet when you get a new email in Gmail. Follow this account …

Instagram Story links get 15-25% swipe-through rates for brands, publishers

Instagram may arrived late as a traffic source for brands and publishers, but it’s already showing early signs of success, driving new visitors to their sites and even outperforming its parent company, Facebook.For years brands, publishers and other have tried to push people from the Facebook-owned photo-and-video-sharing app to their sites. Outside of ads and excepting a recent test with some retailers, Instagram didn’t offer much help to companies looking to use it to drive traffic. So they had to find workarounds. They put links in their Instagram bios. They scrawled short-code URLs onto their pictures. And they typed out links in their captions.Then last month Instagram finally introduced an official alternative to these hacky workarounds: the ability for verified profiles to insert links in their Instagram Stories.Almost a month after the launch, 15% to 25% of the people who see a link in an Instagram Story are swiping on it, according to a handful of brands and publishers that h…

Five great tools to improve PPC ads

Every digital marketer wants to reach the top position on the search engine results. However, if you’ve recently launched a new website or your niche is saturated, starting with paid search ads sounds like a good idea.Strategically created PPC campaigns can drive leads, sales or sign-ups to your websites. You know what? In fact, businesses earn an average of $8 for every dollar they spend on Google Ads.Optimizing PPC campaigns is not easy, but it’s very powerful if you do it properly. Just like SEO, it is essential to conduct extensive keyword research, optimize ad copy, and design high-converting landing pages.Fortunately, there are a lot of effective PPC tools that will help you analyze your competitors’ PPC strategies, figure out tricks in their campaigns, and improve your PPC campaigns.If you are ready to take an evolutionary leap in your PPC advertising, take a look at my list of five amazing tools to save you time, give you crucial insights, and raise money for your business.Fiv…