HOW TO: BRAND-DRIVEN STORYTELLING
Short, snappy, and short-lived; — these are the traits of today’s most shared stories. The long form novel and the two-hour feature film have made way for the 280-character tweet and the 3 second Video. One can gripe that “the story” is dead, but that would be boxing yourself (and your brands) into a dead-end marketing solution.
People are exposed to an estimated 30,000 commercial messages per day. Consumers must navigate an overwhelming mass of brand stories at every turn, and attentiveness to any one narrative is hard earned. Today, a sharp and effective brand story is of increasing importance.
Millennials and Gen Z have come of age perpetually connected across countless platforms and on myriad devices; as a result, attention span is 60% shorter than that of older generations. Importantly, attention spans of older generations are now dramatically shortening as well. Catching—and keeping—consumer attention in the digital media age requires answering the classic questions of fiction in modern and efficient ways.
So how does a brand do this? The answer: a “digitorial” marketing strategy. Marketers must recast themselves as magazine editors with the goal of publishing shareable, conversation driving content, rather than simply selling products. Consumers will no longer passively accept the obvious sell; the sheer volume of commercial messages being hurled at them means that they can sift through content and be judicious in what they accept and reject. Further empowering the public is enabling technology through which they engage with brands: mobile and desktop interfaces let viewers quickly skip through content that isn’t compelling enough.
Stories that do resonate with consumers are visually emotive and mobile-centric, they are heavily image-based and chiefly viewed through smartphone applications. They answer the archetypal narrative questions in micro-content:
1. Who is the Hero?
Position the target customer as the hero. Consumers no longer respond to narratives of inadequacy, wherein they are inherently lacking and in need of a brand’s salvation. They now have a suite of survival tools and a desire to be championed in a brand’s story. Tell a hero’s journey in which the consumer is the active agent.
2. What is the Plot?
A brand must tell a suspenseful and compelling story, one whose arc moves consumers to read from beginning to end and anxiously await the sequel. Marketing hooks and teasers keep viewers tuned-in to see what happens next.
3. What is the Setting?
A successful brand is easily accessible at all points of communication and customer engagement. This means fluency along multiple nodes of interaction: social, digital, and mobile. Surround customers with a variety of brand experiences so that they can self-select how they engage.
4. What is the Conflict?
Tap into the consumer’s participation in the brand experience. What service will the brand provide? what does it really solve for? - make it feel easy and natural for the consumer to enter into a relationship with the brand’s service offerings.
5. What is the Lesson?
Show how the brand will solve the problem. Put faith in customers and leave them with a meaningful take-away from the story.
An inspiring example of a company who harnesses effective digital storytelling is Airbnb, with their focus 100% on the customer. Instead of telling the company’s story, Airbnb gets its customers to tell their stories. They showcase “Stories from the Airbnb Community.” The site’s “Belong Anywhere” campaign uses imagery and short films to highlight the lives of Airbnb hosts and guests’ experiences. It shifted the brand away from the business of houses and rooms to the business of home and experiencing a place like a local. Stories are the what make the Airbnb brand.
The disruptive and ever changing landscape of modern marketing calls for especially emotive and captivating brand storytelling. From local businesses to big international companies storytelling is at the heart of the customer relationship.