Laurie Dillon Schalk nicely spearheaded the discussion featuring the following panelists: Mark Evans, Andrew Jenkins, Randy Matheson and myself. We were privileged to engage in very robust and interactive discussion with audience members.
Without storytelling, content is nondescript, uninspiring and, frankly, a waste of time and energy.
~ Mark Evans, Contributor, Forbes
Here was the premise of the session:
Compelling story telling is the foundation for building strong social relationships and brand advocacy. Persuasive, shareable, and detailed, your brand’s story will create deep consumer connections. And yet, many brands do not tell stories well. Our panel will explore what is at the core of storytelling, what brand must do to unleash their stories and also — how some brands are managing to get their communities to tell the story on their behalf.
Storytelling has been around forever.
People are moved by emotion and the power of the narrative allows individuals to emotionally connect to an object or event. Researchers have long acknowledged that “classical language regions, like Broca’s area and Wernicke’s area, are involved in how the brain interprets written words”.
In fact it has been suggested that entering “descriptive” words, words that spark the imagination, can have the effect of altering the way information is processed.
The more people are absorbed in a story, the story changes them.
Here’s some context: In a meeting when we are presented with dry, factual details and arguments we are more critical and skeptical. Without an interesting lead in or background, we may even become disengaged.
But when we are absorbed in a story, we drop our intellectual guard and this seemingly leaves us defenseless. Now our emotion takes over and we become increasingly engaged.
Storytelling Has Become More Relevant in 2013
Storytelling is the differentiator especially in times when consumers are being bombarded with brand messages everywhere they go: via email, TV, print and now–advertising on their social streams.
This information overload is propelling people to “switch off”. Companies must now figure out how to effectively engage consumers in a brand’s stories and using the construct of the narrative to create some powerful connections.
In addition, given the number of social media tools, people have the power to fill in the gaps and create their own stories about anything and any brand.
They stitch together fragments of information and attempt to draw their own conclusions. It’s becoming clearer that companies cannot necessarily afford to sit back and let the consumer decide what they stand for.
There’s a risky price to pay especially if the truth is distorted. Storytelling has the potential to inspire and create meaningful connections that will ultimately benefit the brand.
David Ogilvy once said,
A great ad is one which sells the product without drawing attention to itself.
The Story is the Hero. The Product is Merely a Supporting Role
This Audi Superbowl Ad: “Prom” does just that.
How many adult males have connected with the “father”, throwing the keys to his “younger self” and remembering when he was in his shoes?
How many of us have played the role of the high-school boy going stag to the prom, parking in the principal’s parking spot and having the gumption to approach that “girl” and kiss her.
We may not have lived it but we’ve enacted it a thousand times in our minds. One individual put it nicely: “Great storytelling includes conflict and resolution”.
Audi successfully connected each and every one of us to the high-school kid and his act of bravery. In turn, we unknowingly have a much closer connection to Audi, the brand.
The Brand Values Must be Reflected in the Story
This Lincoln ad included curated tweets by Jimmy Fallon to generate the story the #SteerTheScript campaign.
It features a man sitting in a chair in the middle of a field explaining the crowd-sourced nature of the spot, a young woman driving an MKZ, a hitchhiker, an alpaca farm, some turtles, bikers, and a wedding. I had to watch this twice to understand what they were trying to convey.
Some at Podcamp indicated “confusion” about the message. It didn’t resonate with them. It also did little to convey Lincoln’s beliefs or its positioning. It left that up to user-generated content and it failed badly.
Laurie noted that total engagement garnered was about 3800 tweets, mostly generated during the time of Jimmy Fallon’s show. An ad that gives up that much control to the public is risky.
This ad, made up from a mishmash of disconnected UGC content, without flowing from a single theme, does little to convince any of us of its worth.
The Best Stories Go Beyond Advertising
You want people to connect to your brand? Seed the idea.
Begin the first chapter and establish your brand values and develop a narrative that connects your customers to those same values. But don’t stop there!
Weave it into everything you do: your website, your blogs, your internal communications, your dialogue with your customers. Allow it to branch and morph and grow. And let your audience interact with it and develop their personal stories. Your story can develop into endless chapters, within months and perhaps years.
The only example and one that fits this to a “T” is “Red Bull Stratos”. Creating engagement at scale and being able to resonate with and establish an “emotional” connection with the consumer was established beyond comprehension.
Red Bull has been now been lauded as a “media” company, a distinguished label that describes its ability to drive inexplicable reach and resonance.
– 2,000,000 unique consumer actions
– 1,000,000 distinct Stratos participants
– 2,000,000 new subscribers acquired in 15 days
– 820,000 pieces of positive content created
– 400% increase over average length of consumer engagement
– 50,000 distinct links shared
– 61,634,000 trusted impressions generated
Are you ready to tell your story?
Founder at ArCompany, and Director, International Council on Global Privacy and Security by Design Hessie is a seasoned digital strategist, and intelligence analyst having held senior positions for top ad agencies including Ogilvy, Rapp Collins, ONE and Isobar Digital. She also has extensive start-up experience in AI technologies, social tech, online publishing and artificial intelligence like Yahoo! Answers, Overlay.TV, Jugnoo and Cerebri AI. Hessie is the co-author of EVOLVE: Marketing (as we know it) is Doomed! She is also an active writer for Forbes, Cognitive World, Towards Data Science and Marketing Insider Group.