About the author: Mark Kirkpatrick is a writer with a strong passion for emerging technology and social media strategies to help enhance ones brand. He enjoys drinking his morning cup of black coffee while attempting the newspaper’s crossword puzzle. He hopes the readers of Siliconbayounews.com find this article helpful as well as informative.
As our society becomes more and more automated and digitized, marketing and advertising are making a big move that seems almost paradoxical: relying on the human factor to connect with consumers. According to best-selling media theorist Daniel Pink, today’s consumers are less likely to respond to bottom-line hard facts about a product as they are to stories that generate context, meaning, and points of empathy.
The great news is that because such marketing derives from our most ingrained psychological needs and wants, it can produce some of the most organic and credible ad campaigns out there. Here’s how:
Tap into real lives
One of the most salient aspects of the Facebook era is the willingness of so many people to share their own experiences–and just as likely, to share the more profound stories of other people. For marketers, weaving a brand into the fabric of a pre-existing reality glosses that brand with a veneer of credibility and relevance.
Consider a current campaign spearheaded by the Shock Top brewing company under the masthead of “Real People, Real Dreams.” The concept is simplicity itself: Shock Top’s advertisers concoct a loose narrative framework in conjunction with the whims of real beer drinkers and produce that fantasy into a quirky, engaging mini-epic–in this case, a gaggle of amiable guys who just want to enjoy a beer in the highest bar in the U.S.
Stories can tap into real-life with elements of gravitas as easily as into the lighthearted stuff as well. In a recent ad spot, Coca Cola injected its product into the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan as a way of building peace. By documenting the impact of Coca Cola’s humanitarian efforts upon real faces before us, the concept warmed over even more cynical viewers.
Get customers involved
Not only can brands reach out to consumers by producing the kind of slice-of-life narratives above, they’re also finding that many happy customers are happy to meet the brand halfway. With the affordable magic of phone cameras and social media links, marketers need only plant a seed of story out there and let spirited consumers do the rest.
Campaigns are the most successful when the narrative stub provided by brands is a simple one: strong enough to guide the tapestry of story, but supple enough to allow many different spins. Often, the recipe is as simple as asking people to share their success stories involving a product in question, as has been the case with Chase’s personable anecdotes of the little people who have actualized their dreams through small business loans.
Think of the brand as a story in itself
In many cases of digital storytelling, the traditional narrative arc may be loose and merely implied. In some of the most successful cases of getting customers to play an active part in the equation, the real story is that of the brand itself. What are the company’s underlying values; its flavor; its personality, even? Think of the brand-story as a slow-roasting fire that, once kindled by marketers, is built up one log at a time through individual users.
Look at Evian’s recent “Wimbledon Wiggle” social media campaign, which got the ball rolling with a funky adspot that unveiled a simple but visually catchy dance created to tie in Evian water with the eponymous tennis gala. Spurred on by the prospect of winning a ticket package to Wimbledon, fans submitted their own take on the dance in brief, homemade video clips. There may not have been a beginning, middle, and end, but every dance told the story of Evian (it’s sporty and fun) and grafted that larger vision onto the energy of a real-time sports happening–all with smashing results.
Indeed, some of the best storytelling-as-marketing breaks the fourth wall and manages to brand personal experience itself. Trendy surfwear imprint Hollister, as an example, currently uses live video streaming to link its flagship beachfront Huntington Beach store with a location in Manhattan, magically treating visitors in the Big Apple to a splash of Surf City. The resulting “hyperspace” of the two stores manifests the appeal of Hollister as it literally sprawls from coast to coast. Similarly, businesses can use personalized point of sale technologies to make in-store visitors feel they’re part of the brand’s overarching story.
Just as marketers should re-define story in a broader, brand-oriented manner, they should remember that the good old-fashioned elements that make a good soap opera or thriller still apply. Create characters that have universal appeal. Don’t play all the story cards all at once so as to build suspense. But by all means, make it mean something.