The Evolution of Storytelling

Blog by Nikki Girvan

Last year, in an interview with Marketing Week, MasterCard’s global chief marketing and communications officer, Raja Rajamannar, argued that storytelling was dead and that “story-making” was the way to meet audiences’ demands for experiences over things.

Almost 12 months later, as we celebrate National Storytelling Week 2018, it seems the practice is still very much alive and kicking, but it’s evolving into an increasingly collaborative process between brand and customer.

Brand Storytelling

The human race has been telling stories since time began, from prehistoric caveman drawings to hieroglyphics and from the Bible to the Bayeux Tapestry. The medium may have changed, but reasons we tell stories remain. Storytelling helps us to make sense of the world around us and share that understanding with others. It allows us to inform, persuade and educate and – in the case of marketing – build emotional connections with audiences.

The medium selected for storytelling is important of course. Technology has taken our primitive oral and written practices to new emotional heights. For example, which do you find more engaging? This short story summary:

“A young boy found a monster under his bed and was scared. But then he made friends with the monster. The monster bought him a nightlight as a Christmas present and went away, so the boy could sleep soundly.”

Or this two-minute emotional rollercoaster that combines, music, cinematography, theatre and two blokes inside a giant monster puppet? We thought so!

Brand storytelling is nothing new, it’s at the heart of marketing campaigns that capture audiences and move them to action. Brilliant storytelling can change perceptions, create brand ambassadors and drive sales.

But while traditional stories are static and have a beginning, middle and an end, storytelling in marketing is dynamic. Brands have to evolve to ensure they remain engaging, authentic and memorable by adopting new technology and platforms to share their story.

Storytelling vs. Story-Making

The difference between storytelling and Rajamannar’s “Story-Making” is the inclusion of the audience in the experience – it positions them as active participants, rather than observers.

This can be through immersive experiences using new platforms and technology, from Snapchat filters and Instagram Stories, to Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) as seen in IKEA’s ARKit App, which allows customers to bring the brand’s furniture into their home and AMC’s The Walking Dead app, which allows fans to collect AR zombies and make scenes with them using your phone. The latter campaign boosted engagement with the show even further by highlighting selected TV ad spots during the show where exclusive zombies could be unlocked.

“Story-Making” can also be achieved by influencer engagement, working with trusted social media influencers and bloggers. Effectively this means handing over your story to selected ‘characters’ – your chosen influencers – to tell the next chapter and allow their carefully cultivated and loyal audience see it through their eyes.  In Asia, this type of marketing is going even once step further, with brands inviting influencers to not only tell their story, but also shape and write it, buy involving them in the creation of new products and services, based on their insight and role as active participants in the narrative.

No Make Without Tell

But contrary to Rajamannar’s comments, storytelling is evolving, not dying. In fact, without storytelling, “Story-Making” cannot exist. There has to be a narrative, an engaging truth that resonates with the target audience, to give people something to buy into, to participate in. Influencers need to feel and affinity to the brand and believe in its offer to share it with their own audiences via partnerships and UGC. There is no make without tell.

Why not contact us today to start writing the first chapter of your brand story?

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