News & Views

Opinion / Storytelling is dying, it’s time for story creation

by Contagious Contributor
Consumers don’t always want to know about your company history and traditions, they want you to help them tell their story. Ann Ystén, chief executive of Perfect Fools explains.

Storytelling is becoming tougher. In the old days telling a story about the people who founded your company was seen as cool and authentic.

Now it’s not so simple. While some brand stories will still gain attention, many won’t. Essentially storyteling is no longer a guaranteed port of entry to your brand.

It may be that they are willing to engage with your story further down the road, but in a consumer-driven era, your humble beginnings are not always the right place for a first port of call.

The idea that storytelling is dying may sound nonsensical at a time when brands are being told that the future is content marketing but it’s really very simple.

Do millennials really care about the story behind the Coke bottle design? Do they care about the olde worlde stories portrayed in the classic Stella Artois TV ads? Do they really respond to the Tag Hauer watch ads that you see in every magazine? The answer to all these questions is not that much.

So if storytelling of the traditional kind doesn’t press digital buttons, what does? What brands should be doing is to help consumers tell their own stories. That means giving them reasons to do something themselves, to help them be the main part of the story.

The global success of the Ice Bucket Challenge last year was built on this approach. Consumers threw ice cold water over themselves to raise money for charity and then told all their friends about it, often nominating them to do the same thing.

Yes, the charity got lots of funds and awareness but the story that spread was about the individuals who had taken part. When they shared that content, what they were doing was saying I did this and you should too.

Rarely did anyone talk about the history of the ALS Association, which promotes research into Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or the people behind it.

We’ve recently taken a similar approach for clothing brand Peak Performance. A mobile-only campaign allowed us to set up virtual pop-up shops, open only during the magic hour prior to dawn or dusk. Arrive at a stunning GPS-selected wilderness and the shop would be ‘unlocked’ and the visitor rewarded with a code to collect free clothing.

The storytelling, however, was really driven by the people who made the effort to come to the amazing mountain tops, beaches and golf courses where our shops were located.

It was their amazing experience that drove campaign reach. However, the message they spread was not what a cool company Peak Performance is but ‘look what I did’.

Peak Performance incentivized their efforts and encouraged them to get up but it was the consumer that did it. People are building their own brand through social media and smart companies will provide them with experiences that help them do it.

We get lots of clients coming to us who have seen all the industry talk about content marketing and think that the best way to do it is to tell their story.

Gently, because we are kind people, we tell them that their history is fascinating to them but not always the first place to get consumers involved with their brand. The real fans may come back later and want to discover more.

You could make the case that there’s an exception for whisky or wine because provenance is a key appeal for such brands, but these exceptions are few.

For most brands, however, it doesn’t matter what channel consumers tell their story in – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat  what matters is that your brand is part of their story.