News & Views

Lessons for Storytellers

by Contagious Contributor

Inspired by attending Most Contagious in December, TMW's senior planner Roz Hase discusses redefining the craft of storytelling today

In 2013 we were told to forget the traditional, linear marketing funnel, as it’s all about understanding the customer journey. The plethora of channels and platforms now available to consumers means they have greater control over how and when they consume media. Having great content is no longer enough, it’s all about the journey and telling a story. 2014 is, therefore, about redefining what storytelling means in today’s world in order to take consumers on the right journey.

Be genuine

Storytelling is an art and whilst it can be immersive and engaging it needs to also be human and genuine. The more emotive a tale, the more people can relate to it. Authenticity can help brand stories avoid being seen simply as an annoying interruption. Being personal and informal helps brands engage with people – even the new Pope has adopted this approach with his own twitter feed (@pontifex) including the first papal selfie.

Let me be part of the story

Memorable stories put people at their heart, potentially allowing them to craft the story themselves. Penguin understands this and recently created the story hangout which allowed consumers to be part of the story, helping transform storytelling time between adults and children. 

User generated content (UGC) is adding new dimensions to storytelling and breaking down the traditional narrator / listener roles allowing people to add their own twist to the tale. Being part of a story is not just about utilising UGC, it’s about working together and allowing people to have their say: it’s not about what you can do for me, but about what we can do together.

and Toshiba’s award-winning The Beauty Inside  campaign brings this to life brilliantly through its social film which tells the story of Alex who wakes up every day as a different person. The campaign invites consumers to take the lead role in ongoing webisodes. This campaign not only won numerous awards but more importantly saw a 360% increase in sales for the ultra-book.

Make it relevant

The ability to discover your own unique story adds curiosity that helps to increase interest. This may require brands, however, to relinquish control but it can result in more engaging, involving stories that have greater resonance and which ultimately drive greater sales. 

If you know me then don’t talk to me like you talk to everyone else, tell me a ‘personal’ story or make it relevant to who I am. The Tokyo Shimbu newspaper, for example, recognised that children needed a hand deciphering newspaper articles in order to engage with them, and so they created an app that changed adult articles into ones for children, transforming the style, language and experience into a more child-friendly one. 

Make it real

A story that is true to, or rooted in a brand, helps ensure it is authentic and offers a distinctive point of view. Using real people to tell the brand story also helps achieve authenticity. Telco AT&T developed an unscripted reality series that followed a group of LA teenagers on their spring break.  The teenagers told their stories in their own way using social channels in real time which were collated into ‘webisodes’ by professional producers.

And make it interesting

For a story to have real impact it must also be interesting. This can be achieved through the story itself as well as the way it is told. Technology gives us increasingly different ways to invite consumers in and to enhance the experience.  

It’s also important to keep it fresh… or at least tell stories in new and different ways. The recent Three ads  using the love for the frivolous and bizarre to help tell the story of their network in a new and engaging way.

Consumers are hyper-active, hyper-connected, hyper distracted (changing device on average 21 times an hour when at home) and hyper critical meaning brands have to work harder than ever to grab their attention and engage with them. Brands will need to redefine what they mean by storytelling to ensure they are engaging consumers in today’s real time, multi-platform world. 

Roz Hase is senior planner at TMW, London