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September 6, 2012
Rethinking Storytelling
Does the medium dictate how the story is told? That’s a question of increasing urgency as brands develop assets and orchestrate experiences among and between channels and platforms.

As online video replaces 30-second spots and games influence our expectations about how stories unfold, Latitude 42, a research consultancy, surveyed 158 tech-forward people (heavy smartphone and tablet users) aged 12–65 about experiencing stories in the future. Titled “The Future of Storytelling: Phase 1 of 2,” the responses reflect the current state of consumer expectations about media integration and hint at where we’re heading.

Stories are the fundamental meme of human communication. From ancient times, stories reflected the outlook, sensibilities, hopes, and dreams of the storyteller and the audience. Stories that were remembered and retold and stories that motivated thought or action were tales that connected the individual to the actors or the action. The same holds true today. Consumers want to be part of or connected to the stories and experiences that brands are creating.

The survey found four important ways in which this happens.

Immersion. Consumers want to go deeper into the story world. They want apps and websites or ancillary campaigns to fill them in on the backstory, add context, define terms, or help them feel or sense the feelings or sensations in the story. They don’t want channels to simply duplicate the content. They want channels to compliment and enhance the experience.

Interactivity. Consumers, familiar with participatory experiences and gaming, want to influence elements of the story, become part of the story, and share the experience with others. This probably reflects the influence of online communities dedicated to genres and discrete content where fans write biographies for characters, create alternative scenes and endings, develop new characters, and invent storylines, then share, discuss, and debate all of these things with others who are equally involved and committed to the experience. Think of the variety or intensity of content-oriented communities on Fan Fiction or 4Chan or consider the intensity and dedication of Star Trek fans and you’ll get the point.

Integration. Consumers expect integration between the real and digital worlds. They are interested in experiences that bridge both. Brands need to think about the real world as another platform. Many have used offline events, promotions, and appearances or even check-ins as content and interactive fodder for social media. Evidently this resonates with consumers who are eager to use their devices to enhance or advance online experiences.

Impact. Content has to matter to be impactful. Consumers want to be informed, motivated, encouraged, empowered, and directed to act. The story has to relate to the audience and touch a personal nerve. Stories aren’t passive. Consumers want an active experience where they do meaningful things, and they are willing to reward storytellers who touch them with longevity of attention and interaction and loyalty.

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Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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