Storytelling is as old as humanity itself, whether you are an evolutionist and believe in the cavemen with their depictions of early civilisation using simple markings on cave walls or the ancient Egyptians with their hieroglyphics or you are a creationist and believe in the passing down of stories through the generations, both focus strongly on storytelling.

In numerous blogs now, we have approached the subject of the death of classical marketing, and the use of new technology to entice the customer to be part of a brands experience. In this article we will be exploring the new age of marketing and sales by looking more closely at customer immersion and binding customers into a conversation.

Image removed.

Using digital storytelling in marketing exemplifies how powerful a brand can be without the old-fashioned advertising technique of shoving a product in potential customers face and hoping they respond positively. The invasive technique of guessing and shoving advertising into the market’s face does not consider that the impact of the object and the elements of storytelling is monumental. How can we enjoy things like James Bond? We go and buy that thing because we are not buying a watch, but we are buying a lifestyle, an aesthetic, and a story. Stories cause hormones and endorphins to be released from the brain and make you feel a certain way. Digital storytelling projects are functional because you understand with further depth than traditional storytelling, that you can be a great strength, write down your stories, and then index the story into an unlimited plethora of mediums the digital world has to offer.[1]

We are now in the age of “Customer Led Marketing” and with the expansion of access to 360 degree videos and the practices of Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Realities, the new age of marketing is on or doorstep and is already beyond the experimental phase.

So what exactly does this mean for marketing. In the end effect, our sales and marketing experts are bringing the bard back, “Storytelling” and the immersion of the customer. Perhaps the first question we should be asking ourselves here is, how do we create the storyline for the customer, when the customer is part of the action. At the end of the day VR, AR and MR are not new. VR applications in industry have been around since the mid-90s, and has been strongly adopted in the gaming industry.  Perhaps we can learn a lot from our gaming colleagues about full immersion of the audience in an experience or story.

At the end of the day the gaming industry also has to fight for its customers, and the level of detail and possibilities for the participant in a game should be high to keep the customer involved in the game.

Therefore, we must learn to think in 3D.  The role of marketing is changing from a reporter to a modern day Bard.

What however denotes as a story? Allan V Cook from Deloitte Digital answers this beautifully in one of his insights – “Traditional media has only allowed us to recount stories, now with digital reality we can create stories that unfold in real time, where context matters and the participant can tell their own story in an interactive and immersive way.”[2]

Effectively there are 3 ways to appeal to the audience, or states as some marketers address them by – i) Emotional, ii) Psychological or iii) Physical

Sick puppy dogs for changing the emotional state of the audience for charity events, 3D Roller Coaster rides to transport the audience into the feeling of being on one in real time, or the use of triggering the audience to make decisions (Exit Games) are all examples of these states being addressed.

The magic with 360 degree videos and current media technology, it is possible to immerse a protagonist into a virtual environment, where, his / her decisions depend upon how the experience takes place, even if the choices initially are limited.

Let us get back to the main point here. We in marketing and sales have to learn to get back to basics which story tellers in the past nailed; respectively understanding construction needed for storytelling.  This can be decomposed into Experiences, Story and the Narrative.

Let us stick to the definitions given by Allan V Cook:

“Experiences – A lived event or moment within a larger story, that can influence a story’s outcome. Experiences that connect to a story are more memorable and more emotionally powerful

Story – A linked series of events that takes a character from one state to another

Narrative – A system of stories that links values and events to establish broader cultural meaning”

A good example of this was a social project called Step to The Line from Within in co-operation with Oculus hardware to give possible volunteers a true insight into life behind bars in US prisons, show the positive changes that Defy Ventures and their volunteers are creating in those prisons and removing certain stigma.  The developer of the VR Experience states “We hope that Step the Line has the power to make people realise that they are not that different from someone that serves time.”[3]

defy project
Source: https://15minutes.inthemorni.ng/going-to-prison-with-defy-ventures-63e1aae3bfef


“For marketers, the hero in the Hero’s Journey is your customer. Think about how they traverse their world every day and what information they need to succeed and be the “hero” in their story, then use that to inspire your stories.

–Brian Solis, author and analyst at Altimeter Group[4]

Being able to converse with your clients on shared concerns or values you build up credibility and reputation. These values will highly likely not be your brand but by entering into conversation / engagement with your customers, you can couple these to your brand.  It may be a story that compliments your customer’s identity, It could be an organisational charitative story that shows how a brand makes a difference in an area that the customers also believe in.  This could be an environmental issue, a social issue or even a corporate issue.

However, this comes with a big warning, trying to force a brand into one of these catagories for the sake of it can result in a lack of authenticity, and the audience may not take you seriously. 

Remember in your narrative that the customer is the hero and not you or your brand. Marketers have to adopt a different mind-set away from the brand to conversation.

Digital reality is still in its early days and mistakes will be made, however the first examples are showing that the technology has huge potential and I am sure that this will be with us to stay and will form the new Digital 5.0 revolution

So what are the main rules to adhere to when approaching storytelling?

  • Stay away from gimmicks and rely strongly on story
  • Which layer of story are you connecting to? – Again here if your experiences are not reliant on a greater story you can become gimmicky and will not profit from the action as promised.
  • Are you really appealing to a common value?
  • Do not force your brand into a value for the sake of conversation, if it is something you are interested in, let the customer speak, your brand does not always have to be visible

Do not be afraid of putting your customer in control, remember dialog creates attention far more effectively than classical marketing ever can. Stay true to your brand and do not force a story that is not believable or makes you look hypocritical.  A good example of this are cigarette companies who pure lots of money into cancer treatment, when they contribute to the problem in the first place.

[1] https://www.meetcortex.com/blog/digital-storytelling

[2] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/topics/emerging-technologies/digital-reality-storytelling-brand-marketing.html

[3] Ricardo Laganaro, https://medium.com/@Within/step-to-the-line-for-an-intimate-look-at-the-american-prison-system-11fffcbbe484

[4] https://marketingland.com/breaking-through-with-meaningful-content-marketing-in-the-age-of-storytelling-251335, Keith Richey

A new cold war in the digital world?