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Technology Is for Storytelling, Not Just for Looking Trendy

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Has this been done before? It's an honest question that marketers always ask when considering using new technology to tell their stories. Who wants to be a has-been?

But when discussing applying technology to brand experiences, it is not the best question to be asking.

The right question is "Does the new technology help tell a better story about my brand or will the story be about the technology itself?"

The Purpose of Technology

Marketers will be envelope-pushers. Everyone wants to look fresh, exciting, different, and edgy. A new medium to deliver your message says you're a front-runner, constantly thinking how experiences can make an emotional connection to your brand.


A tech-first approach works when the cool factor of the technology furthers the brand conversation, not the technology conversation. A great example of this is when Pepsi Max took over a bus shelter in the UK with brand new technology (see-through LCD displays) that delightfully frightened commuters. A clear LCD screen was placed at one end of the shelter, allowing commuters to "see" what was happening on the street. But what they saw wasn't what they expected: a tiger raced towards the shelter, a slimy creature slithered out of a hole in the sidewalk, a swarm of UFOs hovered over the street beaming lights at the bus shelter. Commuters could join the fun, stand outside the bus shelter, and "run away" from the threats while their pals photographed the shenanigans from inside.

The above example is case in point of a brand using technology to tell a brand story, turning the mundane routine of waiting for the bus into an fun, imminently shareable and memorable adventure. The message was clear and the consumers' focus was on the experience rather than the technology.

Too many times brands get excited about technology and how to look "cool" and focus on how to implement the technology rather how the technology can tell their brand story.

Success with new technology comes down to strategy and how well the technology delivers against that.

Before making the investment in the untried, untested new technology, or technology at all, make sure you ask the hard questions.

Am I able to use the technology in a way to express my brand attributes?

Don't just jump in the pool because others do. Take your time to assess the capabilities of the technology you are considering. Meet with in-house creatives to develop or seek ways that the technology in question can be used to achieve objectives. If this becomes a cumbersome exercise and you feel you are reaching too deep to make a connection, then the technology application is not right for you.

Will this be difficult for people to use? Is there a labor-intensive cost of entry for consumers?

We live in a world where time is of the essence. Make sure the technology experience is easy to understand and makes an instant connection to consumers. Many times, technology-driven experiences ask consumers to download an app, scan a code, enter in personal information, or send a message to unlock the experience. Consumers today are super-busy, and if you ask too much of them, you will lose their attention.

Have you and your technology partner done all your homework?

Have you properly tested the technology to work in all circumstances, weather, indoor/outdoor, excessive use, etc.? Many times we deploy too early without the proper testing. Ensure you understand where the technology will be deployed, and do extensive testing under any and all conditions that may occur. If the technology has glitches or doesn't work well, your customers may leave frustrated... and with a negative feeling about your brand.

Perhaps the biggest question that needs to be considered is a more prosaic one...

Do you have the resources to use the technology the right way?

Technology does not always mean expensive. However, you need to make sure you have the resources to use the technology the right way. That does not only include financial resources but creative, installation, management, and operations. Do not cut corners; it will only cost you at the end.

* * * 

The most important consideration before using new technology is storytelling. When technology, not story, leads the way, the brand can get lost in the "wow" factor. Marketers, proceed with caution. Technology is constantly evolving. There are amazing ways to use technology to tell your brand story, wow consumers, and engage them with your brand.


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Josh Cohen is CEO of Pearl Media, a collective of thinkers, tinkerers, engineers, designers, and dreamers

LinkedIn: Josh Cohen 

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  • by Jessica Zim Thu Apr 30, 2015 via web

    "Too many times brands get excited about technology and how to look "cool" and focus on how to implement the technology rather how the technology can tell their brand story."

    I agree, but the leading example of Pepsi actually seems to reinforce the statement above and not be a good example of using technology to tell a brand story, as your example asserted. Because what did the LCD stunt have to do with Pepsi, other than Pepsi probably plastered their name across it. And it's Pepsi, one of the most recognizable brands on the planet. They can use wacky marketing tactics, whereas people reading this article for practical marketing advice cannot.

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