Stories have always been vehicles via which we communicate and perceive truth. But more than ever before, stories are taking center stage in the consumer marketplace, enabling brands to forge meaningful, lasting connections with generations of customers.
One of the key challenges for today's marketers is the creation and delivery of cross-channel brand stories. Consumers no longer access content via a single channel. They use a range of personal technologies to connect with the brands and retailers that are important to them—and they expect to be "wowed" every time, regardless of the channel they use to access the brand.
So, for growth-minded retailers and consumer brands, omni-channel success hinges on the ability to deliver cross-channel brand stories that are engaging, memorable, and consistent.
The Art and Science of Cross-Channel Brand Stories
Deployment strategy is only one aspect of effective cross-channel brand storytelling. The most successful brand stories blend art and science to create highly engaging messages that reach more audiences, across an extremely diverse range of touch points. Ideally, the stories being told will be shared by large numbers of consumers and ultimately exhibit viral qualities across multiple channels.
The art of brand stories is the ability to craft relevant and impactful content—encapsulating brand culture while connecting with the needs and preferences of core audiences. Whether content is being generated for the company's digital catalog or for some other multichannel purpose, the creative process focuses on deliverables that hit home and invite audiences to deepen their relationship with the brand.
However, science is often the driving force behind the art of brand storytelling. The creation of impactful brand messages begins with the use of analytics to identify core audiences and discern their cross-channel behaviors. Customer and user behavior shape the story by informing creatives' quest to produce meaningful content and by helping them perfect the story across all channels.
The bottom line is that cross-channel brand stories require both art (creative development) and science (cross-channel analytics) to be successful. The art is driven by the idea, while the science inspires the art by aligning messages with target audiences and prevailing behaviors in the omni-channel marketplace.
Five Tips for Cross-Channel Brand Storytelling
Clearly, cross-channel stories play a pivotal role in omni-channel commerce. Marketers can employ various tactics to improve the quality of their cross-channel brand storytelling and forge deeper relationships with core audiences.
1. Identify the story
The development and deployment of cross-channel brand stories begins with identifying key elements of the story based on the brand's history and consumer behaviors. By applying analytics, creatives gain visibility to consumer behaviors across channels and platforms, including mobile, social, e-commerce, in-store—anywhere consumers connect with the brand.
Equipped with insights, creatives and marketers have the raw material they need to marry key messaging with cross-channel consumer desires. The result is that the creative aspects of the brand story reflect actual, measured dimensions of the marketplace, enabling the brand to better inspire, capture, and engage its target audience.
2. Evoke emotion
Emotion can help cross-channel brand stories resonate with consumers. But for many marketers, the challenge is to create compelling content that reflects the brand's values without crossing over into the realm of the ridiculous or the absurd.
For example, humor can be an effective tool in cross-channel brand storytelling—if it's done well. Smart, witty content that embodies the essence of the brand is shared more often than flat content that elicits no emotional response. However, poorly executed attempts at humor can easily backfire, causing consumers and core audiences to re-evaluate their relationship with the brand.
Whether you are attempting to connect with consumers through humor, aesthetic beauty, or some other emotion, support your efforts with an analysis of data related to your audience's values, attitudes, beliefs, and cross-channel behaviors.
3. Provide useful content
The best cross-channel brand stories offer value to core audiences. In addition to being fun and engaging, content needs to deliver useful information rather than forcing consumers to provide personal information, survey responses, or other information to the brand.
The goal of cross-channel brand storytelling is to offer noninvasive opportunities for consumer interaction. By rewarding audiences with valuable information, fun experiences, or otherwise useful content, brands can begin to use stories as drivers of loyalty and re-engagement.
4. Be experiential
Cross-channel opportunities give marketers the ability to take the experiential aspect of brand storytelling to a new level.
Consistent and memorable stories can be shared across multiple platforms, with each channel feeding off the momentum generated elsewhere in the brand experience. For example, Apple has done an impressive job creating a finely tuned, cross-channel experience that makes it easy for consumers to locate and purchase desired products, regardless of whether the consumer interacts with the brand online or in-store.
By identifying core elements of the brand experience and consistently incorporating those elements into the design or content of cross-channel opportunities, marketers can duplicate Apple's success and significantly improve loyalty as well as brand engagement.
5. Make it accessible
Finally, cross-channel brand stories need to be noticed and accessible to core audiences. Many brands invest time and energy in the development of messages that fall short simply because target consumers never knew those messages existed.
When marketers go to the trouble of creating cross-channel brand messaging, they need to shout its availability from the mountaintops, applying cross-channel capabilities to make compelling messages visible and accessible to target consumers.
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The key takeaway for marketers is that cross-channel brand stories need to be memorable. Consumers remember strong creative messages; by tapping analytics for behavioral insights, marketers improve their ability to produce impactful content, to perfect brand stories, and to compel core audiences to take the all-important next step.
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