Whether in the form of a book, a movie, or a marketing campaign, great storytelling will always resonate with audiences. As consumers become increasingly mobile and social, however, they want to interact with the story, not just be exposed to it.
Luckily for marketers and consumers, continual innovation has made it possible for audiences to both influence the unfolding of the story and have a say in its outcome. This new, in-the-moment relationship between brand stories and audiences is the basis of an emerging tactic called storybuilding.
Storybuilding is essentially an active form of storytelling. Whereas storytelling primarily works to convey the essence of a brand to customers—in a more engaging and entertaining way than purely informational tactics—storybuilding puts mobile, social, and big data to work, in the moment, and gets customers involved along the way.
This approach can feel daunting because it introduces a whole new set of variables that seem largely at the whim of the consumer. Fortunately, storybuilding isn't a matter of crossing your fingers and hoping for the best, it's the effect of developing a strategy to maximize both the chances the audience will come into contact with the story and the opportunities for engagement no matter when or where they may encounter it.
Here are five steps to consider when developing your storybuilding to ensure customer participation—and a storybook ending.
1. Assign a different part of the story to each of the touch points included in your campaign
Instead of simply retrofitting a single story for different channels (the 30-second TV spot, the Facebook post, the billboard ad, etc.), storybuilding is achieved by assigning each medium a different role in the telling of a larger, more comprehensive tale.
It's important to understand the pros and cons of each channel included in your campaign—and, based on that, which piece of the story is best conveyed by each. Bottom line: let the technology do its job the way it wants to rather than how you think it should.
2. Use mobile technology to create an interactive and cohesive narrative
Mobile technology offers a wealth of data that can help inform and direct campaigns by knowing exactly where users are, what they're doing, what common behavioral patterns they're exhibiting, and what these patterns have signified for consumers in the past. Marketers are therefore able to trigger different parts of the narrative at the appropriate moment and in real-time. More important, however, is that mobile technology allows the audience to jump into the story on the spot via captivating interactive calls to action.
3. Make sure your calls to action compel audience participation
Any advertising platform, from billboards to commercials, can be brought to life with the right call to action. The formula is simple: You want your audience to do something, and in return you're offering them something that benefits them.
Omaha Steaks, for example, used radio call outs directing consumers to respond to a mobile prompt and receive a digital coupon directly to their phones. In short, potential consumers were driving in their cars empty-handed one minute, and in the next they were armed with an incentive to buy with the push of a button. That was, in large part, thanks to a call to action that made it clear what the offer was, what was in it for the audience, and how they could take advantage of it in the very moment it was on their mind.
4. Consider the relationship between story entry point and the desired outcome
Knowing what to offer is just as much about context as it is about the type of outcomes both parties are expecting. For marketers, it's important to determine up front whether your goal is to quickly facilitate conversions or if it's to begin a long-term relationship with new customers. Or both.
For instance, an in-store touch point, such as a mobile coupon that customers can redeem on the spot, is more about driving home immediate sales, and a campaign that revolves around driving app downloads is more likely focused on creating longer-term engagement. Both examples are at different ends of the engagement spectrum, but both are very effective at cultivating and enhancing the relationship between the brand and the consumer in different ways.
5. Use social media to amplify the story
Social media was built to spread information to a massive audience very quickly. With this in mind, integrating social media functionality into your campaigns is a great way not only to reach a large and varied audience (by harnessing the connections of your consumers) but also to let them truly insert themselves into the campaign.
A recent example: Dove ran an interactive billboard in the heart of New York City that allowed people passing by to connect with the ad via their social media profiles—and watch their profile pictures instantaneously appear on the digital display in real time. It was a creative idea that also drove immediate engagement, strengthened consumer relationships with the brand, and amplified the Dove name to countless potential customers via the connections of the participating audience members. Not a bad day at the office for a billboard.
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As always, the most important thing in any campaign is the overall message. The greatest marketing strategy in the world can't cover for a bad story. That said, every day new technologies are introduced that allow marketers to communicate their message and engage with audiences like never before.
With the proper strategy and a little creativity, marketers can maximize the potential of those technologies and tell dynamic, interactive stories that will benefit both brands and the individual consumer.
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