Creating the Macro Story and Micro Episodes to tell your brand story in smartphones and other mobile devices. (3:51 mins. video)
THE SOCIAL MEDIA advertising industry has been built on the idea of Contagiousness. Social Media’s promised paradise was that of effortlessly making fans promote branded content until it went viral through word of mouth –ideally, at a global scale and for a very reasonable price. More than a decade later, has this promise been fulfilled? Is Contagiousness still the marketing god to worship?
After the demise of interruptive marketing, marketers collectively embraced Google’s advertising model where commercial messages target people already interested in a subject via search query, solving their needs trough content with the less friction possible. Marketing’s main functions became managing a brand’s PPC budget, SEO and SEM while constantly optimizing its digital properties. SEO agencies and Digital Media agencies boomed.
The second-wave, the ¨after Google Era¨ -we could say, appeared with the Social Media revolution. We marketers studied the meteoric penetration of Social Media. Even the most skeptical admitted its influence, as they watched how it could ignite political revolutions across countries and instant over night celebrities. Books like The Tipping Point, The Anatomy of a Trend and Made to Stick became mainstream in the marketing world. We admired the first truly global viral campaigns like Dove’s Evolution and Burger King’s Subservient Chicken.
We revisited traditional ideas from PR (networking, influence, listening, empathy, recommendation). We also learned that the promised Social Media paradise was very inclusive as even small businesses could join: you could launch a campaign for as little as 25 dollars. We got hooked on Social Media’s totally addictive analytics and comforting short-term metrics.
Social Media became CMO’s safest bet; they could show immediate results without the big investments required by traditional media. It was the perfect marketing tool to survive their ever-shrinking tenures. Digital ad agencies rejoiced in the belief that, thanks to Social Media, they would be back in the industry’s driving seat. Their belief being that crafting contagious campaigns was not supposed to be mainly about media investment but about creative talent.
By inoculating the right people with the right content, marketers could spread ultra-targeted campaigns. A robust and influential fan base would be in charge of doing the heavy lifting of the message distribution -practically for free. Contagious became the most influential magazine of that era. In 2013, the book Contagious, Why things catch on became a New York Times bestseller.
It’s author, Wharton’s professor Jonah Berger, synthesized his research in the acronym STEPPS. There are 6 major reasons why people share content in Social Media:
-The content has Social Currency value
-The content has Triggers that make it recurrently interesting
-The content awakes high arousal Emotions
-The content offers Public Practical value to the community
-The content has the shape of a Story
Three years later, Publicis’s digital creative agency DigitasLBi created the Contagious Index, together with Jonah Berger.
These are the top brands in the index on Facebook:
And these are the ones on Twitter:
This new Contagious Index improves the bland “engagement” metrics by being more demanding than the easy “likes” and “favorites”. When people share content, they are reflecting their identity and values.
“What we share is a signal of who we are”, Jonah Berger
The Contagious Index will help to improve the perception and efficacy of the entire social media industry, adding more value and respect to the notion of “engagement” and showing that having many followers and having true engagement don´t always go hand in hand. The question now is how to use it and if messaging´s contagiousness should be the top goal of the advertising agenda.
After almost two decades of Social Media history and brand’s having to fight with ninja cats, burping babies and barely-dressed celebrity photo memes for consumers’ attention, brands have learnt some things:
–Viral campaigns are usually paid campaigns, sometimes very expensively paid campaigns. You need PR and Digital Advertising to propel viral campaigns and to keep them alive.
–People don´t accept advertising in Social Media. Advertising was not part of the initial deal they signed up for when they joined so they abhor it.
-Social Media users are in an active, well…, social mood. They are not there to be entertained by brands, their ¨friends¨ are their entertainment. Any interruption while they navigate is rejected by any means possible, including ad blocking.
–People like their ¨friends¨ and what they have to say, not brands and what they want to say.
-People have started to distrust influencers’ and celebrity endorsements.
-It’s too expensive for brands to sustain a conversation with millions of people 24/7.
-People expect immediate answers when they raise a question or complain through social media and this is not always possible (see above).
-Recent studies show that brand growth happens not because of the frequent usage of loyal clients (the typical social media brand fan), but theoccasional usage of new customers or disloyal customers, as professor Byron Shapiro has proven, category by category, in his books How Brands Growth.
We are all guilty of having created over-expectations about Social media. Maybe in the future it will live closer to Customer Care, PR programs and Promotions than many Social Media agencies prefer to believe today. However, making messaging contagiousness the priority of advertising doesn’t seem like a smart decision, when the actual acceptance of advertising through social media isn’t clear and the correlation of social media with more sales or long-term brand building hasn’t been proven yet.
There is no denying that social media is here to stay. However, while we navigate towards the post Social Media era, maybe we can take a look back and learn a few things from what the ancient ¨interruptive¨ TV has been doing to survive. Netflix, HBO, Amazon Prime and Apple TV have all walked the same harsh journey of brand marketing: consumer empowerment, UX improvement, technology upgrade and usage of big data.
-As Ian Leslie wrote in FT and Michael Wolff studied in his book, paradoxically, ¨the passive nature of TV turned out to be it’s hidden weapon¨. Consumer’s still tolerate advertising when watching TV.
-TV never gave it’s content for free. If viewers want ad-free content, they know that they will have to pay an extra for it.
–Original, premium-quality content has over-come any difficulty and is the foundational pillar of the business model.
–Data is always to service Storytelling, never the opposite. Netflix doesn’t produce pilot episodes or rely on focus groups to validate their shows’s storytelling. They know their customer’s needs and interest and cater to it.
While we try and learn about what the new marketing trend (the tandem of native advertising and programmatic advertising) can do to increase sales, brand loyalty and brand building, maybe, the next gods for brands to worship could be Storytelling and Data, in that order.
One thing is clear: Not only will marketers need to regain patience and long term vision, but also the marketing religion of the future will not be monotheistic any more, but polytheistic.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Antonio Nunez is an author, speaker and brand strategist specialized in Storytelling. His last book is Storytelling en una Semana (Gestión 2000). For ideas and tips on marketing, storytelling and communication, you can join Antonio Nunez´s free newsletter at antonionunez.com or follow his Twitter @AntonNunez
YouTube influencer campaigns provide the authenticity, intimacy and trustworthiness that traditional brand-driven or celebrity-driven storytelling strategies can´t.
Since its origins, the platform’s micro-narratives have copied traditional storytelling genres (like the TV interview), reconfigured others (like the written diary versus the diary videoblog) and created new native categories from scratch.
It’s clear that YouTube native genres will help your brand create storytelling content that already enjoys a solid number of fans and even a certain audience seasonality that can reinforce your marketing plan. The question for marketers, however, is how to get that seemingly real connection with a regular joe that influencers provide, while still enjoying the control over the message and consistency that traditional brand-driven advertising used to offer.
Storytelling is the answer. Asking your influencers to use narrative genres in their videos will provide recognizable and regular patterns of communication for your brand while still allowing enough room for influencers’ creativity, as well as the freedom for their much-needed spontaneity.
Ten popular YouTube native genres that can be adapted for branded content success:
3. “What’s in my X?”: This genre plays to the curiosity of the audience. The influencer reveals his or her calculated “perfect imperfections” by showing what apps are in his o her iPhone, what’s items he or she carries around in their bag, what’s in their makeup collection or gives a room or house tour, etc. here and also following the influencer´s educational advice on how to organize your life. You need these apps in your iphone, this is what you should be carrying in your bag, copy me to make the most of your tiny bedroom etc.
4. “Draw my life”: The influencer sketches in high-speed the most relevant chapters of his or her life in a whiteboard while his or her voiceover narrates the story. The key ingredient here is the intimacy created by the voiceover and the gratitude the YouTuber expresses towards his audience for making his or her life so amazing.
5. “Haul”: The influencer displays items recently purchased and reviewsthem or gives ¨first impressions¨. The hauls can be thematic (makeup, household items, clothes etc.) or seasonal (Fall, Summer, Boxing Day, Black Friday etc.). The video saves the consumer from having to go see the items themselves and know whether they still want to purchase them or not.
6. Challenges: Being the Ice Bucket Challenge a planetary meme, this genre doesn’t need an introduction. The main attraction is watching someone´s journey through ridicule and suffering like drinking a bottle wasabi, or eating a jar of mayo… or getting soaked. The argh! moment is the hero. Here is what Tide did with this genre:
7. Fridge tours: Learning about people´s personal tastes and diet habits, from compulsive eaters to paleo fanatics, made this genre a YouTube classic.
8. What´s in my mouth?: two or more YouTubers make a collaboration in which one is blindfolded and the other puts things in his/her mouth to guess what they are. The point is to laugh and lightly torture whoever is blindfolded by putting disgusting and not-always-edible things in his/her mouth.
9. My boyfriend or girlfriend does my makeup: this is done by two YouTubers, usually a boy and a girl. The boy will try to do a full face of makeup for the girl to disastrous results. We all, including the girl and the boy, will laugh at the boy for his ignorance on how to apply makeup.
10. Trying candy from X: Influencers try sweets from foreign countries on-camera. Explaining the candy’s origin, comparing them with local brands and arggh! and mmm! flashes are the stellar moments.
These examples are no anecdotes or isolated memes, but fully consolidated storytelling genres that didn´t exist ten or even five years ago. They enjoy millions of views and loyal fans, have their own YouTube icons, traditional celebrities doing cameos and genre hybrids. There are plenty of opportunities for brands to grasp.
Do you know of more YouTube native genres?
PEOPLE are rapidly shifting their online time to their phones. In the US, the increase in mobile share of online sessions has increased by 20 per cent last year. Therefore “Mobile first” is the hottest mantra for marketers nowadays.
Some marketers say that trying to tell your brand story on a smartphone is mission impossible. But ignoring storytelling is ignoring human nature.
The Master-story (or overarching franchise story) and the Micro-stories (episodes that are relevant in vital micro-moments or contexts along the mobile customer’s journey) can help marketers rethink their mobile storytelling strategy.
NO DEVICE FOR OLD STORYTELLING
No room for flashy messaging or design in tiny screens. No patience for distractions from the purpose of the search. No time to elongate a micro-moment. Some marketers think that storytelling on phones is a bad idea that can scare away potential customers. Phone users just want no-frills information, instantly, they say. For the anti-mobile storytelling marketers, storytelling is the enemy of brand utility, being mobile marketing the quintessential Mecca of brand utility.
But ignoring storytelling in mobile marketing is ignoring how humans learn, make sense of information or even think spatially. The more hurried, stressed, in need of fast learning or spatial orientation, the more the human brain needs storytelling to make sense of reality. Marketers cannot afford not using storytelling on smartphones. Even no-frills, UI based apps like Über or Lyft will need, sooner or later, to turn to storytelling as a differentiation tool.
Even when we have yet to master the storytelling art in mobile devices, and that includes even the video game and TV shows industries, marketers can plan their storytelling by thinking in the Master-story and the different Micro-episodes.
A) DESIGNING THE OVERARCHING MASTER STORY FOR CONTINUITY AND BRANDING
You need a franchise story that mirrors your marketing funnel and customer journey. Thanks to phones, costumer’s journeys are more hyper-fragmented than ever. It´s not about long sessions in a desktop anymore. People check their phones, on average, 150 times a day in 1 minute and 10 second sessions. Storytelling can help to create continuity along this micro-fractured customer journey.
Think of a Master story that can be expandable and relevant through the entire marketing funnel using the following tenets:
– Ultra-Simple argument: Your Master Story should be told in a sentence or two, using the Want-But structure. I.e: Hero wants to live a healthier lifestyle but it’s not easy given her way of life, Hero wants to decorate a house but has little money, etc. There will be plenty of opportunities to enrich your story later, through the different critical Micro Episodes (Choosing the most adequate diet for you, how to cook healthy, combining paint colors, finding the nearest Wall Mart, etc.).
– A non-linear structure. Your episodes, mirroring the customer’s journey, cannot be aligned under the Aristotelian ¨setup-conflict-resolution¨. Consumers don´t follow traditional linear journey models like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) anymore. It´s not about creating a sequential experience based on causality (cause-effect), but more like a “choose–your-own-story” book or the novel Rayuela. Each user will enter your story using a different door and different navigation sequence. Do not create a time-lined corridor but an asynchronous, always-on, spider web story.
– A Brand archetype: Archetypes develop brand personality instantly and are a phenomenal ¨look and feel¨ guideline when creating mobile user experiences. A journey to the nearest BP gas station using Google Maps, Spotify or Wallet should not the be the same experience under the Warrior Archetype than under the Sage archetype.
– Different conflicts: When experiencing the mobile journey, your user will encounter different challenges or conflicts in crucial micro-moments: They will need to Know, to Go, to Do or to… Smoke (more on this later). Think about the Master conflict first (lifestyle, no money, etc.) and you will be able to connect and develop secondary micro-conflicts later (shopping, cooking, dieting, exercising, counting calories, etc.).
– A word cloud and key metaphors: key words that will help to write the story with consistency, metaphors will help users learn intuitively how to navigate new realities or acquire new abilities.
– Sonic and Visual branding: these will help to identify the story beyond a color code.
– A Life Truth: What message, connected to higher order values, do you want to convey trough the different mobile touch points? This will ensure that the mobile experience is connected to your brand and company values.
B) DESIGNING THE MICRO-EPISODES FOR BRAND UTILITY
Once you have a robust story franchise for branding and continuity purposes, it´s time to think in the different micro-episodes. Episodes must embody the crucial micro-moments that happen anytime and anywhere your brand needs to show up. They should be able to engage users with relevance during a real-time search.
-Think Instant: Episodes must be ultra-short micro-stories. Remember 1 minute and 10 seconds is all you’ve got.
–Think in Genre: Genres can help users to instantly grasp what kind of emotions, conflicts and archetypes to expect in a micro-story, as they are deeply rooted in pop culture. They help to fight app or site switch. Should your micro-moment be shaped as a thriller, a self-discovery story or as a documentary? Maybe more as Millennials genres like unboxing stories or fridge tours?
–Think in Contribution: How each specific micro-episode along the customer’s journey will contribute to the Master story and to your branding? Will it help to make your Master story more sensual, more aspirational, more visual or spreadable? How will it help to balance the overall user experience?
–Participation level: How social or private the episode must be? How passive or active you want the consumer to be? Maybe your users want to share that they just bought a vintage piece but not where they bought it.
C) THE 4 MOST FREQUENTLY USED MOBILE MICRO-STORIES
-The Discovery Story: This type of episode needs to embody micro-moments where users are exploring, looking for inspiration or education in their phones. Imagine a context in which they have a vague idea of what they want or need, but they don´t know the available alternatives or possible solutions. They are looking for ideas, inspiration, tips and advice, not your brand. Don´t push your brand yet, they are not ready to buy; at this point it would only scare them away. The Discovery stories are specially indicated to recruit new customers. It´s about anticipating needs. Think in a horizontal “drillable” story, where users are offered an array of solutions and they get to choose which one to dig into deeper.
–The Action Story: In this kind of episode the users already know what they are looking for but don´t know the practicalities. They need to implement their decision, make them real. These are the How-to stories and the Instructional stories, were the action is described in step-by-step detail. Think about do´s and don’ts and watch out for.
–The Road Story: The users already made their decision and now they want to know how to get to a place, find the nearest store or what milestones and landmarks to expect along the road. Think about how they will feel each step of the way, it´s not about creating a rational check-list. They want to make the most of every milestone along the journey.
–The Cigarette Story: People use phones like smokers use cigarettes. If they have a moment left, their phones are there to fill that time gap. They could be at the bus stop or metro, in-between meetings, or in a Starbuck’s line. During these micro-moments people want to be entertained, interact socially or game. The Cigarette stories are perfect to retain customers when they are stuck in a step of your marketing funnel, meditating, consulting with others or procrastinating. You don´t want to loose potential customers that already entered your marketing funnel because they get bored or forget you.
Designing stories for smart phones might not be an easy task. However; it will definitely be a mission worth undertaking as Storytelling can become Brand Utility’s best ally.
Have a message to convey? Forget slide presentations and spreadsheets, advises consultant Antonio Núñez. Rather, he says, focus on telling a good story.
(Q&A originally published by GMAC´s GM News.)
The opening keynote speaker for GMAC’s European Conference, Núñez has a wealth of experience in helping corporations, nonprofit organizations, and individuals integrate storytelling into their marketing and branding. After earning his MBA at ESADE, he worked for several multinational communication companies, including Saatchi & Saatchi and SCPF, one of Spain’s leading advertising agencies. He is a founding partner of Story and Strategy, which applies communication strategies based on storytelling. Núñez shared some of his insights with GM News.
Q. You advocate the power of using stories in marketing and branding. Can you briefly describe that concept?
A. I have been interested in stories since I was a child. When I started to work with brands and consumer experiences, I realized that individual brand experiences are both experienced as stories and told as stories to other people. Thus, I discovered many parallels between what a fiction story could be and what a brand story could be.
What I do basically is to transform experiences into a story with conflict, archetypes, and beginnings and ends, to try to help consumers experience the brand as a story.
Q. Can you give one or two examples of successful storytelling in business?
A. One of the most successful examples is Coca-Cola. They collect every good story that consumers may have about their brand. In fact, they have a story-telling theater in Las Vegas where professional storytellers share stories that show how Coca-Cola is not only a brand but is also part of our lives and identity. The theater features several well-known true stories that happened around a bottle of Coke.
Apple, along with CEO Steve Jobs, represents another good example of how you can build both business leadership and brand leadership through the stories that your CEO and your employees can tell about your brand, company, and services. There are a lot of parallels here with educational institutions, where faculty members and others on campus also tell stories.
Q. In today’s business world, which obviously relies heavily on numbers and facts, how can storytelling compete as a means to convey a message?
A. We are learning that we are emotional animals—we are driven by emotions first and then by rationality. That is where stories are more powerful than PowerPoints and data. Stories contain emotions, conflicts, and many different senses. Stories are a faster way to capture an audience’s attention. Stories also have something that numbers do not have, which is that the audience gives sense to the stories that it hears. That has two advantages. First, a story involves you and demands that you decide what the story is trying to tell. Second, if you have a story, you want to share it. Stories are therefore a better way to help people remember what they need to remember about your brand, project, or presentation.
Also important is that stories come in their own words. In business today we are moving from a mass media environment to a one-to-one, online environment. That means that you have to respect how people tell their own stories. At the same time, you need to strive for brand reputation consistency, something that is very difficult. That is why stories are important.
Q. Can you give an example or two of how a business school might apply storytelling in its own marketing?
A. One thing to note concerns rankings. Sometimes is it very difficult to compete through rankings. Rankings can be very subjective and are sometimes not multidimensional but based on only two or three factors. Sometimes you want to play in a different arena. To help do that, your university or MBA program has to have a story—that is, something that has a conflict in it. Why should a university or brand embrace a conflict? Because it will become important for your target audience if that audience is interested in that conflict. By conflict, for example, we might mean “finding a job,” obviously a No. 1 concern of students but also a means to transform your family, or a means to learn and transform yourself into a better human being. Conflict is something that has to be connected to your brand.
Universities should work to spread their stories across their networks of alumni. By sharing stories within this network, you will be building your reputation and your relationship network.
Q. When you speak at the GMAC European Conference, what key messages do you hope your audience will take away from your talk?
A. The first message is that you cannot rely on traditional mass media to build your image and your reputation. Such channels are becoming less efficient and effective. You need to move to different social networks, both offline and online. In these networks, stories are a key tool. They can be supported in many media, such as video, podcasts, and websites, but the main tool is the story, and storytelling. I also plan to talk about what a true story is, which is not just about rational argument and a certain order and structure. The stories that you tell to describe your programs should have smell, texture, and many different conflicts so that they appeal to your prospective students.
Another topic will be how you can create a consistent story through the different channels available to educational institutions. There are many different stories within a university or an MBA program, and you have to create consistency while allowing people the freedom to tell their own stories. That balance is very important.
The GMAC European Conference took place 24-25 October 2010 at Ashridge Business School in the United Kingdom.
A version of this interview was originally published in GMAC-GM News
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