3 Easy Steps to Create your Storytelling for Mobile Marketing

Storytelling for SmartPhones

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 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.


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.

Storytelling Mobile Marketing

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.


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 of the user´s intent: The biggest mobile marketing challenge today is to understand users’ behavior and context, even when geolocalization is enabled in their devices. Because cookies are not possible yet, and apps are walled gardens, the traditional navigation analysis and remarketing are difficult to implement. You can always think in users’ consumption triggers and barriers during the customer’s journey for inspiration. Who or what is stopping our heroes from achieving what they want? What are the key obstacles, traps or challenges that our hero will encounter? Who are the allies and enemies along the road? Which are the Magic Objects that can empower our hero in each milestone?

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.


-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.

Storytelling Mobile Marketing

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.

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

How to Use the Power of Storytelling in Education Branding (Q&A)

Storytelling in Education Branding

Dead Poets Society movie by Peter Wier

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

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

3 Healthier Male Archetypes for your Brand Storytelling

Masculinity for Amateurs

A NEW KIND OF masculinity is emerging in America and new male archetypes are already consolidating themselves in some US subcultures.  Those brave enough to celebrate this upcoming idea of ¨maleness¨, will not only collect the symbolic profits of harnessing a big cultural trend, … Continue reading

10 Basic Instincts any Marketer Need to Know about Behavioral Marketing

10 Basic Instincst in Behavioral Marketing Antonio Nunez

Interested in applying behavioral marketing, behavioral economics or neuromarketing ideas to your daily marketing thinking? The Business of Choice: Marketing to consumers´s instincts is the book to read. Continue reading

How Google Planning is Endagering Cultural Strategy

Google Planning Strategic Planning Antonio Nunez

Picture by SDASM Archives

Google’s Analytics, Trends, Console and the rest of their suite of tools, in combination with Google search engine´s simplicity, have made many brand planners believe that you can come up with a great strategy by simply burying your head in a computer screen. This is what I affectionally call “The Google Planning Plague”.

The negative results of understanding Google tools as the only source for creating brand strategies are many:

-1. Planners are not trained in social and observational abilities, like connecting with strangers through empathy or reading consumers’ non verbal communication.
-2. Planners are content detecting people´s surface behaviors, they forget to dig deeper to discover the ever-evolving cognitive insights that are based in attitudes and values.
-3. Brand strategies do not touch base with consumer´s lives beyond the digital.
-4. Strategies lack a coherent narrative. There is a shortage of the most wanted word in the digital world today: Context.
-5. Planners have stopped reading novels, comics, watching movies or trying to understand our cultural past and brand genealogies. Any research that takes more than a few hours or is not already pre-digested with the hit of a button is removed from the strategic planning process.
-6. Account people and Clients are getting used to having “Strategy Decks” ready within hours.
-7. Agency Financial people and Clients are loosing the habit to sign or pay for research budgets.

By over-using Google analytical tools, some young strategist are making the same mistakes that we, the more seasoned strategists, made in the past. For several years we relied solely on another kind of “new technology” research tool: focus groups. Yeah. Focus groups were more convenient, mess-free and affordable than the “old fashioned” long walks in the street, visiting malls or consumers´ homes or the in depth interviews with experts and influencers. Focus groups were the equivalent of going to the movies: you just had to sit and watch. By over using focus groups, planners realized the hard way that they were not learning about everything that was there. Observation and one-to-one interviews need also be part of the research equation.

Planners are forgetting the art of what the great Douglas B. Holt called cultural branding: understanding the cultural context, subcultures and the genealogy of consumption myths.

Conducting direct observation ethnos should still be key in any planning strategy. As Y&R´s Global CSO Sandy Thompson usually says: “If you want to understand how a lion hunts, don´t go to the zoo. Go to the jungle.”

Long live the trips to the jungle and long live Google´s suite of research tools.

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

Why Hyperspecialization is Killing Your Career


Picture from Cugat´s longplay from StudioMONDO

BECOME THE BEST MARACA percussionist in the world and sit back to watch your career thrive.”

This is what my father would say to anyone seeking study or career advice.

My father was a child of the hyperspecialization economy that started with the postindustrial revolution. In the society he grew up in, his advice proved right: hyperspecialized careers were successful because a company’s competitive advantage was mostly based on efficacy (performance) and efficiency (cost). Hyperspecialized professionals were instrumental in delivering both of these elements.

His advice also worked for me. I chose to study marketing. The most profitable career strategy any marketer could adopt at the time was to find a niche discipline and learn to become the very best at it. CRM, digital, social, mobile marketing, you name it; there were plenty of opportunities to catch the right wave.

Back then marketers frequently compared the ideal marketing team to a symphony orchestra. The partiture functions as the operating manual and makes it possible for musicians, from different backgrounds and disciplines, to understand each other and play together in sync. In charge of the partiture compliance is the Orchestra’s Director, a seasoned musician with varied knowledge of how different instruments are played. This wide-ranging expertise gives him the knowledge to guide the specialized musicians during their performances. The Director is the one-in-a-million generalist talent in the orchestra.

The same happened in marketing. There were partitures (Marketing plans and brand bibles), orchestra directors (seasoned marketing directors) and musicians (marketers specialized in specific disciplines).

Things have changed, however, and in this new economy, my father’s advice on career hyperspecialization, could be poisonous. The most prized competitive advantage that companies currently seek is not efficiency or efficacy, but the ability to constantly break the mold.

Companies must embrace hybridization as a way to combine existing resources and ideas in new ways. In order to thrive, they need to be agile, flexible and imaginative enough as to always stay ahead of the ever-evolving desires of a technologically empowered consumer.

 If innovation is about hybridity then looking beyond your specialization is the fastest way of finding original inspiration, making surprising connections and getting disruptive ideas. You must be able to see the always-evolving bigger picture, leave your specialized jargon aside and integrate other colleague’s abilities, tools and working methods. This is the only way to create the perfect ad-hoc team that makes innovation possible.

The metaphor that describes the perfect marketing team of today is nothing like the old music orchestra. Instead, it is more like a free-entrance jam session.

The partiture is the result of a collective effort, like a jam session it’s improvised and democratic. Everyone needs to know how to play his or her instrument but likewise, there needs to exist a general interest and knowledge of how other’s instruments work as well, and how they add to the mix. During jam sessions, musicians should make room for the usual band of colleagues, but should also welcome outside special guests and partners (strategic allies and vendors, celebrities and influencers), as well as accept self-invited anonymous musicians (brand advocates and consumer generated content).

In order to thrive in our marketing careers we’ll need to get our heads out of our hyperspecialized cubicles and look outside the office windows in search for the next opportunity to break the mold.

I will advice my future children to be curious, to be ravenous and to play other instruments besides the maracas. It is time for the resurgence of the Renaissance Man and Woman.

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

Why Symbols Shape Political Storytelling

Flags in America by

Illustration by Christopher J. Ortiz @ChrisJOrtiz

On the TV screen, the passionate crowd sang submerged in a sea of crimson flags. “Look Grandma, look at how beautiful our red flag is”, I cried. I was literally jumping up and down from the joy of seeing the Spanish national soccer team appearing in the grass field.

My grandmother went mad. Grabbing me violently by the shoulders, she stared at me with terrified eyes. “For the rest of your life… don´t ever, ever repeat that word again!¨, she yelled. She realized then that I was trembling. “Son, you don´t say… that R word, you want to say colored”. I was confused: colored could be any color. “Obey. You will understand when you grow up”, she said pointing at me with her index finger.

As a Spaniard, I grew up in a culture that, fifty years after the end of the Spanish Civil War, was still violent, polarized and radicalized. Coexistence and respect were not easy, even among members of the same family. My grandfather was a policeman during the Franco dictatorship. My great uncle, on the other hand, was a Republican who had lost the war against Franco’s front. He was a political prisoner, forced to waste away most of his life in the Puerto de Santa María penitentiary. He was a so-called “rojo”, a red or, as my grandmother wanted me to say, a ¨colored¨.

These past few days, we have been immersed in an important debate around the use of words and symbols in America. President Obama’s use of the N-word in an interview, in which he talked about racism and discrimination, has been controversial. For some people, the context of the conversation legitimated the use of the word. For others, the term should never be used, under any circumstance, and the President committed a terrible mistake by doing so. Another controversial conversation around the topic of symbols is the Confederate flag, still waving in the State Capitol of South Carolina. For some, this flag stands for many noble Southern traditions. For others, it’s a symbol of white supremacy and segregation. Last, the LGBT community finally getting from the Supreme Court the equal right to the most symbolic ritual in modern society: marriage.

Millions of citizens felt the urge to join the debate, especially in social and traditional media were they were trending topics. But no matter how intense and passionate these debates have been, there are still many leaders who do not take them seriously. Too many politicians, CEO´s, journalists, celebrities and opinion leaders prefer to ignore symbols.

There is the “Fanatic of reality” type of leader: people who understand that the symbolic world is dissimilar from the real world, and not intimately intertwined. These “fanatics of reality” disregard debates around symbols as anecdotal “emotional issues” that should not distract society from dealing with “real, tangible problems”. They find debates around symbols a waste of time and social energy. Americans should not be debating around flags or words, but about the economy.

Then there is the “Conspiratorial theory” type of leader, those who consider symbols as distraction weapons, used by obscure groups of interest to manipulate the masses. They understand that participating in debates around symbols is a symptom of ignorance, gregarious behavior or lack of intellectual rigor. Serious people shouldn’t be trapped in conversations around flags.

There is also the third kind of anti-symbolic leader, an even more selfish type: the politician or leader who believes that by not taking sides in the debate, by not making their opinion public, will not loose any potential ally or vote.

I have worked with words and flags, symbols and rituals and archetypes and metaphors in different countries. I have learnt that these storytelling tools are key to all cultures. Symbols are not mere embellishments or sentimental memorabilia; they are cultural fuel that embody the past and help shape the future of societies. As storytelling animals, humans need symbols in order to dream, to be able to connect with others and to work and live together. Culture, a precious connective tissue, is ever-evolving; a corpus of stories and symbols that need to be continually reshaped by people.


One of the most popular memes about the Confederate flag topic in America

Therefore, these discussions around the evolution of symbols are healthy and necessary. As a society with many contrasts, America cannot afford to ignore these strategic conversations, no matter how harsh, radical or polemic they might become.

On the contrary, what I find unhealthy is the myopic or selfish reaction of some leaders, from Presidential candidates to prestigious journalist, avoiding to participate in the debates surrounding these symbols.

Given the number, frequency and high voltage of these types of debates, and how quickly they become trending topics in America, I believe that one of the overarching stories of this upcoming 2016 Presidential campaign will be the coexistence of differences in this nation and the need to update many symbols and rituals. Candidates will need to work on proposals and ideas on how to heal historical wrongs, how to foster tolerance, conviviality and inclusiveness among the varied races, religions and identities of this wonderfully multicultural nation. Those Presidential candidates with vague or elusive answers to the use of national symbols and those who try to manipulate them in their benefit are not only lacking solutions to the problems or being irresponsible; they are also making a big political mistake.

My Spanish grandmother never got to experience the freedom of speech enjoyed in this country. I learnt from her that words, flags and rituals can help to heal the wounds of a nation… or to reopen them. If the power of storytelling through symbols can accomplish so much, our political leaders should not ignore their moral duty to construct social cohesion through them. They better give symbols the importance and respect they deserve for the good of this nation.

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