Storytelling: Secrets from the big screenSeptember 17, 2012
It’s no secret that some of the world’s greatest stories have come to the attention of the masses via Hollywood. But the formula for telling good stories is not limited to Sunset Boulevard. Among brands, storytelling is also a commonly used strategy. Still, there are a lot of insights we can use from the entertainment industry to increase brand engagement on social media.
Brand storytelling can be a good way to build consumer trust and to get them more involved with the brand and goes beyond campaigns. As a brand creates memorable characters and exciting plots around the product or service, consumers will be able and willing to identify with it. This creates involvement and may ultimately increase purchase intent. But how do you create a successful story? And what can we learn from the entertainment industry?
Let’s take a look at a storytelling map (fig.1) by Mark Lightowler.
As you can see in the picture, some elements overlap each other. Where they intersect, they cause the interactions that create the final story. A good story is determined by how the protagonist manages to solve a conflict during his journey and his ability to convey his or her empathic qualities to the viewer. This map can be concretely applied by answering a number of questions:
• Story Set Up: What we need to know in advance
• Protagonist: Who is the protagonist? What does he or she stand for?
• Conflict: What conflict faces the protagonist?
• Motivation: What is the motivation for the protagonist (to win, to return, etc)?
• Tension: What issues are central in the story?
• Opportunities: What is there for the protagonist to win?
• Arrow: How will the main character change as the story continues?
• Empathy: How will the audience empathize?
By working with these eight elements you are forced to think of all possible interactions. This will help to see if everything is connected. It also helps to focus on who your audience is and what you will use as a starting point for your brand communication.
In practice: bring fiction to Facebook!
The method discussed above to create a good story is then easy applied on a brand. For example, think of a way to make a brand metaphor or archetype the protagonist of your branded page. So did Katy Perry with her nerdy alter ego “Kathy Beth Terry” when she promoted her single ‘Last Friday Night’. The singer showed her alter ego not only in the video for the single, but also gave her her own life on Facebook and Twitter. Here we can read that the nerdy genius is interested in the universe and that computer hacking is one of her favorite pastimes. And she is a fan of Hanson, Jared Leto of 30 Seconds to Mars and actor Leonardo DiCaprio.
On the Facebook page of Orangina International, the same approach can be seen. On the fan page we follow the adventures of Bulby and his family, based on the iconic bottles. The bottle has its own character with fits the core values of the brand. The brand makes extensive use of the Facebook timeline combined with an interactive HTML5 scrolling site. The simple design of the Bulby characted makes it easy to duplicate which encourages fans to create their own content using Bulby.
Of course, not every brand has a Katy Perry or Bulby character. So make use of what your brand already has at its’ disposal. As long as there is a logical relationship with the brand, the creative possibilities are nearly endless.
Ready, set, action
The entertainment industry is also known for ‘leaking’ teasers of upcoming blockbusters. Teasers can be very suitable for content marketing purposes. Think about the Twitter teaser of Warner Bros. To promote ‘Batman, The Dark Knight Rises’ users were challenged to massively use hashtags to reveal the new poster. Besides releasing teasers, brands can learn a lot from the way other content is released strategically like trailers, behind the scenes footage and other promotional content. This unpredictable approach can help to build tension and expectation. Now the average marketer probably doesn’t have 120 minutes content full of stunts, fireworks and celebrities within reach, but your brand will probably have other cool material you can use to bring the story to life. Think of placing a fragment of a new product or service that encourages users to seek out for more information.
Happily Ever After
A good story is believable and authentic. Like many movies it emphasizes on your feelings instead of your mind. Take the above eight elements as a starting point and create a story that is worth spreading. When you have a good story, you will stand out and your target audience will notice.