In the past, we were primarily bombarded by mass media, but since Web 2.0, private users have also been supplying us with content and now brands are becoming publishers with their own content strategies. The effect is a true content explosion. Just how can your content win the customers’ attention from amongst these masses of content? One solution is to utilise storytelling.
Every single minute, 65 hours of video material are uploaded on YouTube. This means that you only have a few short moments to really captivate the viewer once he clicks on your video. The best way to bond with the viewer is through emotions. This pull-effect can be achieved through storytelling. But what exactly does that mean? And how can you utilise it for your brand and your content marketing?
Storytelling: A new hope
Successful films and novels need a plot structure. The same applies to content marketing. Right at the start, the impetus is provided for all of the action that follows. The viewer or reader thus receives sufficient information to capture the plot.
Let’s take a look at a real movie classic: In the first few minutes of the Star Wars episode IV: “A new hope”, imperial forces board a diplomat spaceship. The viewer is provided with the following information:
• There’s more to the female diplomat than she lets on – she is also an underground fighter who is participating in a rebellion.
• The empire, under the leadership of grim Darth Vader, will stop at nothing to crush the rebellion.
• The droids that escape from the spacecraft hold information that poses a threat to the empire – and this very information has to reach a certain “Ben Kenobi”, who is yet unknown to the audience.
Now the viewer is privy to the great conflict between the two parties and faced with a range of questions, such as:
• What information do the droids hold?
• How can Ben Kenobi help the rebellion?
• Will the rebellion succeed in freeing the galaxy from Darth Vader’s tyranny?
There are lots of questions that the viewer wants to know the answers to, and many protagonists whose fate is of interest. And that means: Stay tuned!
Storytelling for your brand
Of course, you don’t really need an epic intergalactic conflict to set the scene for your story. The important things are that your viewer needs to find an easy way in, that the main actors evoke an emotional response, and that the plot (and therefore the solution to a problem) captivates.
The video of Google India is an excellent example. Two friends have lost touch. The granddaughter uses snippets of conversations with her grandfather to reunite the two. Naturally, she does this using Google Search and the Android Smartphone.
Google Search: Reunion
For a sports brand and as an outfitter of sports professionals, finding a protagonist is not rocket science. Yet, the Nike spot “Ordinary People” is not about some larger-than-life testimony, but it centres on street basketball player Tidiani Sokoba. While he serves as a role model – just like a celebrity would – it is easier for the average basketball player to identify with him and his street lifestyle, which provides a very strong appeal.
Nike Commercial “Ordinary People” mit Tidiani Sokoba
Both of the above videos focus on consumer products. Storytelling is not restricted to the B2C market, though. It can equally be utilised in the B2B area. This Siemens video tells the story of Paul Betteridge, who used to create paper models of racing cars and now designs real racing cars as a member of the Infinity Red Bull Racing Team. How much show time does the software used by Siemens get? Hardly any…
Paper Dreams – a story by David Betteridge
Storytelling needs heroes and obstacles
While an opponent of Darth Vader proportions as a personification of evil might be slightly OTT for your purposes, your protagonists need to overcome some kind of obstacle to create suspense. In the Google India video, the challenge of finding the grandfather’s old friend is given.
The outdoor boots brand Hi-Tec relates the story of athletes who dream of running across water and strive to come as close to this as possible. It is staged really well. At least at the start, you wonder: “Are they serious?” and “could it be possible…?” Hi-Tec is mentioned by those tough guys as a supporter. We may assume, however, that the story and the viral video were staged by the brand itself. The video shows that a great idea can sometimes render a big budget unnecessary.
Walk on Water (Liquid Mountaineering)
But it doesn’t have to be this sporty. A selfless protagonist is at the heart of a very emotional story told by “Thai Life Insurance”. He makes every sacrifice and offers his last shirt to help others. The protagonist faces the conflict between looking after himself or helping the people around him every single day. You would never have the slightest idea that this is actually a commercial for insurance until the very end.
“Unsung Hero” Thai Life Insurance 2014
Your product or service is an online service? An animated video is a great solution. This can simplify the planning process and it’s not as tough on your wallet. The agency Epipheo uses such a video to pose the question of whether we really need Google+. The conflict: Google Plus has a lot to offer, but do I really want to leave Facebook?
What is Google+ (Google Plus) and do I need it?
Storytelling for everyone, including your brand
People look for solutions, entertainment or inspiration. Sending out traditional advertising messages doesn’t really satisfy these needs. Placing the product and its sale at the heart of your content means turning your back on the potential user.
This statement by the American Content Marketing Institute hits the nail on the head:
,,Your customers don’t care about you, your products, your services…they care about themselves, their wants and their needs. Content marketing is about creating interesting information your customers are passionate about so they actually pay attention to you”
This is why you should ask yourself:
• What are the problems your customers face? Why do they need your product?
• Which protagonists do you send into the race as part of your content strategy? Is it an employee, a fictional character or a projection of your potential customers?
• Which story can you use to encourage your customers to get to know your brand and products better?
It’s important to find answers to these questions. After all, other brands might be uploading their videos and fighting for the attention of your customers with their heroes this very moment.
Storytelling is part of content marketing and one of the creative services offered by Crispy Content. We help you to develop and produce a story for your brand and make it easy for your target group to discover.
Author: Ben Harmanus