Over the past few years I’ve helped produce a fair share of marketing. It’s not something I’m ashamed of, far from it. In a sense they’ve been opportunities to utilize storytelling and, yes, transmedia storytelling methods for the most logical of reasons; trying to entice an audience to commit to a buy. In many cases the ”buy” has been, admittedly, less about an actual purchase and more about ”buying into” the values of a brand or the experiences offered by another. What is utterly clear is that stories, and how you tell them, matter.
In a post on ”25 need-to-know marketing stats”, published by Contently the other day, they state the fairly obvious – the world of marketing is changing, and it’s changing rapidly. But some of the stats in the post point to undercurrents of a fundamentally changing relationship with the audience:
Stat one – ”In 2016, digital video ad spend will exceed TV ad spend for the first time”.
This feels like a pretty identifiable tipping point. Now, the TV ad business is still massive. But the stat above only means that the online video ad business is even more massive. If anyone reading this is doing anything pointing towards online and video and ads, you need to – assuming you haven’t already – read up and watch up on a lot of stories around producing for digital and online. This Fast Company article on Buzzfeed is a pretty good place to start … since you will have to reboot your preferred modus operandi from the ground up. We all know the 30 second spot doesn’t have the same impact is has had – unless you can shape it into a part of something bigger which leads to better results, and in such a context online is almost always a crucial part.
Audience engagement strategies, strategies for social media impact, all of these are obvious yet hard to do right. But for traditional video producers, simply the change to a totally other pace and a totally other way of looking at content is a big step.
Stat two – ”Adblocking grew by 41% year over year in the past 12 months.”
Some organizations and content producers have decided to block access to their content from anyone using an adblocker. And while it’s easy to disable the adblocker for a site, I’ve lately found myself go ”nah, I didn’t need to read that article anyway” and switched to other content instead.
This struggle – adblockers on one side, companies relying on income from ads on the other side – means that we need to be more creative regarding how we present ads. We could have a pre-roll compilation of ads, guaranteeing one week of access to all content if we just watch them. We could have brands featured on a much deeper level – naturally without trying to ”trick” or ”deceive” someone. Or we could try to find value in other things – in an answer to a brief survey question, in a ”hot or not” judgement call on two or more of the sponsors products or services, and so on. Key to all of this will be storytelling – how do we present these solutions, whatever they may be, to the audience?
In campaigns I’m working on at the moment the longevity of the stories are more and more in focus, as are them being a part of a greater narrative instead of one-off ad spots. This increases the chances of the audience coming upon one part of the narrative or another, and following the trail of breadcrumbs experiencing other parts as well.
Stat three – ”Data-driven marketing led to revenue increases for 57% of marketers”.
Data is very good. Accurate data influencing decisions is even better. But in the end it all boils down to what great storytellers have known – and done – throughout the ages – you need to really, really KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE. This, again, feels like such an obvious fact to state, but another stat in the article pointed out that many marketers have never performed quality tests of their data – many didn’t even know if they had done it. Take care of your data and it will take care of you. The Buzzfeed article linked above also tells of how they approach data – as an integral part of development, production and distribution.
Stat four – ”Only 12% of marketers believe they have ”high-performance” content marketing engines.”
So, there is an obvious need for engaging stories and campaigns for brands. What does this mean? This means great opportunities for anyone in the cross sections of storytelling, tech, audience research, video producer and so on. My advice is – learn as much as you possible can. Apps, IoT, VR… there’s so much you need to know about. Not know as in mastering them, but know about, so you know how they could fit whatever it is you’re working on and whom to turn to to make them real. Then it’s a question of finding the right collaborators – and my experience is that if you have a project interesting and well-founded (and well-funded) enough, finding these should be fairly easy.
Stat five – ”Marketers who blog are 13 times more likely to generate ROI”.
This I’ve seen on a number of occasions – a perceived need of a ”thought leader” arising from an organization, in order to distinguish themselves from competitors, and an urgent need for the thought leader to have something to say. This usually starts out as fact-filled texts or videos with fairly low impact, leading to an even more urgent need of compelling and engaging stories to tell, that still are informative and reputation-enhancing enough.
In order to be able to combine the two – the facts and figures with the story that engages the audience’s imagination – means that you need to know the story you want to tell, intimately, and even more important, you need to know your own story. Who are you in this campaign, this project? Who are you really, and how does your reality align with the message you’re planning to tell? Getting all of this working together smoothly, without friction, will make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
Stat six – ”Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing an article or video was sponsored by a brand”.
If you want to work with brands and tell their messages to an audience, you need to be smarter than deceiving them. There’s been a lot of discussion regarding the “hoaxing” of the audience, and in general this is a big no-no. No one likes to feel duped or stupid. Conversely, no one minds if you’re being upfront and honest with what you want to achieve.
Integrate the sponsors into your creative process before the development phase and see what works the very best in conjunction with the story you intend to sell – while still not being at odds with the values and the message of the brand. Don’t deceive – unless you can do it in such a original, funny or surprising way that you can guarantee even the most anti-people will buy into it.