In a TED talk entitled “The technology of storytelling,” celebrated multimedia storyteller Joe Sabia said, “The art of storytelling has remained unchanged… but the way in which humans tell the stories has always evolved, with pure consistent novelty.” Storytelling, and especially the way brands use stories to create a compelling narrative around their products, is making just such an evolution.
One engine driving the change is technology. Technological tools available to event marketers have never been more sophisticated, powerful or invisible, and they’re only getting better. An interactive screen that once would have needed a keyboard and mouse now can read hundreds of individual gestures and dozens of touch points and respond to them in unique and multi-faceted ways. But, the technology itself isn’t enough anymore.
More and more, it’s the people using the technology to create stories who are the ones who can transform a brand activation from a gimmick into a powerful driver of perception. Technology that once was out there to get a quick “wow” from a crowd now plays a key part in crafting a narrative. And that’s the real game-changer: the everyday people using the tech tools and gadgets have become the real untapped marketing resources.
Take last year’s Grand Ex Award-winner Activision, for example. It knows that if you want to be embraced by the cool kids, you’ve got to be one of the cool kids. So when Activision throws an event for gamers or the press or any other of its stakeholders, it creates a story. More than that, it has a story. To make that clear to its fans, Activision taps into its loyal user base and employees to be its messengers. Of course, Activision’s employees love video games, and the brand uses that love, too, to show the authenticity of its marketing narratives by bringing the employees out at events like Call of Duty: XP to talk to and game with target audiences.
Rohit Bhargava, professor of global marketing at Georgetown University, founder of the Influential Marketing Group, an alum of Ogilvy and Leo Burnett marketing agencies and author of the recent best seller “Likenomics,” says that Activision’s approach is the right one. He sees power in every member of an organization’s ability to contribute to the brand’s story, and says brands that don’t tap into that power are missing out, big time.
All this easily available technology that made previously very difficult content creation jobs almost universally approachable divides people into a series of concentric circles, Bhargava says. In the outside ring, you have people that don’t make good product, even if the passion is there. In the center are the true professionals—they went to school and learned how to frame a shot, edit a movie or write an article. Then there’s the middle circle—the amateurs. These are the people who make stuff that tell stories because they love to. They use the available tools and taught themselves how to make stuff that’s amazing. Bhargava says these people are the real secret to leveraging technology to tell a brand story.
Your brand can trot out any gadget, but it’s going to come off bribe-y. It just is. You can’t buy love. But your people already own it. Find the passionate amateurs in your organization or brand, and make them part of your story by tapping them to inform your products, and the way you market those products and services. Want to appeal to hipsters in Brooklyn? Find the skinny jeans and chunky glasses-set ironically hanging around the water cooler and ask them what they’d want you to do. What they’d make if they owned your brand. How they’d tell other hipsters about it. Then ask them to make it.
“You have all this talent inside your organization,” Bhargava says. “Tap into it for content creation. The biggest innovation-killer in any company is saying: ‘That’s not your job.’” Telling your brand’s story should be everyone’s job within your organization. The passion is there, so let it out in front of your consumers. They’ll thank you with their wallets.