The chief marketing officer of a Fortune 500 company was pleased with the company’s re-brand. There was a new logo, font and tagline, a new website and, of course, a new story about their “new and improved product.” It all looked great on the storyboards in the conference room. It even looked good on the desktop computer screens. And, yes it looked great on billboards and TV ads.
But something was missing. Most of their target consumers, those between 18 and 34, were eschewing television and print media, instead relying on their smart phones and tablets for, well, everything. The CMO knew this, of course, but assumed what many do: that mobile marketing simply meant ensuring the company’s website had responsive design so that the same content can be viewed on a hand-held device. She also knew that iBeacon or other forms of geo-location would help in the targeting of ads based on a user’s GPS tracking. But beyond that, she considered mobile just another platform to tell the same story. That was a miss.
Storytelling fundamentals – whether for books, movies or branding — have not changed; the goal is still to engage the audience and make them care about what you are saying. But technology is enabling businesses to engage with consumers in new ways, so much so that by not considering different forms of storytelling for handheld devices, you’re leaving engagement on the table.
So here are some principles for storytelling in the mobile age, ones that any CMO could easily implement.
1. Pare it down. Every story starts with strong branding, naming, messaging and visuals, but when viewed on the smallest screen, these elements need to be simplified so as to be more clearly understood. This might mean ensuring that photos of a place or product are crisp and uncluttered even if extravagance or luxury is part of the story.
2. Make it bite-sized. Because people using a mobile device typically are on the go and pressed for time, give them lots of content options but make it all more digestible in small time increments. Don’t assume they want to navigate a traditional website with multiple pages. Create layered storylines to tease them. Make them want to come back for more. Or better yet, have them ask for it, like signing up for a 30-second film series. Aim to have them opt-in for more information.
3. Go nonlinear. Lose the typical chronological flow of a storytelling arc. A non-linear approach can add a sense of intrigue, inviting the viewer to embark on their own adventure, making the experience more interactive and exploratory. When not done well, however, this technique can create confusion. So be sure to do it right and test it.
4. Require interactivity. Offer ways for the audience to become part of the story, such as a treasure hunt using GPS, real time feedback via social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and inviting others to participate in the program.
And before we say that this is the end of the story, we felt it was important to mention that the CMO at the top was fiction. But as the Nobel Prize-winning author Doris Lessing once said: “There is no doubt fiction makes a better job of the truth.”