What’s your brand’s story, anyway?

Once you know what story you're telling, you need to make sure your audience cares. Columnist Erika Trautman explains why interactive video storytelling can help you tell a better story that captivates your audience.

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People love a good story. In fact, we’re wired for it — literally. Research shows that our brains become more active when we engage in a captivating story, with particular areas lighting up to correspond with whatever we’re seeing or hearing. Your mind makes connections as well as an emotional investment.

In other words, the power of a good story can’t be overstated, especially when it comes to your brand’s digital marketing efforts. As Forbes contributor Steve Olenski points out, marketers who lead with storytelling are better positioned to convey their brand’s unique personality and connect with their audience on an emotional level, which is exactly what builds brand loyalty.

So, what story are you telling, and, more importantly, does your audience care? The answers to these questions should be driving your content marketing strategy.

Most brands know what their story is. The struggle comes with telling it in a way that fully engages viewers. A few have stood out with their success.

Take Guinness, for example. The iconic beer company pulled at our heart strings with this 2013 video, which featured a handful of friends engaged in an intense round of wheelchair basketball. At the end, though, we see that only one of the players actually needs the chair; the others are simply doing it so that they could all shoot hoops together. The spot wraps up with the friends grabbing a Guinness.

The video had three million views within four days.

A new way of storytelling

That said, the digital landscape is continually evolving, which means that what worked tactically two years ago likely won’t be as effective today. But what hasn’t ebbed — and in fact has been revealed in our recent research — is that people want the opportunity to directly participate in the content experience itself just as much as they crave a rich story.

And that’s where a successful engagement strategy begins.

Interactive video storytelling represents a new way of captivating and engaging the viewer in a way that traditional linear video simply doesn’t.

This channel transforms the audience from passive consumers into active participants, providing them with chances to make personalized choices that directly impact the way the story unfolds. Giving the viewer this type of control ultimately shifts the focus from the brand to the consumer.

The question is, what kind of stories can and should your brand be telling with interactive?

The best narratives for interactive storytelling

1. Consumer product campaigns

Interactive provides a platform that supports a wide variety of brand narrative arcs. Consumers who engage virtually with products and services gain a better understanding not only of the particular advantages of Product A but also of the context for its use in the real world.

Take Philips (disclosure: client), which opted for an interactive campaign in 2014 — a choose-your-own-adventure-style story to promote its Click & Style electric razor. At the center of the piece: a millennial male getting himself ready for a night on the town.

It’s the viewer who directs the action, making choices throughout that steer the direction of the story line. Philips saw campaign engagement go through the roof; we found that most viewers spent nearly four minutes playing with the options. And, as Adweek reported, purchase consideration for the product improved by six percent. In the German market, the company actually sold 16 percent more of these razors than they’d anticipated.

2. Organizational recruiting

What if you’re not trying to create awareness and engagement around a specific product? Increasingly, companies are turning to interactive for corporate recruitment as they look to attract a younger generation of candidates.

Nonlinear viewing allows recruiters to showcase company culture, expectations and opportunities in a single dynamic video experience.

When financial firm Deloitte New Zealand (disclosure: client) planned its graduate recruitment campaign, the goal was a lighthearted experience that immersed the viewer in a typical day at the office while presenting him with decision points that reflected company culture.

How, for example, would the viewer respond to accidentally spilling coffee on one of the firm’s partners in the elevator?

By placing the viewer in the middle of the action, the video engaged the viewer’s attention, kept him present and provided a lasting impression. What’s more, Deloitte achieved an average viewing time of more than four minutes. The project also sparked social buzz, and we found that it outperformed a similar linear video on YouTube.

3. Brand storytelling

With brands investing more heavily in their digital presence, standing out from the pack has become increasingly important. This is where interactivity comes in, especially where brand storytelling is concerned.

Case in point: Cognac producer Remy Martin’s recent partnership with MullenLowe Profero digital marketing agency (disclosure: clients). Rather than attempting to illustrate the brand’s feel with traditional content, MullenLowe Profero embedded the core message in a narrative directed by the viewer.

The video transports the audience to an exclusive upscale soirée hosted by the Remy Martin house. The party serves as a storytelling vehicle, offering up organic opportunities to showcase the brand’s history, quality and process.

Because viewers choose which details are worth exploring, they engage more deeply and leave with a stronger impression; we’ve found that the campaign has averaged more than 10 interactions per viewing. What’s more, the average view time exceeds five minutes.

As your story evolves, so should the way in which you present it. Beyond initial engagement, interactive video also offers the kind of meaningful analytics that go deeper than metrics like views and clicks.

Leveraging interactive enables marketers to glean specific audience behavior, in turn helping them gauge trends and plan even more effective storytelling campaigns.

Whether you’re speaking directly to consumers, recruiting new employees or promoting a buzzworthy project, you can tell a better story with interactive.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Erika Trautman
Erika Trautman, founder of Rapt Media is passionate about the evolution of online storytelling. With successful careers as a writer, producer, editor, and director, she understands the importance of story in any communication as it enhances the customer experience, and yet was disappointed with online video's inability to rise to its potential. Erika built Rapt Media from the ground up as the only interactive storytelling technology, combining personalized narrative with unparalleled data integration. No other brand has attempted to bridge the technical, data-driven side with the creative, emotional possibilities of interactive video. Erika has leveraged a business that is positioned at the top of emerging content technologies, including video, shared the stage with tech leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, and solidified partnerships with powerhouse companies in media, top-tier brands, agencies, and Fortune 500 enterprises.

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