Brands Can Learn a Lot From Watching TV
Along with the rest of the world, I anxiously counted down the days for the release of the third season of Netflix’s runaway hit, Orange Is the New Black, a morality tale set behind the bars of a women’s prison.
The animals, the animals
Trapped, trapped, trapped ’til the cage is full
As I watched colleagues, friends and strangers enthusiastically dissect every detail of our heroines’/anti-heroines’ latest trials and tribulations — while simultaneously expressing remorse for having consumed all the episodes too quickly — I once again found myself impressed by the impact stories continue to make on the American psyche.
In an era where binging (and even hyper-binging) on a favorite program has become a self-diagnosed, and socially accepted, condition, never has the importance of a good story been more apparent.
The cage is full, stay awake
In the dark, count mistakes
We all know we love and get a certain thrill from binge watching our favorite shows, but why?
Netflix, which enabled this harmless vice, had the same question and turned to Cultural Anthropologist Grant McCracken for answers. McCracken believes it’s our digital lifestyle — where storytelling is often reduced to bite-sized, 140 character conversations — that has left us craving the type of long-form, narrative storytelling found in today’s most popular TV shows.
What does this have to do with your brand’s stories?
As I noted in my last entry, stories are captivating for a reason. They’re in our DNA. They celebrate our culture and are a testament to the lives we have led.
The light was off but now it’s on
Searching underground for a bit of sun
More importantly, stories just make it easier to pass messages along. While many brands are still scratching their heads for content to post, tweet, vine, snap, live broadcast (Periscope, anyone?), etc., across an increasingly fragmented social landscape, today’s bingers are proving that old-school storytelling is still the way of the future.
So, with that in mind, here are some storytelling tips your clients can use to get consumers to binge on their brands, for a change.
Cultivate your best stories.
Think of all the roads
Think of all their crossings
Storytelling is largely an act of curating all that the brand is and all that it does. To tell great stories, each brand must mine those vital core pieces and perspectives that nobody else has — how it came to be, why its products or services are special, what its passionate about, the company culture, how it make people’s lives better, and why people want to interact with it.
Do not advertise.
Taking steps is easy
Standing still is hard
Storytelling is not advertising. And brand stories are not marketing materials or sales pitches. Don’t use stories to sell a product, and instead, focus on developing human interest. Answer the question of why people should care about what your company has to say.
Populate stories with compelling characters.
Remember all their faces
Remember all their voices
Every brand story has main characters that helped it take shape. To find the heart of the story, start by identifying all of the people who make the business thrive, and use them as your cast of characters.
Even if your client’s company sells to other companies, focus on how its products or services touch the lives of actual people. Brand storytelling requires that you create characters your audience will like and cheer for.
Employ the element of surprise.
Everything is different
The second time around
Great stories pull readers past the obvious (but wrong) to show them the profound. Your brand’s story has to resonate with people at a level that goes way beyond what’s tangible — the functionality, features and benefits of your products or services — to create a deep, emotional connection with your audience. You have to create something that they want to be a part of and show that you really “get” who they are and what they need.
Give your audience plenty to binge on.
The sun is out, the day is new
And everyone is waiting, waiting on you
Make your audience crave what’s coming next from your brand in the same way that we hunger for new episodes of our favorite shows. Link your pieces of content to help guide your audience down the path of your brand’s story.
Brand stories can be told in many different forms, with an evolving story line and cast of characters, but be sure to stay vigilant about continuity and consistency, avoiding any holes. Above all else, your storytelling must be authentic to connect with your audiences’ hearts and minds.
Take your time.
And you’ve got time
And you’ve got time.
When people spot advertising, they don’t have 30 seconds to be bothered. As mentioned in a recent post about visual storytelling, the average attention span of a human being decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.
A good story, however, can stop the clock.
When you tell people a story, suddenly they have 30 minutes to listen — or longer. They stop what they’re doing, unfold their arms and lean in, eager to hear what comes next.
Storytelling can be one of the most influential tools in the content marketing toolkit and is a powerful way to breath life into brands. By giving brands an identity by through the stories they tell, brands can take consumers on the same type of journey they seek to experience in their favorite shows.
Now, if you need me, I’ll be counting down how much longer I have to wait until I can get my next fix.