Report from #DMWF panel in Amsterdam: The Art of Storytelling

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On Wednesday last week, I had the pleasure to attend, as a panelist, the session dedicated to “The Art of Storytelling” at #DMWF Amsterdam. My co-panelists: Selena Gabat Director Social Media at Sky Deutschland AG, Lukas Kreutzer CMO at Europeesche, Robert Zuidgeest, Head of Digital Marketing at The Walt Disney Company. We were  moderated by Chelsea Bosters, Founder of Online Bazen & Marketingmed. We started with a simple question:

What is storytelling? Well, storytelling is still (and probably will always be) one of the most powerful engaging technique. Storytelling is so effective because you are not telling people how great your company is, you are showing it to them. An example? Nike, in the early 90s, was not telling women to buy gym shoes. Instead, they were telling women to be individuals, championing a cause of rebellion and self-improvement. As proofed by Stanford Marketing Professor Jennifer Aaker, stories are 22 times more rememberable than facts&statistics alone (Check out the video)

“Our brains are wired to understand and retain stories . . . A story is a journey that moves the listener, and when the listener goes on that journey they feel different and the result is persuasion and sometimes action.” (J. Aaker)

A great example of storytelling?  The Lego Movie. A  masterful story,  a plot well written both for kids and adult where the product is the star: every scene is created with Legos. It’s not only a great movie, it’s the most effective 90 minutes commercial for a “toy” ever seen.

What makes a good story? Or, on a broader perspective, what makes a good content marketing strategy?

  1. Be on brand and on target. The story should be relevant for your target, it should fit with your brand values and the company mission. Remember, as a brand, to be human. It’s the one trait you and all of your customers have in common.
  2. Be consistent. Great example made by Robert Zuidgeest from Disney. Think about Winnie the Pooh. You’ll never see Winnie the Pooh running somewhere. You’ll never see Winnie the Pooh opting for healthy vegetables instead of yummy honey. You’ll never see Winnie the Pooh wearing a green T-shirt.
  3. Show, don’t tell. Visual and video content is extremely powerful, effective and engaging. It can be a valid support of your story. How to show how great is the camera on iPhone 6?  Shot on iPhone 6 ad campaign. Apple showcased the new camera sharing stunning images taken by “ordinary” users of the device. Photographs taken by amateurs  have been used on TV, online and on more than 10,000 billboard and poster sites in 70 cities across 24 countries.
  4. Be authentic. An example? The story in the story. The Swedish number campaign by the Sweden’s Tourist Association. As you can read in the website: “250 years ago, in 1766, Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce a constitutional law to abolish censorship. To honour this anniversary, Sweden is now the first country in the world to introduce its own phone number. Call today and get connected to a random Swede, anywhere in Sweden and talk about anything you want.” Enjoy the promotional video.
  5. Make them laugh.Kill the boring, share unique stories. Remember that 95% of your daily decisions are not based on rational arguments.

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How content marketing can be done well?

Start considering content marketing as the equivalent of dating your customers. You’d better ask (e.g. CRM data matched with social media information) if your date is vegetarian before inviting him out. If he’s veg you probably won’t book in a fancy Argentinian steak house. During the evening, you’ll share personal ideas and thoughts: you are expected to be honest, transparent and, yes, more vulnerable. The goal is to build a personal and strong relationship with your date (read customer). Content marketing is the dating part, then, when you decide to evolve the relationship, marry and plan for a life-long commitment, you’ll shift to the engagement-retention-loyalty pattern and mechanics.

Content Marketing was the buzz word of the latest 2 or 3 years. What’s trendy in 2016?

Content Marketing linked to Marketing automation, done well. The content produced during the latest years, often, was poor or just average, not relevant for the audience or not tailored for the channel where it was distributed. And if automation played a role it become easily “let’s share everything with everyone”. Marketing automation, if done properly, can save you a lot of time and offer you amazing segmentation opportunities. The marketer dream turned into reality: use the data you collect to select the right content, for the right segment sent at the right time. How?

  1. Personalisation: make your consumers feel special, unique. Connect with them emotionally. A shocking data: 74% of marketers claimed to be aware that personalisation increases customer engagement. BUT still only 19% of marketers produce personalised content. (Triblio)
  2. Use customer service as a source for content marketing.Circa 1/3 of customer questions are repeat or common issues (R. Sachdev, Get Satisfaction). Those questions should be key topics for content marketing, ideally providing answers to customers through multiple online formats – text, video, audio, photographs, infographics and beyond. If your customer need to get in contact with you, it means that your website need to improve. Either as usability, either as content. Learn to accept costumers’ feedback. We are in the age of radical transparency. Be open and build trust. Inform and educate your customers. Give behind-the-scenes solutions. How else will they know how awesome you are? Companies like Honestly by, Everlane, Buffer are setting the bar.
  3. Pilot channels that may seem not directly fitting with your brand. Run a test on Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook live streaming. Selena Gabat from Sky Deutschland shared a great example. Snapchat, apparently, was not aligned with Sky target. On Snapchat you do find a bunch of teens who couldn’t afford a pay-Tv subscription. The pilot revealed, instead,  that the youngest members of the family are often the strongest influencers, if not the decision makers when subscribing a pay-TV family contract. Another example? Think about GIFs. They may seem silly and unprofessional, but they can actually be used to help your serious organisation stand out on social media. An animated image will make the content more compelling and can easily showcase the features of your product. A GIF can be shared on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine and elsewhere. The looping mode helps to educate,  some examples here.  Below you can the formation of a human face, GIF courtesy of Reddit. Human-Face

Bonus track: Virtual Reality and storytelling.

This Tuesday I attended a breakfast coffee chat at Factory in Berlin about The Future of the Movie Industry. Some food for thought:

  •  It’s clear that VR is not only for gaming. Yesterday AOL  announced the acquisition of RYOT, a Los Angeles-based virtual reality media company  so “the RYOT’s documentary filmmaking team can now bring 360-degree video and VR content to The Huffington Post through a VR news network”.
  • There are already  startups  (also in Europe! ) experimenting movies done using VR infinite possibilities of a 360 degree field of view.
  • Despite the claims of Ed Catmull, Pixar co-founder, warning that VR is not storytelling, VR already made a big splash at Sundance in 2015. In 2016 VR isn’t just a technology anymore, but a truly nascent medium. Filmmakers and producers are exploring the possibilities of immersive storytelling with Virtual Reality. Some examples? Defrost,”  Sci-Fi VR drama by “Grease” director Randal Kleiser use the modalities of mobile VR  as a part of story. “Allumette,” an upcoming animated movie by Penrose Studios  will be a 20minutes (the typical is 1 to 5 minutes) storytelling VR experience. “Gone,” a VR thriller for  Samsung Gear VR headset: an attempt to produce a first serialized immersive storytelling  drama with mainstream potential.

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