People have been telling stories for thousands of years, and the elements of what makes a good story have changed precious little in that time. Through the stories we tell, we not only entertain and connect with others, but we also convey information about our own beliefs, tastes and aspirations.
Brands use stories in the exact same way, and the best marketers understand how important stories are when it comes to demonstrating the how, what and why of a brand’s offering. Although the components of a good story remain as they’ve always been, the process of telling a story in the digital age has evolved considerably as new advertising technologies have emerged.
It’s incumbent upon marketers to ensure their use of new technology adheres to the principles and ground rules of good storytelling and advertising. Rather than common, linear storylines, we can now build complex story frameworks, capturing the right user’s attention, in the right place, at the right time, on the right device, with the right array of messages. Stories are no longer stuck on one set of rails but are capable of more and more unique variations. What follows is an overview of the new components of modern brand storytelling in the digital age.
Stories should be real time
When stories are told around a campfire, the best storytellers adapt to their audiences’ reactions and new information they might provide during the story. Today’s digital brand stories must do the same, and emerging automation tools make this possible. Automation enables data to be analyzed and executed well within the blink of an eye, leading to instantaneous ads that can make use of a variety of data sources.
One pivotal way real-time advertising can support creativity and storytelling is through dynamic ads, which help improve efficiency and optimization, as well as personalization. In short, a dynamic ad allows for the delivery of multiple variants of the same ad through automation, making it possible for the same ad to say different things depending on who it is being delivered to. A travel company, for instance, could take live data on flight options and then send relevant holiday packages and pricing to users depending on their travel interests, browsing activity, location and more.
Reporting should inform your stories
Reporting and attribution are often viewed as being on the opposite end of advertising’s creativity spectrum from storytelling. But in reality, reporting has become a critical component of the brand storytelling process.
Data from accurate reporting on user interactions with an ad can be used for intelligent retargeting and can help execute complex and adaptable campaigns. User interactions logged in an ad server can be used to build real-time segments, which can then be actioned and correlated with creative to build the story. It is the relationship between the analytics, data and creative that builds the fundamental story framework.
Your stories must be built for reach
As advertising technology enables access to more and more channels, advertisers can extend their scope and speak to more users. With new channels and media comes the potential for more interesting and emotional storytelling, and advertisers have a responsibility to adapt their messaging to make the best use of these different platforms.
Modern brand storytelling must be built to follow users as they hop across multiple devices during their daily internet browsing. Reaching the same user across mobile, tablet, laptop and desktop become an ever-present challenge, particularly when understanding their preference for using each device. With purchases, for example, one user might favor their mobile phone via an app, whereas another may prefer their laptop. Understanding these preferences is a challenge that must be met for the sake of efficient retargeting, frequency capping and to measure a user’s interaction with the ad. Cross-device is also required for successful sequential messaging across difference devices, a mainstay of modern storytelling.
Don’t neglect relevance and reaction
Relevance and reaction have always been cornerstones of good storytelling, and they are even more important in the digital age as far as consumer expectations go. Regarding relevance, data is bringing about a renaissance that has the potential to bring ads and users closer together. In fact, the key driver behind the digital advertising revolution has been the gift of personalization. Advertisers are no longer shouting into the void, but can instead tell stories to users that they can safely assume have at least some interest in their offering.
Meanwhile, every good story should elicit a reaction, and marketers must ensure the stories they tell are designed to elicit the right ones. While marketers can use data to find the right audience and ensure ads are reaching as many users as possible, their ads need to form an emotional connection with the audience to move them to action.
Technology can and should help facilitate the continuous interplay between user and advertiser as a brand narrative unfolds. In this regard, technology neither replaces or hampers the modern brand storyteller. Leveraged correctly, technology can make the story all the more powerful.