BRAND STORYTELLING … are you on that next level yet? [transmedia!]

by Kurt on July 7, 2012

You will have seen from my various previous posts that I am passionate about how brands tell their stories. [e.g. here] And I keep searching for more answers on how to do that better. Key question to solve, today, is: how to cross all media with one single story in a seamless, media-complementary way. And by doing so, making the story (and thus, the brand) more appealing for the audience (i.e. your consumers). Seems easy to do, but proves very difficult to execute. How many brands really achieve that? It’s so easy to tailor your story to a certain medium, instead of looking at the overall picture and using each medium in itself as “part of” the story. And how do you organise for that to happen? Transmedia is the new way! See further in this note my 5 tips on how to get into transmedia the right way.

First of all, let’s recap why brands have to tell stories…

Good marketing is all about creating a love connection between a brand and a consumer. Marketers are match-makers. And brand-consumer connections are love stories.  The brand marketer is cupid, aiming his arrow at the right people in the right place at the right time. it’s as simple as that! So it seems. In order to create, and hold, “attraction” you need to create an aspirational world that your consumer can step into, that he or she aspires. Once again, it’s a true love connection. And we all remember how first-time love unfolded: you saw someone “interested”, got fixated, tried to step into his or her world discovering everything, tried it out, and if the “connection” was there, stuck to it.

There are two important principles in creating love-stories for marketers: [1] making sure that first WOW-moment is there, and then [2] creating that aspirational world. These are both storytelling challenges/opportunities ‘par excellence’. Good marketers go far and deep to get to that moment where it all “sticks”.  All the other storytelling-touchpoints can fill in gaps, enhance the story, make it stronger and more appealing.  If it all fits, the brand-consumer experience (i.e. the love connection) is complete! By the way, did you hear me say anything about about functionality?  NOPE! It’s about emotions! (Even an iPad as a functional item is just a smart piece of technology (with many good alternatives available by the way; it’s not THAT unique anymore). What iPad gives you is an emotional experience, an emotional bond with the brand, a feeling of belonging in that cool, exciting, slick, hip, fun, admired Apple “club”). Ya feel me?

Enough of the smoochy love story. That was context. Back to brand storytelling.







Defining transmedia; quickly.

Transmedia is really about deploying the story across various types of media. It’s about finding new, contemporary ways to tell the story of a brand, of a new product, of a new experience. And by doing so, drawing consumer into the entirety of the story!  

Exciting times for transmedia deployment!

More than ever before you and your brand can tell a story in multiple ways, over different touchpoints, and have consumers really experience it. The enablers are abundant and growing every day: more and more bandwidth, growing social media platforms, geo-location technology, smart phones, apps, and what not.  The Flipboards, Pinterests,  etc of today make it very very exciting -both for marketers and for consumers! Transmedia is THE thing to understand and get into, especially if you want to build modern, cool brands.

Let me quickly show you a couple of strong examples that demonstrate what transmedia can do for your brand, whatever the industry:

1] Cathy’s book

Cathy’s book is a young adult novel about the mysterious disappearance of a young teenager. The book is her diary, which she left for her sister. The whole story is simple: find Cathy. The transmedia “deployment” of that starts right at the cover – there is a phone number (or, in UK, an email address). Guess what, if you dial that number, there is actually someone on the other end. So you get sucked into it. And this goes on and on. There are other numbers, websites, photos, business cards, newspaper articles. All these combined give the reader an experience unlike what you could get from an “ordinary” book. Spectacular transmedia to say the least!


Now, others are following the same format. Example: BZRK. Have a look:

2] TopChef Last Chance Kitchen

TopChef is a popular live tv cooking show / face-off, like many others currently on tv. For their last season, NBC wanted to take it beyond just TV, and have the content and the experience linger on when the program was not on. The user experience throughout media was pretty phenomenal. And NBC has the stats to prove it, as you can see in the below video:

3] HBO’s True Blood
Look at the video below. Daring. Vampires walking amongst us. HBO’s approach was to blur fiction and reality to create impact through a story that crosses media effectively, and goes beyond that in the real world:

4] Dark Knight

How do you create excitement and anticipation for a movie? Create Gotham city for real! The Joker as your guide. A transmedia experiment with over 10 million participants in over 75 countries that played across hundreds of web pages, interactive games, mobile phones, print, email, real world events, video and unique collectibles:

More of this stuff is coming. Question is: are you ready?

Here are my 5 tips to get it right:

#1. Put the desired experience at center of your thinking!

Don’t just start from the brand, the next innovation, the positioning in itself. What you want to achieve is NOT just linear branding. What you want to achieve is for your consumers to have unique, unmatched, memorable experiences that surprise, entertain, tangle, dazzle! You need to put that desired experience in the center of all (transmedia) thinking. Branding is, from a process point of view, more of an afterthought -however, when done well, the brand will come through. By creating a “world” around the brand itself, you’ll get brand and message across and your consumers will be drawn in … they will connect with the brand (aha- there is the “love story” again ; oh my God, I’m such a romantic; LMOA).

#2. Go all the way!

Transmedia goes wide and deep. Synergies need to cross all media, connecting the different platforms in new and unexpected ways. Look for new tricks. Experiment. Invent. Don’t think to much; do it. Turn the conventional upside down. That means you have to put significant brain time and brain power together. You can’t afford to do transmedia half baked.

#3. It’s about a story!

Principles of contemporary storytelling apply. Strong teasing effects, twists and turns, character background and foreground, climax and anti-climax, thrill. Each individual element can be considered as a piece of the (brand) puzzle – you need to think about what to reveal at what point in time.

#4. Involve the consumer!

Obvious, but not to be forgotten. It’s not traditional/old-fashioned linear storytelling with a sender-and-receiver. The audience needs to be an INTEGRAL part of the brand story, of the brand experience, and the feedback loop and participation is more important than the actual sender-story that come from the brand. Empower consumers to tweak the story, to make it their own, to amplify it, share it, live with it! Co-creation elements make it stronger and make it viral.

#5. In the midst of all the deep complexity transmedia creates, KEEP IT SIMPLE!

Only simple stories spread! Don’t mistake the HOW of the storytelling effort with the story itself. Keep it simple enough for people to grasp instantly, to see the benefits of jumping on the bandwagon. It’s like Cathy’s Story: she’s lost, help  find her -as simple as that. Simplicity also means making it effortless for the audience to participate. If they have to go through endless layers of teasing, confusion, signing-in layers and what not, you’ll quickly lose them in the process. The principle is: simple to understand – simple to take forward!









As said in the beginning, transmedia creation is not easy! And so, you need to be mindful of a few things:

Don’t think because you’ve told your story and got success that you’re done. People forget. So, think about the journey as a Broadway show. If you give one super duper performance, you will have created a great story, a great experience. One time only. That’s all. For sustainable success, keep going!

Never ever give in. Make the consumer story complete. Surround your fan base with touchpoints so they get all excited and get others into their/your ‘circle of trust’. Picture this, to make my point on incompleteness…here’s a an incomplete story “once upon a time, there was….”. You can’t stop there. It only leads to frustration. Make it complete. Go all the way.

One Way
Without the feedback loop, you’ll be in the dark. Is your story good or not? With consumer feedback embedded in your “plot” you have the possibility to tailor, to refine, the show your consumers you listen to them and care for them. Very powerful. And better for your ROI.

Insufficient manpower
To create deep, transmedia stories, you need to go wide across all media and a lot of levels deep. Can’t happen without the necessary brains and hands. It will take time to figure it all out. A loooooooooot of time. Can’t do quick and dirty and with no money. No money? Then stick to traditional approached but realize you are missing out on something bigger (that your competitor might be after!)

Not taking the leap of faith

True transmedia is still very new. The ROI side of it is still blurry, at best. So you have to believe that this is where the future lies, and go for it. Some element of risk-taking is required to pull this off.

What are your thoughts? Let me know, here or on twitter (@kurtfrenier)


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