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Moving from ‘storytelling’ to ‘story living’

By IMA on Feb 24, 2017

Why brands that are living their stories, not just telling them, have a head start.

Storytelling is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Everyone wants to be engaged, loves a distraction and enjoys getting pulled into a different world.

The enduring power of storytelling is why poets and writers have been heralded though history. It’s why we hold actors and directors in such high esteem today. It’s what politicians rely on during their campaigns to connect with voters. It’s the reason parents read a book to their children before they go to sleep at night. To tell a story is to share an insight into a new world.

But in today’s marketing world, brands need to do more than just tell a story. They need to live them.

It’s no longer enough to simply create a humorous poster or heartfelt commercial. People hold more power than ever. They demand experiences that truly matter, which is why ‘story living’ is becoming so important. It’s one of the best ways to connect with those who prefer to spend their money on brands that stand for more than their bottom lines.

Very often a brand story is just a backstory, living passively in a manifesto. The message needs to be authentic, unique and meaningful. But by seeing the brand story as something to live rather than to tell, offers a framework with which to start constructing a ‘living narrative’ that’s played out through consumer interactions at every touchpoint.

And with touchpoints constantly evolving as new technologies and devices are introduced, brands can offer complete user immersion and unprecedented brand engagement. With a deeper appreciation for what the likes of virtual and augmented reality provide, brands can finally go way beyond traditional storytelling into the realm of story living, whereby people can fully experience and create their own living stories in virtual worlds.

The growth of 360-degree videos on the likes of Facebook and YouTube in 2016 also highlighted the demand for experiential consumer engagement online. In addition to live events, this is set to see huge developments this year and beyond. The live stream trend has been bolstered by Facebook’s live streaming function. However, in order to fully immerse consumers, combining live streaming with 360-degree technologies is a sure-fire way of achieving success. By enabling consumers to engage with a live event as and when they choose, in both the physical and digital landscapes, brands have the ability to create a highly personalised, on-demand experience. Forthcoming projects for adidas – that allow fans to customise their own trainers or browse the brand’s section in Harrods all within the virtual space – are good examples of how we’re helping our clients successfully live their stories through innovative and immersive experiences.

For other brands successfully living their story, it’s not just the experiences that are rewarding. Just look at last year’s winners at El Sol or Cannes. Nearly all the accolades went to ideas that could in no way be described as ads. From Harvey Nichols to Vans, McWhopper to Netflix, they were variously about consumer engagement, social movement, acts of empowerment or pieces of drama. Simply put, they all had experiential activity at their core and successfully encouraged consumers to contribute to their brand narrative.

All in all, the experiential industry is flourishing, with key trends from past years evolving and becoming much more focused. With the evolution of content and consumer touch points, brands can extend an experiential campaign much further than the end of an event. They now form the basis of entire campaigns rather than acting as a standalone marketing effort, with memorable activations living on long after an experience comes to a close.

So, it’s time for brands to start living. The stage is set. They just need to give their audience a role to play.