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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Branding and the power of digital story telling

TV advertising comes with an inbuilt constraint of 30 seconds, high priced spots and eventual wear-off. Yet advertisers and the best creative minds have exploited the 30 second spot to the fullest to tell powerful, evocative brand stories.

Move to the 21st century and the growing all-pervasiveness of the digital medium. Suddenly advertising is not just about the TVC, it is about the text, the visuals, the website, the social media conversations. And a brand's story is no longer bound by time, and money. It is permanently accessible, searchable, and it can develop a continuity over time. The only challenge-  It has to be interesting enough to make the customer come back and track it over time.

All brands use the digital medium, but how many exploit its power for creating, building and sustaining the act of storytelling over time? Talk NYC will host the Digital Storytelling Conference on April 10 to explore the most inspiring case studies, best practices and emerging trends in the space. 

Here are some great examples of digital storytelling that can inspire brands :

1. Enter the real world from the world of make believe

Several successful US serials like Mad Men and Rizzoli and Isles have propelled characters from the TV screen into the real world by creating Twitter handles for them. It is unclear in some cases whether the Twitter accounts of the characters are operated by fans, or a paid social media agency, but the impact is far reaching. Characters are able to extend their lives off screen, addressing the back-story that might not get addressed during screen time, flirting or fighting with each other and mustering the interest of fans for the next episode. 

It's interesting to note that several dead authors have flourishing Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts created and maintained by their admirers - Shakespeare, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway among others. 

2. Create a virtual world and draw viewers in

The world of gaming does this best - drawing people from the mundane reality of their lives into an alternate reality which is larger than life, more violent, more colourful and altogether more compelling. This does not mean that brands need to create or populate a Second Life. The virtual world can be as simple as J K Rowlings Pottermore website. Drawing from the reluctance of Harry Potter fans to let go of their beloved wizarding characters, Pottermore rewards users with a rich world to explore, tidbits of backstory about characters and collectible rewards that unlock different sections of the site. 

Linden Labs, the creator of Second Life, has recently launched an intriguing app for the iPad called Versu. Versu is an interactive story telling engine which puts you in the shoes of a famous character in a novel (eg. Elizabeth in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice) and lets you change the known course of events in the story.

3. Get individuals or groups to tell a story, in pictures, videos or words

Recently I have observed an interesting trend on Facebook. Some of my friends who are passionate about photography have formed groups whose mission is to share a daily photo based on any theme - for instance, street food, sunrise etc. 

Collaborative story telling is becoming huge and it's powered by social media, by our camera phones, and by apps like Instagram. In the future, it may be powered by Google Glass, iWatches, talking shoes and who knows what else? Chad Hurley, co-founder of YouTube, now plans to launch a collaborative video creation website.  And Twitter co-founders Ev Williams and Biz Stone recently launched Medium, an online publishing platform that makes it easier to discover and share experiences. When the brightest minds in tech invest in certain spaces, we can certainly believe that these represent the big opportunities of the future.