Brands Need To Shift From Story-Yelling To Storytelling

Advertisers have a multitude of options to reach consumers, whether it is through social media, traditional, or viral channels. Yet, unless brands connect an emotional thread through these different channels, they are just 'story-yelling' at consumers rather than story-telling, says Darren “Daz” McColl, Chief Brand Strategy Officer of SapientNitro.

In a follow-up interview after statements he made at Advertising Week, McColl said: "Unless there is a meaningful connection, brands are just yelling to consumers. You can create as much content as possible, but it doesn't matter."

In order to be effective today, it is critically important to combine the power of story with a “participatory experience” to engage consumers across digital, retail, social, mobile and commerce. "We advise that brands never end anything with a full stop, but rather with a comma," says McColl. "It isn't an ending, but moving to the next experience. It is a different way of thinking and investing in different dimensions."

SapientNitro put its theory to work with the Visit Florida tourism campaign. While still using traditional media and market segment profiles, the campaign developed overlying experiences to encourage tourists to visit and to get Florida residents to participate. For instance, the PSA from Share a Little Sunshine, an in-state advocacy program, encourages residents to share what they love about Florida during the height of Sunshine State’s tourist season by posting to social media using #LoveFL, and  inspiring cold weather friends and family to visit.

Tourists were able to create virtual photo books using their vacation pictures. Ultimately, all approaches used mass channels to direct people to other channels that enabled them to dig deeper. And it worked. The agency committed to attracting 95 million travelers over a two-year period by 2015, and by mid-2014, it already exceeded that number. Furthermore, Florida has seen record visitors six quarters in a row.

Still, emotional relevance is easier said than done, admits McColl. For one thing, brands must build stories that connect with consumers regardless of entry point. One hurdle for Visit Florida is the fact that "we never know where they start. It could be Google or it could be the Welcome Center on I-95," says McColl.

Another key challenge is internal. "A great threat is the internal organization. These principles must be applied across the board, but we see that digital is one team, brand is another. It's hard to connect all elements.

Indeed, although technology has made it easier to transfer stories across different platforms, consumers have increased expectations about what to expect. "We constantly need to look at our relevance. What do our brands mean to people as a utility," says McColl. "It's hard as a brand to connect each element.

There are several brands that are getting it right, says McColl, pointing to American Express' Small Business Day and Mattel's American Girl as two standouts. "But every brand has a story to it. They just need to optimize and sharpen their stories and build a platform that recognizes different experiences. You can go around the mall and see cracks in things that people are doing. But there are amazing opportunities for every brand, from pizza shops to retailers."

2 comments about "Brands Need To Shift From Story-Yelling To Storytelling".
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  1. John Berard from Credible Context, October 13, 2014 at 4:43 p.m.

    Your story not only rang true, but reminded me of the character played by Garrett Morris in the early days of Saturday Night Live;

  2. John Wiest from WIEST & CO., October 14, 2014 at 1:14 p.m.

    Spot on, Daz!
    Everyone, clients, consumers, retailers: everyone likes a story well told.
    The challenge has been tying all the threads together. Today, with short attention spans, the marketing and creative agenda is three times more difficult. HOW TO CUT THROUGH: Little time, millions of competing messages and hard-to-consistently communicate with a broad and varied audience.
    My firm helps identify themes through thoughtful consumer insights. We all need to understand each other...and respect the differences.

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