The city of Detroit has recently appointed Aaron Foley as chief storyteller for the city.
Antonio Lucio, CMO of HP, calls himself a mix of chief brand officer, chief marketing people officer, chief alignment officer and chief storyteller.
In a Forbes article, he described the “storyteller” role as follows: “The CMO is the ultimate storyteller to all internal and external constituents. To tell a well-integrated brand story across multiple constituents and touch points in the digital age, content, context and technology need to be aligned in unique, meaningful and memorable ways.”
Marketers and agencies clearly care about storytelling, but may need to refine their technique:
First of all, don’t use storytelling as a fancy way of describing an ad campaign or piece of advertising.
You will have evolved to storytelling if you let data, insights, communication strategy and messages across ALL paid, owned and earned touch points drive a coherent and consistent storyline in content, style and execution.
Because of storytelling, marketers need more and more content across more and more platforms. But who creates all this content?
Traditional agencies are mostly not set up to create lots of content with very short turn-around times, using a dynamic development process (a lot of content is created “in the moment” of something happening, or through reading the data and listening to consumers).
The other reason traditional agencies are not set up for this role: their costs tend to be prohibitive for advertisers to scale the amount of content needed.
Many marketers have begun to create in-house production units, while others have found nimbler external producers to create
and push out the content needed.
One solution is not better than the other. It very much depends on the type of marketer you are (outsourcer or insourcer; top down hierarchical or bottom-up co-creator, etc.). I always say that there is no right or wrong, but there is good or bad. With some diligence, good is absolutely possible.
The other interesting trend is that the role of the influencer is decreasing. Many advertisers have made products available to influencers, and sometimes even paid them, just to get the product featured in an influencer's social media stream. But that trend seems to have reached its peak. Advertisers have learned that while this can sometimes be helpful, it usually does more for the status of the influencer than the brand.
Companies are now more interested in aligning themselves with causes, platforms or events that have a logical link to their brand platform and target audience. This again is where data is used to discover what people care about, talk about, share about, etc. Typically, these storytelling areas also align with the advertisers’ purpose statement (another something that has become a thing: see Unilever, Lane Bryant or AirBnB for good examples).
I have written before that if you are considering building a content factory, you first need to build a listening factory. And once you know what your audience might care about, the next step is to determine if you have a credible story in that space.
If you tick all the above boxes, go ahead and be a storyteller. Because it is very much a thing.