Ever since the origin of marketing, storytelling has been the foundation of successful growth stories of many brands. To run a content marketing campaign that will be liked by the audience, it’s important that you need to tell authentic stories about your brand.
From the emotional story of this Alabama family to the one of a lion reuniting with its owners to the one titled “The Furrow” published in the late 19th century, storytelling has always been an integral part of anything that has gone viral around the world.
But, this is the age of technology and the world is changing fast. Will storytelling continue to have its place in the book of online marketing or will it not? Well, the instant success of Pokémon Go might give you a hint.
For beginners, the confusion between fantasy and reality will continue to exist just like the thin layer that exists between developers and end users, sports and entertainment, story and game, and so on.
Before we discuss the storytelling trends that will have a definite impact on digital marketing, let’s begin by getting to know what actually makes it such a powerful tool for advertising (offline and online).
Storytelling: An ever-reliable tool for creating meaning
Just for a moment, imagine a world without stories. From the bedtime stories narrated by our ancestors for generations to the marketing stories that helped brands like Apple sell their products like hot cakes – what would be the world like today if storytelling never existed? Hard to imagine, isn’t it?
A world without stories would be absolutely meaningless and boring to say the least.
Let’s consider a storytelling example. Read the following sentences:
He went to the bank.
Lisa went hungry and wept.
Did you think that “he” referred to Mark? Did you think assume that Mark passed away while he was at the bank or that Lisa cried because she thought she would never see Mark again?
Here is a book by Kendall Haven that suggests the human mind is programmed to connect one incident with another and find its meaning through stories.
Even in our daily lives, we understand things by connecting different incidents, circumstances, and personalities like a memory tour, which itself a form of storytelling.
Because we look for meaning to understand and remember things, storytelling plays an important role even in the field of digital marketing.
The Future of Storytelling
Classic storytelling when combined with eye-catching visuals gives birth to the most powerful marketing tool called visual storytelling.
Let’s get to know how visual storytelling can impact the future of marketing.
1. Fact and fiction
Stories are like the thin line between reality and fantasy. On one hand, they help us understand facts while on the other hand they help us identify and stay away from fiction.
While some of the world’s greatest novels relied on text-based storytelling, the marketing trend of today comes with visual elements to take storytelling to the next level. Brands that have leveraged the benefits of visual storytelling clearly know that it is the best marketing tool to get people’s attention and develop trust.
Virtual reality is the newest marketing tool that is helping brands and startups to tell their story by creating memorable experiences. Take a look at the example below.
This is a virtual reality film used by Penrose Studios to get its message out to the public in an enticing manner.
Through its VR film, the company lets the audience explore this tiny world where the user walks around the Venice-like city looking for the protagonists to smash their heads through doors and windows, which are vital developments in the field of visual storytelling. Not to forget that VR’s also enable users to experience the smell and taste of what they’re checking out.
Here is a Kickstarter project that allows users to sense the smell and taste through heat, wind, mist, and vibrations.
However, according to many VR developers, the developments that we see today are just the beginning of something extraordinary and there is a lot more hybridization going on.
Apart from the insanely popular Pokémon Go, there is The Void VR park in which users can experience the effects using specially made VR headsets and also take a virtual tour to the real physical space that overlaps it.
Wait, that’s not the end of the fact-fiction differentiation.
A study conducted by Latitude on the role of storytelling in future marketing suggests that in addition to people’s increasing demands, we might also start to see more real-time VR storyworld that have characters and settings which would be very similar to the actual world that we live in today.
Just like the notification we receive on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds, we might even receive news flashes on these VR platforms.
2. Us and them
Another trend that could take visual storytelling to the next level is the link between us and them, be it factual or fictional.
The traditional text-based and speech-based storytelling of the past and present has allowed people to visualize the characters and situations and experience emotions by listening to or reading stories.
Visual storytelling has changed in 2016 with Instagram videos and will be one step further in the direction of storytelling. It’s one of the newest formats which will allow users to understand stories and have great experiences.
Whether it’s about making the user dream of becoming a Richie Rich or help them understand a brand’s meaning from someone else’s’ point of view, visual storytelling will have a definite bottom line impact on the audience – on how they perceive things.
A Walk Through Dementia and 6×9 are a couple of more examples that demonstrate two contrasting stories in an interesting manner.
The bottom line is that these stories are designed to create immersive and engaging experience to the users and also play as the thin layer between reality and illusion.
With newer developments, the boundaries between characters are being explored and so is the layer between videogames and real stories like documentaries.
Blackout is a classic example of the case. It is designed to give users a VR experience that has bits and pieces of both video games and documentary.
Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift are two of the latest VR tools that help people explore a whole new world of virtual elements. From strolling through the New York City subway to viewing directions to get around the airport, people have experienced a whole new range of things.
Better yet, users can even listen to passengers and stick with them. Overall, it’s one hell of an experience that is intended to let people transported into their memories.
BBC came up with Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel, a VR documentary that lets people go back in time machine and explore history from the present era. The visuals appeared to be a realistic and vivid display of events that took place in the past.
BBC’s competitor New York Times too came up with one; an award-winning VR documentary that showcased the struggling life of children who were hit by global problems like persecution and war.
The key purpose of these VR documentaries is not just to generate sympathy among the people but also to educate them about the horrible experiences that the victims are going through, so everyone can unite and tackle the issues. Ultimately, it’s about taking appropriate steps to making the world a better place to live.
4. Work and play
There is something for people who think that interactive gaming is a waste of time to tell a story, and it’s called social benefit storytelling.
In addition to providing a great user experience through engagement and interactive features, this one also leaves a positive influence on the users.
One great example is that of Conspiracy For Good , an interactive reality drama game which goes far beyond regular gaming storytelling.
Integrating both social and interactive elements, this game involved participants destroying the evil force and along the way, do some social-friendly deeds like building libraries in an education-wise backward Africa and donating toys to kids’ charitable organizations.
For those who are health conscious, there is an app called Zombies, Run!. It encourages users to run by allowing them to take part in multiple missions that are designed to save a town from zombie apocalypse.
Both the above cases clearly demonstrate the way interactive storytelling has progressed and that surely is a step in the right direction to create social awareness among people and make them more responsible towards solving them.
5. Producer and user
While technology has evolved, even people have changed. The ones that were story listeners are now storytellers too. When someone likes a story, he/she is going to tell it to probably a dozen people. It’s getting harder to differentiate between a storyteller and listener, producer and user, host and audience, and writer and reader.
But the good news is, the growing demand for more interactivity has led to the launch of interactive movies in which viewers will be able to determine the ending of the story.
Late Shift, is the first of its type and can be downloaded from Apple iOS devices.
The interesting part of the game is that you can choose to either be the protagonist or the hero by ignoring or helping tourist with directions to board the next train. Trust wise, you have the liberty to listen to the lady you just met or go with the police orders.
There is so much more under development in the industry. Something that could excite many is , Steven Spielberg’s recent project Mosaic, done for HBO. It will be an download-enabled app-based experimental movie that will allow the audience to choose the kind of adventure they want and zero in on various elements in the plot.
6. Entertainment and advertising
From highlighting the features of a product or service to selling them, visual storytelling goes a long way in influencing the purchasing decision of buyers. Even top brands like Marriott and Mercedes are using the strategy to attract more customers.
In fact, Marriott set up a 4D tourism booth to give their target audience a legitimate teleportation experience to Hawaii and London.
Mercedes, on the other hand, created a 360-degree video showcasing its soon-to-be launched SUV model to give users a feel of how it would be like to drive through the beautiful snow-filled mountains of Colorado.
Latitude study also foresees that the future marketing will include more of integrated characters and effects to tell interactive stories to the audience.
For example, if you see a gaming character wearing a particular pair of shoe and you like to purchase it, then all you need to do is click on the object and fill up the details to get them delivered to your doorstep.
Visual storytelling without limits
Keeping the developments mentioned above in mind, it can be said that the future looks very bright for visual storytelling and it’s expected to dominate across multiple platforms in various formats. It goes without saying that visual storytelling must be a part of your digital marketing campaign as well.
Dream it or live it – the choice is yours!