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Making a story social isn't all about marketing. It's also about helping to build a better narrative – extending and enriching the story, whether your story is driven by a fictional character or a brand. This SXSWi talk examines current examples of advertising, transmedia, brand fiction and branded content to determine what makes stories work for today's social audiences--and what makes them fail.
This is a session that will explore how social narrative is being used to build brand stories. The hashtag is #Betty. And full disclosure, January Jones is not going to make an appearance, so for those who thought that might happen, I’ll understand if you want to leave now.
What is social storytelling? We can’t even agree on a name for it yet. Social storytelling, transmedia, deep media, brand fiction. Whatever it is, it seems really complicated, especially when people try to explain it like this.
But really, it’s as simple as the story of Santa. Think about it. For two months every year, you can’t walk out of your house without being immersed in the Santa Brand story. It comes at you from a remarkably varied array of touchpoints so that you’re immersed in the brand message whether you’re walking down the street, driving down a highway, making a call or taking an elevator.
Everyone involved in promoting the Santa brand story collaborates in terms of telling the message and also contributes to it. Anyone is allowed and encouraged to participate in promoting the story. Yet the story remains remarkably consistent, enriched and propelled by the participation of millions.
The long-running Santa campaign as been so successful, it does the marketing equivalent of leaping tall buildings—convincing consumers to defy entrenched cultural mores. Santa now enjoys popularity even in agnostic China where he has acquired the persona of Cupid and Christmas is a holiday of romance. And in Jordan a few years ago, a charity launched a campaign to promote the creation of an Islamic Santa. How can a brand emulate Santa’s success, make its story an immersive experience that affords massive opportunity for engagement, even evangelism?By convincing others tell their story for them. By making fans out of consumers and getting them to spread word that the brand is awesome. This is far more likely to be convincing if it comes from a consumer than from the brand itself, which is how it was done in the era of broadcast advertising, the era in which I grew up in the business.
I spent many years in the advertising trenches as a writer/creative director getting brand stories out the traditional way, print ads,TV even radio. In 2007, in a moment of desperation that everyone sitting here can probably understand, I started an anonymous blog called Adbroad, oldest working writer in advertising. A few years later, when I came out, I was kind of sorry to be stuck with that handle, but hey it was my brand differential. One day, sitting at Ogilvy, working on a script for a commercial, I fell down my first rabbit hole. This is a term in transmedia which means doing what Alice in Wonderland did. Seeing something curious, exploring it and slipping into another world. The curious thing I saw was an email alert. It was from Twitter, a platform that had only a fraction of the users it has today and was used mostly for information exchange. The email said a character from my new favorite TV show was following me.
I was being followed by Don Draper!! My heart started palpitating. I promptly forgot about my commercial and went onto twitter. I thought putting one of their characters onto twitter was a brilliant marketing move by AMC.
Then it came out that it was a brilliant marketing move not from AMC, but from a digital strategist tin Minneapolis named Paul Isakson. I started tweeting as Betty Draper. Others were claiming Mad Men twitter names too and prettysoon the entire Mad Men cast was on twitter.
Now fans had a new way to connect with the show, to engage with the characters between episodes and seasons. Office micro-dramas played out in real time online.
Betty hosted parties where she served virtual food and drink of the era: Lilliput meatballs, Rob Roys, Old Fashioneds. Fans were invited to take part, creating opportunity for deeper interaction with the show.
Betty built up her fan base by creating a LinkedIn profile
and launching a blog which explores issues of concern to a 1960s housewife.
We created a Tweaser, a twitter warm-up to the premiere of Season 3.
We created a website and Twitter handle for Radio City Music Hall 1963 and had the Mad Men on twitter characters attend the opening of the movie It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad World which actually did open in 1963.
A virtual event to which we “sold” tickets and collected email addresses.
We crashed the time-space continuum by live-tweeting theClios at which Matt Weiner was presented with a special achievement award. For making people like people in our profession.
We created the first twepisode which dramatized content that can’t be shown in a TV episode—like when Don Draper took his daughter Sally to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium. It was a microdrama in which fans were invited to participate via twitter. We cut together a little video of the twitter event and put it on youtube.
Mad Men on Twitter became the first fan-created campaign to be recognized by a marketing awards show, The Sammys.
Of course, AMC doesn’t leave all its marketing up to fans. They and their digital agency Deep Focus created mad Men yourself, a site where you can become a mad man or woman. In the first week, avatars were downloaded at the rate of 38 every minute and to date over a million fans have transformed themselves into virtual ads for the show.
This year, AMC is introducing social story to outdoor, creating what I think of as a new form of advertising. Minimalist posters in the subway invite ”adulteration" by passersby.
The posters are wiped clean every night and new art appears each day to give harried transit riders a bit of much needed entertainment. Which is, of course, the product that AMC is selling.
Social storytelling is also on broadway. Next to Normal was the first broadway show that played simultaneously in theater and the twitterverse. It issued tweets during showtimes which appeared in a twitterstream for the show. Before the twitter production began, the show sold 72 percent of its seats. The week it ended, seating had reached 99 percent capacity.
Even churches are discovering the power of social storytelling. Wall Street’s historic Trinity Church broke digital ground by tweeting the Passion Play. From 12 to 3 on Good Friday, a church worker posted tweets from the Church, increasing its following by 170%. Talk about brand evangelism.
The first truly transmedia TV show just got renewed for its second season by MBC network in the Middle East. The show, called 04, is a drama about 4 twenty somethings who live in Dubai. Right after the first episode aired in January, four fans had the chance to meet and speak with one of the stars in a Google Plus hangout. The hangout was viewed over 200,000 times in just 48 hrs, here’s a clip.
Of course, the first and foremost transmedia storyteller was Walt Disney who created Disneyland and the Mickey Mouse TV show to sell his brand. A few years ago, with no special promotion, a simple plush bear began selling out at Tokyo DisneySea. Disney saw opportunity to push sales further. They gave the bear a name: Duffy. They gave him a backstory: Minnie sewed the bear for Mickey to keep him company on a trip. They introduced a line of accessories and made him a walk-about mascot and soon Duffy was accounting for 40 percent of the merchandise sales at DisneySea in Tokyo.I know what you’re thinking. Social storytelling makes sense for entertainment properties, but I’ve got a brand with no inherent drama attached. But any brand can tell a compelling story. You just have to speak the right language. As in the real world, there are many languages online. You don’t speak the same way on Facebook as you do on twitter or on a blog. Companies can’t just offload communications from their traditional venues or customers will call them out.
You also need content. Customers aren’t going to connect with companies in the social space just because they’re there.
Aftershave isn’t inherently dramatic, but the Old Spice guy got millions to evangelize his brand story. After the I’m on a horse commercials ran for a while, the agency tried to think of what to do next. They filmed Isaiah Mustafah delivering personalized messages to tweeters. Some of the first videos were addressed to Twitter magillas like Ashton Kutcher, but plenty of responses went out to non-celebs. One of the most memorable was to a tweeter who asked Mustafah to propose to his girlfriend.
Apparently, it worked. @JSBeal’s twitter profile soon changed to “Happily Engaged.” The videos were posted on a channel that within a couple of weeks elicited 61 million uploads and almost 16000 comments. What’s interesting is that this campaign was curated and crafted by a traditional agency. Wieden and Kennedy.Next, they extended the campaign to voicemail.
One of the most important things to remember when crafting social storytelling your audience. Who are you trying to reach? The success of your initiative is based not on how many your story appeals to, but whether or not your story appeals to the people you’re trying to reach. A panelist on Friday talked about an obscure solderingcompany that became well known in the industry because it hired 14 bloggers to talk about them, to tell stories of the care they took in making their tools. Posts that would be absolutely boring to me and maybe you, but proved riveting to the audience they were trying to reach.Verizon and MTV had the same target audience20 somethings. They created a thriller about a girl looking for her lost brother who disappears after losing his cellphone. The product is integral to the story, but the video doesn’t feel like a commercial at all. (SHOW) The story was told through linear, digital and mobile. To promote it they ran spots on TV shows that appealed to the segment. I think it was the first case of on-air being used to promote online.
The agency Mother developed social storytelling for Stella Artois that conveyed the brand’s core qualities--expensive and smooth--through a character of their own invention: Jacques d'Azur, a French bon vivant from the 60s who spends most of his time on red carpets and yachts. I first heard about Jacques when he tweeted @BettyDraper.Intrigued, I went to his twitter feed and discovered similar shout outs to twitter users with hefty followings.
A link jumped me to his Facebook where there were albums of photos of him in the 1960s, gallivanting Mad Man-ishly around the world. He was described as having been lost at sea. And I was invited to enter a contest to win "his" place at the Cannes Film Festival.There was a fake Wikipedia entry for the character. A flickr collection of life-streaming photos . And this mock newscast on youtube announcing his disappearance. There was even a blog post that claims Jacques taught tennis to the teenaged Bill Gates.
Most brands get Branded Contentwrong by focusing on their logo and branding everything. The key to branded content is creating something that ppl want to watch and share, but fits with your brand’s core values. Red Bull did it right. You see a can a couple of times as well as logos on his outfits but it in no way feels like a commercial and makes for very compelling video. You might not have the budget of Red Bull but it is important to understand the thinking behind what they do. Red Bull doesn’t think about Red Bull. It thinks about making content its audience will want to see. Nobody really wants to see your awards or interviews with your top management. Consumers are BOMBARDED with content these days and they are not going to watch—much less share—what feels like an ad. If you want to get consumers attention…think about what you can make that they will want to view and share. After a couple of days, this vid got close to a quarter of a millions views.
The last thing I want to say is, let’s stop beating ourselves up. Most of us aren’t doing social storytelling right yet. But remember, it took a long time for brands to master the art of telling stories on television. When TV first came out, the commercials that ran were basically radio ads with a promo card. Advertisers were taking the rules form the medium they knew—radio—and bringing these rules to a new platform, where they didn’t make sense. It took about 20 years for them to hit their stride with TV. To start to figure out how to entertain audiences using all the tools the new platform made available to them. Doyle Dane Bernbach was one of the first agencies to figure out how to engage an audience not by talking at them, but by telling them stories. And they were great storytellers. Some of you may remember this which was one of the first commercials that people talked about at the water cooler.the problem was, no matter how entertaining the commercial, when the TV went off, the story was over. The difference today is, the end of the commercial isn’t the end of the story. It’s the beginning of opportunities for the brand. Today, this couple would have Facebook, twitter. She’d have a pinterest for recipes and they’d probably be signing their own tv show.
@BettyDraper's Guide to Social Storytelling
SXSWi March 12, 2012 brandfictionfactory.com
how not to explain social storytelling World’s Most Confusing Venn Diagram brandfictionfactory.com
we created a “tweaser”An hour before Season3 Premiere, Mad Men onTwitter staged a twitterevent called “MadWorlds Collide” inwhich Mad Menattended 1963 moviepremiere of “It’s a Mad,Mad, Mad World.” brandfictionfactory.com