The rule of thumb for learning a new idea is to learn it through vetted examples. The rule is no less sound when it comes to storytelling. Not only can we learn from other great examples of storytelling marketing by understanding core principles through those strategies, but we can also train our mind to rethink in terms of stories.
What makes one storytelling strategy superior to another is that you don’t even know it’s necessarily a story. Take the case of Allstate Insurance’s personification of “Mayhem”, a mid-career suited menace, a modern day Puck dead set on ruining your day and relishing in the chaotic aftermath. Through “Mayhem,” Allstate is able to share multiple smaller stories across a series of commercial campaigns that portray everyday automobile disasters. The takeaway here is that a marketing story doesn’t have to be a three hour trilogy of bravery and sacrifice. Short and sweet is just as effective. While Allstate is projecting, Ford is integrating.
In the US, the new Ford Focus was marketed by giving a camera to test drivers who would film themselves driving around the streets. The campaign successfully integrated multiple individual stories that delve into the lives of people using the product. Meanwhile, across the pond, one of the most prominent examples is UK’S BT Broadband. BT invented a family; it started with a husband and wife, and over the years they had children, got divorced, were remarried, and then the story moved to the perspective of their (now) grown-up teenage son and his roommates at a university. This story lasted for about a decade, and it continues today … and reminds us that stories don’t have to have a conclusive ending. (Source: Jayson DeMers, “How to Maximize your Marketing Campaign Through Storytelling”, Forbes)
Dr. Pamela Rutledge gives us an example of transmedia storytelling, which is storytelling through “multiple points of entry making accessible to different types of consumers and media-users. It relies on the audience and so it by necessity treats them with respect. It does not ‘sell’ them, but rather invites them to become co-participants to expand the narrative.” Dr. Rutledge offers the example of “The Beast”, an alternate reality game (ARG) designed to promote Spielberg’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and “I Love Bees,” a video game created solely to engage fans in anticipation of Halo 2’s release.
Have you ever wondered what Red Bull has to do with wings? Absolutely nothing except that they had a small commercial about how their product gave you wings…then with a few strokes of genius, cemented that idea with the Red Bull Air Race – another transmedia type of storytelling. What I love about Red Bull is that their storytelling strategy (which I doubt was intended as such) teaches you that your story doesn’t necessarily even need to be linked with the product or the service…it can form a strong connection with a totally unrelated idea, as long as you re-stress that idea through various means of storytelling. Underscore a point and it will become part of your brand narrative.
On a simpler note, consider IKEA – a relatively B rate furniture company that has dominated the market not only by being affordable but by being livable. It’s easy to be a part of the Ikea lifestyle. The fact that it’s affordable (and doesn’t last very long) goes hand in hand with a culture that adopts a chameleon personality where consumers welcome change. On the other hand, consider the story Virgin Atlantic tells us – one that exudes excellence with possibility. You don’t think of Virgin without thinking of Richard Branson and his visionary personality – which Virgin has skillfully integrated into its brand.