written by: Mu Tong, Amy

There was a time when companies/brands were fascinated by the magic of storytelling. A TV ad, the packaging of products, the company’s founder, anything related to a brand could be inspirations for manufacturing into the content of a good brand story.

In the present digital age, when many average consumers are maneuvering with multi-devices, sitting in front of the TV, using Facebook on the phone, and with their iPad on at the same time. The new mandate of brand marketers is to ensure the stories will not be ignored. For a fact, 89% of ad content has been ignored [1], it is about time for marketers to leave this story broadest mindset behind and turn to story-making.

In the context of story-making, consumers stay active, stay engaged, and have the ability to participate in the creative brand building process. They are the collaborator of a brand instead of just followers or order takers.

A good example is the Concept Club created by Heineken designers and young clubbers. In order to get insights on the true needs and wants of clubbers, Heineken conducted a global research in 12 trendiest cities in the world. During a three-week dialogue, 28 key learnings and 6 touch points were displayed on a consumer journey map, from which Heineken’s designers drew insights for designing the club. Consequently, the project provoked 127 articles online, 1595 conversations on Twitter and most importantly, created a strong connection between Heineken and young clubbers through the work of ‘design’ [2].

Actually Heineken’s aluminum bottle had won a design prize in the International Festival of Creativity in the same year. Things would be different had Heineken choose to stuck with the old way and failed to go one step further. As much as there is nothing wrong with the use of story-telling to disseminate specific promotion messages or brand traits, it is quite unlikely/difficult to open up a path to understand what consumers really want.

As the job of creating and sharing stories are put in the hands of consumers, the role of brands evolves to provision of unforgettable experiences with experiential marketing. Experiential marketing done well may offset the weakness of content marketing, enabling face-to-face interaction and more compelling consumer engagements through exhibits, trade shows, sponsorships, or even virtual connections. Amongst consumers contributed to create or share digital content during the brand event, 74% said they are more likely to purchase Heineken after participating in the experience. [3]

The CEO of Mastercard once said, “As the world becomes more experiential, every person alive today is a natural story-maker.” This obvious trend is shown in the 2017 Freeman Global Brand Experience Study, which reported that more than one in three CMOs expects to allocate 21% to 50% of their budgets for brand experiences in the next three to five years. [3]

How story-making unfold itself the future of brand marketing is for us to find out. I am more inclined to hold the view that a brand need both story-making and story-telling. As before any brand could successfully spark off participation from consumers, a lot of ground work has to be done to trigger motivation, as to why consumers should help to generate content with a brand? What is in it for them and how to participate? Let alone there is always the risks of possible PR blunders if the process is not administered tactfully.

Question for thought: Is your Brand ready to let your consumer drive where the story to go?

[1] http://bondpublicrelations.com/index.php?p=news%2Fengaging-the-modern-consumer-through-experiential-marketing

[2] http://www.insites-consulting.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Designing-the-club-of-tomorrow.pdf

[3] http://www.prweek.com/article/1435184/marketers-expect-allocate-50-budgets-brand-experience-study-finds