Why it’s time to introduce digital storytelling to your brand strategy
Written by Erin Hynes, diff agency's Marketing Coordinator.
Simply put, digital storytelling uses digital technology to tell a story. Digital stories are often compelling and emotionally engaging formats. Sometimes, they can even be interactive through their use of graphics, images, text, audio, video, animation, and music.
We naturally absorb stories, finding ways to connect and relate to them. Because of this, telling stories in marketing is a great way to keep your brand memorable. If it’s a good story, the viewer will be more likely to engage with your brand, even if it's an ad. For example, this Samsung India ad from 2017 told the heartwarming story of a Samsung Service Engineer who goes out of his way to provide service to a remote village in India.
The ad tells the story of his journey to the village while highlighting Samsung’s dedication to creating lasting relationships with consumers through timely service. The Samsung ad went viral when it was launched on December 30, 2016, getting nearly 20 million hits on YouTube in the first week itself. Now, the video has over 200 million views.
Digital storytelling aims to pull viewers into a story rather than the traditional approach to marketing, which pushes branded messages onto viewers. Rather than talking at customers, digital storytelling speaks to consumers in a way that resonates - through human emotion.
A history of storytelling
Storytelling is an integral part of the way that humans communicate, in fact, we’ve always done it. The history of storytelling stretches back to 30,000 BC. Back then, humans used cave painting to tell the stories of important events: successful hunts and special rituals. Eventually, humans started to write stories down. Scholars generally agree that the earliest form of writing appeared almost 5,500 years ago in Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).
In the 17th century fairy tales came along, and in the 18th century came modern newspapers. With the invention of cameras, photography and “motion pictures” became a form of storytelling in the 19th century.
Finally, in 1939 there was the launch of network television, and this was when digital storytelling was born. Since the early days of network television, digital storytelling has now expanded to include mediums like video games, social media, augmented reality and virtual reality.
The value of digital storytelling
Digital storytelling is a valuable approach to marketing because it adds character and depth to a company’s brand image, which makes the company relatable. And there is science to back this up.
Scientists are discovering that chemicals like cortisol, dopamine and oxytocin are released in the brain when we’re told a story. This is why we tend to remember facts better when they are told to us through a story rather than via simple fact-telling. Here’s what the release of these three chemicals during storytelling does in our brains:
Cortisol assists with the formulation of memories. This means that when cortisol is activated by a story, we will be more likely to remember that story.
Dopamine helps regulate our emotional responses, which keeps us engaged in the story rather than losing interest or focus.
Oxytocin is associated with creating deeper connections with others through empathy, as well as maintaining those connections.
The combination of cortisol, dopamine, and oxytocin creates a positive response in our brains that engages our emotions, memory, and makes us feel connected. Therefore, when you can leverage digital storytelling to tell the story of your brand, you have the opportunity to create a positive association between your audience and your brand.
Visuals are key to digital storytelling
Our brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than text, in fact, 90% of information transmitted to our brains is visual. Because of this natural receptiveness to imagery, digital storytelling is most successful when it is enhanced with visuals.
We also tend to recall visual content much better than we can recall written content. Studies show that people can remember 65% of the visual content that they see almost three days later, compared to only 10% of written content.
With this in mind, it is valuable for brands to use visual content to communicate their brand story to their audience, because if it is visually communicated, your audience is more likely to engage with it and remember it.
Case studies: Digital storytelling through video
Brand stories don’t necessarily need to be the stories of the company itself. Digital storytelling for brands can include telling the stories of customers. These stories do a wonderful job of humanizing a brand and its impact, providing viewers a refreshing perspective.
In 2018 Land Rover demonstrated the impact of digital storytelling through a three and a half minute film called “The Land of Land Rovers.” The film cinematically tells the story of the transit town called Manebhanjyang in Darjeeling, India. The residents of Manebhanjyang have 42 very old Land Rovers, for which the small community has become famous.
The film introduces viewers to the scenery, people and story of Manebhanjyang by showing the integral role that Land Rovers have had within the community for over 50 years. “Everyone here has a special emotion connected to the Land Rover,” explains one resident. “They are so important to Manebhanjyang because the road uphill is so treacherous.”
The film follows three drivers as they navigate 31 kilometers up a steep and dangerous road to deliver goods to another village. “We fear traveling in other vehicles because the roads are so treacherous,” explains one man. “No matter how challenging the weather is, [Land Rover leads] us safely to our destination.” The final destination for the Land Rover drivers is the village of Sandakphu, at an altitude of 3,636m.
A combination of beautiful cinematography, emotional music, and personal stories creates a captivating narrative which on the surface, tells the story of a community that is bound by its pride in their ability to safely transport people and goods safely in a region where travel is treacherous. For this community, Land Rover is vital.
But the film offers subtextual messaging as well. In one scene, a driver explains, “Now, there are alot of cars that come with complexity, but no, I like the simplicity of the oldest one - the 1957 Land Rover.” He pats the hood of his vintage Land Rover, adding, “It makes me very strong.” This scene subtextually informs the viewer of the dependability and strength of Land Rover vehicles - this man’s Land Rover is over 50 years old, but still dependable.
This scene, combined with other comments throughout to film, like, “To drive a land rover you need courage and you must be very confident,” serves to construct a consumer identity that viewers can identify with. The viewer learns that Land Rover is a durable vehicle designed for adventurous, hard-working people - and that with Land Rover, you can go anywhere.
The Land Rover film quickly went viral, earning over 100,000 views on Youtube. Land Rover created a landing page for the campaign and also linked to a series of three 1 minute videos that focused on the personal stories of drivers in Manebhanjyang. Overall, Land Rover’s campaign presents a fantastic example of digital storytelling that conveys brand messaging through an enticing, human story.
Other forms of digital storytelling
It’s important that your brand story extends beyond just traditional video ads and is weaved across all your media platforms, including social media. This allows for your audience to engage with your brand across different platforms that work together to make up the cohesive, overarching story.
A transmedia approach will also help to develop your brand to have dynamic character. Rather than the exact same voice or approach on each digital platform, the platforms can show different sides and characteristics of your brand.
Shopify does a fantastic job of using digital storytelling on their social channels, specifically Instagram. They consistently share short videos to their Instagram feed that highlight the stories of business owners that use the Shopify platform. For example, in this video, Shopify highlights Dish The Fish, a Singapore based online fish delivery business run by a young couple.
In the video, the couple explains how they modernized the traditional art of selling fresh fish, by utilizing ecommerce to sell. The couple’s ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit is emphasized, which sends a subtextual message to viewers: The Shopify platform is perfect for creative entrepreneurs that want to do something different.
Video isn’t the only way to digital storytell on social media. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram now have carousel features which enable you to post several images together. Using this feature you can create a compelling narrative through still images. Airbnb, for example, used a carousel of images to tell the story of India’s leading clothing designer - who just happens to also be an Airbnb host.
There are a couple things to remember when using social media to add to your digital storytelling campaign. Keep in mind that your social channels can focus on aspects of your brand story. While content might be a bit different on each channel (for example, Shopify’s Twitter focuses on thought leadership rather than client stories), it's important to ensure that none of the posts send opposing messages. Digital storytelling should represent another element of your overall omnichannel marketing strategy.
Three digital storytelling strategies to get you started
Great digital storytelling starts with yes - you guessed it - the story. Here are three strategies that will help you to find the stories that your brand wants to tell.
Hone in on your company’s value propositions
Think about your company’s value propositions, and about the emotions that your brand conveys. If you can tell a story that reinforces the value propositions, you’ll gain viewer’s trust. Remember the Samsung India video we mentioned at the beginning of this piece? That film does exactly this. The story of the Samsung Service Engineer who goes out of his way to provide service to a remote village in India reinforces Samsung’s promise that they provide timely service.
Get to know your staff
Sometimes there are great stories right in front of you! Company culture is important for morale, but an added benefit is that it can also contribute to your brand messaging. By getting to know your staff, maintaining open lines of communication, and encouraging positive relationships within the company, you can discover opportunities for sharing narratives that your consumers might enjoy.
View this post on Instagram
@jessicawhitaker wearing our Kaylyn Wool Coat during her 24-hours in Paris 😍 Swipe right to see Jeannette, the owner of one of our factories in San Francisco, adding the finishing touches to this coat. Jeannette has owned her factory for 18 years and sewed the very first sample for Amour Vert. She’s been a part of our family ever since!
And it doesn’t always need to be a complex or long story. For example, Amour Vert used an Instagram carousel to tell the story of Jeannette, the owner of one of their factories. This carousel promotes the product itself, while also humanizing the brand by sharing the story of one of the people behind it.
Listen to your customers
Get to know your customers because understanding who they are will help you to develop stories that they can relate to. The best way to do this is through listening. The great thing is that nowadays listening can be done through a multitude of channels: by reading customer reviews, emails, and checking social media tagged posts.
Aftershokz, for example, told a customer story by simply resharing an image. This single image of a marriage proposal featuring a pair of Aftershokz headphones gives viewers a glimpse into the lives of real Aftershokz users, and points to the community element of the Aftershokz brand.
View this post on Instagram
A couple that Shokz together, stays together. 💍 ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Congratulations to Emily and Ralph on their recent engagement! We're so thrilled to have been a part of it. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ We wish you years of happiness and a relationship that's as strong as titanium. 😉 | 📸: @ramjetcreations
It’s time to use digital media to tell your brand’s story
Digital storytelling taps into an inherently human love of narratives, and the benefits of including digital storytelling as part of your marketing strategy are innumerable. Your content will not only be more memorable, it will be relatable to your viewers and consumers, allowing you to develop an impactful brand voice and community. And remember, the best stories aren’t necessarily your own. Sourcing those stories might be tough, but when you find those that are truly touching, invest in bringing them to life.
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