16 Nov The Story of Storytelling
Marketing storytelling- think of grandma and the evil witch!
Recently I attended a mini-MBA at Schulich. Our marketing class was energetic, and the instructor was direct and confident. Of course, there was a discussion about what is marketing. Everyone eagerly wrote words on the virtual whiteboard and the instructor read them with a teacherly voice like we are back in elementary school. Very sweet in a way! I personally always believed in marketing being about storytelling. Last night by browsing to sign up for the Collision Convention, I noticed that even Ryan Reynolds agrees with this statement, according to an Instagram post on their page. So, I will go with it for the theme of this piece.
How is the storytelling affected, enhanced and used in the new era we live in? Who is the storyteller, and who is the story for?
In this article, I will be brutally honest because something seems intrinsically off after 15 years of being a storyteller and a listener for much longer. I am fed up, tired and dull!
Omni is great, but it is becoming boring, old news, exhausting, too much, for both sides.
You decide to buy some home weights to shed a few pandemic pounds and do a quick search online. Three months later, you are still targeted on Facebook, Instagram and every site you visit with ads about the coolest weights. You continuously see fit women and men pushing their photoshopped to perfection bodies.
You printed photos at Walmart this one time ever as it was the only place open on the weekend. A month later, you continue to receive twice a week a promotional email about printing photos. Who prints photos every week?
You were talking about Stranger Things which recently the entire family became obsessed with and your son starts getting recommendations on Youtube for the new season.
Multiply this now by 4.54 billion, which is the estimated number of people who are active internet users (Statista, 2020a).
Kaboom, absolute marketing Matrix! What is real, what works, what’s authentic, not sure anyone knows anymore.
Yes, it is true-storytelling is key!
A Forbes article from 2019 romantically speaks to the importance of storytelling and how being a quality service provider is no longer enough, you need to up your game and be seen, speak louder and outshine the crowd. Truthfully so, they emphasise the importance of storytelling as an emotional vehicle to your brand and how building a “tribe” is key to having a sustainable business model.
This is all true. I started with it and stand by it! Imagine your grandma reading you a story from this old book, with the pages worn out by the many times she’s done this. You can smell her apron and the freshly baked cookies, you see the characters coming to life, you start running with them and lose yourself in her voice. Now imagine her speaking 10 times faster, flipping through the pages and pushing the cookies in your mouth, and then again and again, before you can even chew. You can’t hear the story, you can’t chew and not sure if this is your grand or an evil witch!
The competition is fierce
Undoubtedly, the commerce and retail landscapes are beyond competitive. Retail players strive to push their service and products offerings around the clock. But they are also now competing who will capture the consumers first, keep them longer on their digital platform, and consequently convert them multiple times- continuously. The competition starts early on before we even talk about the quality of the product and its attributes. It is turning into the nightmare of modern daycares where you sign up your unborn children on the waitlist to ensure when they are 4 they have a spot!
Not that it is much different than walking from one store to another. Yet, the ease with which a consumer can research, compare, chastise a brand, and buy a product is of record speed.
Storytelling is no longer a creative and emotional process; it’s a race! Marketers seem to run more than spend time planning and doing what they do well- storytelling!
The academics have also spoken
According (Dizdarevic et al., 2020), “ The degree to which technologies are spread across retailing, the so-called technological diversification, is mainly considered at the firm- or store level in the retailing and marketing literature. However, also physical clusters of business and service providers composed as retail agglomerations are increasingly capitalising on the advantages of digital services.”
I have also spoken in length about the importance of innovation in a swift combination with traditional, tactile and in-person marketing. What we don’t talk about is that digital makes marketing lazy for the hands-on work and for the story itself!
Lazy marketing, yet burned out marketers?
Pressing buttons, becoming a guru in keywords, SEO, programmatic advertising, and AI is absolutely fantastic, but it loses touch with the real world. Yet, marketing professionals are burnt out, doing 5 roles at the same time. They are art directors, media buyers, designers, social media coordinators, and photographers nowadays. What they may not know anymore is how to connect for real with their customers! the custom for them is turning into a number, analytics, leads and conversion rate, not a listener!
Speaking with event attendees, seeing their eyes when we activate are some of the biggest rewards of my career, cliche or not- the truth! I get recharged and inspired by having physical activations where the creativity and planning meet the customer- in the real world! Yes, the circumstances of our new world have impacted this, but hey be creative!
Many academics speak to the importance of privacy for consumers. The reality is that privacy no longer exists in the digital world; in one way or another, we have all given it up for a few photos, comments and a free exercise schedule for a week or a search for home weights.
So, in this falsely secure and oversaturated domain, what is left as part of the story? How do we still play a role as marketers and benefit as consumers?
Convince the top the story has to be sweet, enduring and real- this takes time!
Go back to the basics of human emotions, of how we learn and connect.
Do not invest in all digital. Like a good investment, you need to diversify. Have boots on the ground.
Stop running and start planning, spend time brainstorming, sitting, observing.
Tell a story don’t push and schedule it!