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50 Years Later, Bob Dylan Masters Interactive Content

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Bob Dylan and I never crossed paths until a few days ago. Rolling Stone ranked him number two on its list of 100 Greatest Artists, and the magazine proclaimed his song “Like a Rolling Stone” to be the single greatest song ever, period. I’d heard of Dylan, which is to say I’d heard his name in the news. That is, until I bumped into some of his interactive content on the Web. Sounds weird, right?

Living in Parallel

Word of mouth has a lot to do with whether we try things, and no one ever asked me to listen to his music. My immigrant parents preferred the Beatles. My English teachers talked about beat-generation poets, but not about their influence on musicians like Janis Joplin, Dylan, or the Beatles. The writers and musicians I met in college preferred to talk about older artists with a razor-sharp edge like Johnny Cash. Meanwhile, the greatest song of all time (written by Dylan in 1965) not only didn’t exist for me, but it was also irrelevant. Dylan and I existed in parallel until Mashable, Rolling Stone, and the New York Times all praised his 2013 music video “Like a Rolling Stone” as fun, mesmerizing, interactive content.

Bob Dylan

Life Is More Than a Series of Random Events

I fell into Dylan’s music video with the same amount of wonder that I fell into my favorite “Choose Your Own Adventure” books as a kid. Participating in an interactive story made me more invested in the outcome of that story by giving me unrestricted control over the protagonist’s fate. Actively flipping the channels within “Like a Rolling Stone” is a fun testing environment that reminded me of the many choices that I weigh on a daily basis. Life is more interesting when messy because it’s more than a simple collection of facts—it’s an unraveling narrative upon which we bestow meaning.

More Interactive Content, Earlier, and More Often

Entrepreneur magazine described the shift toward interactive video by pointing out that devices are evolving and tastes are changing in support of it—and that’s true. Today, your five-year-old family members can enjoy a very postmodern content experience as they munch on Goldfish crackers and dictate the fate of animated Goldfish on the Web.

Brands are also using interactivity to speak to older, more affluent audiences. This year, Lincoln Motor Company teamed up with Aloe Blacc to create an interactive video, which allowed viewers to switch between five continuous shots to direct the action. The continuity of all five networked narratives, each of which follows a different protagonist on the same afternoon, hearkens back to the storytelling style of films like Pulp Fiction. That’s quite a creative leap of faith for marketing content to take!

Aloe Blacc

Interactivity is wonderful for the human psyche because it offers us the chance to evaluate all available options. Just as with “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, interactive video is designed to let you hunt down common threads in story lines, then start all over from the beginning each time you reach the end of one branch on a decision tree. But now that we understand the shift toward visual storytelling, what does it mean for marketers?

Marketing Content Can Be a Drag(net)

Sometimes we marketers treat the researching consumer like a bad robot that feeds only on information, or the eternally pragmatic Joe Friday, from television’s Dragnet, who wanted nothing in excess of “just the facts.” In this boring world, nothing happens in parallel. All information gathering happens in a straight line. Take this example of a video case study storyboard I created in an app called Treehouse.

Storyboard for a video case study - Skyword

In this example, a case study could have three main chapters: Challenge, Solution, and Results. By segmenting our content and answering questions clearly, people are able to gather only the information that is relevant to them at that time. In this case, they are only interested in the challenges of other buyers, not in the solution nor results delivered by your company.

Storyboard for a video case study - Skyword

However, the beauty of interactive content is the ability to quickly expose people to additional story lines or adventures they have already self-selected for. In this storyboard example, we see additional details revealed to case study viewers interested in a specific challenge.

Storyboard for a video case study - SkywordIt is also possible that the necessary view of case study content is, in fact, evaluating your solution and jumping through content at many stages of the buying funnel in order to do so. As a marketer, it is difficult to plan for the very human, nonlinear need for content, but storytelling is a user-focused framework. Once you’ve experimented with creating engaging content for your users, then your ability to cater to many learning styles will increase. You’ll rejoice at your newly gained ability to offer more bottom-of-the-funnel content to people without alienating others from your offer. Remember: When it comes to content, the choice should always be in the consumers’ hands. That way, no one ever needs to feel like a rolling stone.

To learn more about how your content can put buyers in control of their own destiny, reach out to Skyword today.

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