Buddhist monk with smartphone
Marketing Content Strategy

How Mobile Technology Is Impacting the Way Brands Tell Stories

6 Minute Read

Your smartphone, that sacred little object that never leaves your sight, is far more powerful than the computer NASA used to put a man on the moon—and it’s likely you’re just using it to upload insta-selfies, send gifs on WhatsApp, and check your email 20 times a day. Oh, and maybe take the occasional call.

Your content strategy deserves better than that.

Tech is making it easier than ever to tell our stories, but marketing teams are so focused on what’s next that they can forget what we have in our hands right now: our mobiles. That’s a veritable portable production studio, right in your grubby little fingers.

A Production Studio in Your Pocket

The rise of mobile has been accompanied by the rise in citizen journalism, democratized employee engagement, a constant news cycle. Even as everyone stares in wonder as AI, VR, 4K, 5G, and all the other acronyms reach maturity, there is so much we can do with that magic box in our pockets. Brands, let’s take a leaf from communities looking to get their stories heard.

Man filming skyline and sunset on mobile phone

Image attribution: Warren Wong

“With the advancement of technologies such as virtual reality (VR), live streaming capabilities, 8K video footage and 5G internet, it’s never been easier for local news organizations to get eyeballs on stories outside of the mainstream, national news agenda,” writes Caroline Scott for journalism.co.uk. “But the developments that have happened in mobile journalism specifically have ensured it’s not just journalists who get to tell stories anymore—citizens can use the smartphones in their pockets to shoot, edit and publish content to thousands of viewers, without needing major broadcasting platforms.”

Scott references Hashtag Our Stories, an online platform “empowering mobile storytelling communities and creating shows in every language.” Cofounder Yusuf Omar is training communities around the world to use mobile tools to tell their stories because he believes this is the future of news.

“We don’t need a printing press or broadcast equipment anymore,” he says. “If we have a powerful story to tell, nothing can stop it going viral—the traditional media no longer has a monopoly on information. We will see the movement evolve from communities producing shaky, hand-held footage to everybody being able to make content that is effectively as good as the broadcaster’s.”

So where is the great mobile-led brand journalism? Unsurprisingly, the kids are leading the way.

Democratizing Brand Journalism

Naturelly—a healthy, juicy, jelly snack with limited stockists in the UK—needed an attention-grabbing way to get in front of parents and kids. Enter: the chief imagination officer. Youngsters were invited to get creative and tell the team what they wanted to be when they were older, with a shortlist of three making a video for Facebook saying why they should be chosen. Then came the gamification: three points for every share, two for a comment, and one point for a like.

“We had our target audience filming an advert for us, and it was the best advert we could’ve ever asked for,” says founder Dean Dempsey. “Our winner, Oscar, stood there in a space helmet with a blackboard telling the world why they should eat Naturelly, while his mum filmed on her mobile phone.”

The mobile usage didn’t end there. While Oscar’s role as chief imagination officer involved a lot of PR and being creative director on an animated video, the Naturelly team enrolled his mother to document the story on her mobile. She filmed mini interviews with Oscar; she filmed Oscar giving reactions to products; she filmed him interacting with the Jelly Juice and talking about it. It might’ve been quick and dirty, but it had the authenticity of a seven-year-old talking about his favorite food.

Naturelly is now searching for the next Oscar and intends to use mobile to even greater effect this time round. Not only that, they’ve also branched out with taste tests and junior advisory boards—more kids are being filmed by mobile and being heard.

“We wanted to get into the minds of our target audience, understand what it is they like,” says Dempsey. “Our brand is about being imaginative and playful—that’s really key to what we’re doing—and we wanted to understand more about what’s in the minds of the actual consumer.

“You don’t want their world to constantly be about us. You want to make them feel special and feel part of the family.

“We are helping and inspiring parents to help their kids have fun and live healthier. I think that’s key to it—it’s a health product done in a fun way. It’s jelly. It’s not about preaching health, but showing health comes in fun ways.

“And it was massively important that the kids could be seen and heard naturally and in their own environment. It had to be all about them. Influencer marketing can come in all sorts of forms—celebrities, specialists, experts, and peers. Mums buy our products—we’re not a pocket money product—but we needed the endorsement from kids. This campaign let us do that.

“I think it’s phenomenal now what you can do now with mobile—everyone’s a journalism production house. You can film, edit, and publish from your hand. That’s really democratizing what we do as marketers.”

When Everyone Is an Influencer

“Influencers” is another movement where the mobile production house comes into play. At a recent influencer event in London, Hotels.com’s global head of social media, Tim McLoughlin, talked about how the brand needed to inject personality and “humanize what we do.” The answer? Make their staff the center of attention.

They might be a travel brand, but Hotels.com had been relying on stock imagery to power their social media storytelling. But they also had a plethora of staff traveling the world for research. Making the simple move from paying Getty for stock images to incentivizing staff to share the great photos they’ve taken on their travels gave the brand an immediate injection of personality. Now they not only have a great employee engagement program but they have social media that people want to engage with.

Mobile Journalism Is Immediate

So, dear brand marketers, take your eyes off the future for just a moment, and think about what you can do right here, right now, to step up your brand journalism. Invest in a little bit of equipment—like a tripod, a light, and a good quality mic—and you can step up your content strategy through your own form of citizen brand journalism. And stop thinking that mobile produces bad quality stuff; this film by BBC News was shot, edited, and published using a smartphone, and has racked up more than 10 million views since November 2017. Can you tell it was created in a pocket?

At a recent Mojo (mobile journalism) meet-up in London, Glen Mulcahy, head of innovation at RTE Tech, said: “Young people don’t have televisions, and don’t give a damn about the broadcast infrastructure. The only thing they are interested in is content, and they are not fussed about how that content is created, it comes down to an engaging story. Mobile serves this audience really well.”

Mobile is immediate. It’s authentic. It’s real. And we can all become filmmakers using that thing surgically attached to our hands. Instead of scrolling through Twitter, stop and look around: What stories are in front of you? How can you relate that to your content strategy? Get out and film your workers, your customers. Live out your greatest brand journalism fantasies. Because that’s the way it is, today. Not tomorrow, not ten years away. What’s your story?

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Featured image attribution: Amaryllis Liampoti

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Lauren is a storyteller. A journalist by trade, she has worked in agencies, in-house and in the media over her 20-year career. She's worked as an editorial strategist and content creator for some of the world's biggest brands, setting up processes and guidelines, advising on planning, auditing content, building loyal audiences, leading social campaigns, writing blogs and flyers and presentations - pretty much handling the stuff with words. She was born in Australia, has resided in London for the last decade, and writes fiction on the side. You’ll often find her grinning like a fool at a rock concert.

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