Over the course of the century, technology has evolved our species quite a bit—for better or for worse. Communication has evolved from deep, experience-driven storytelling (as our ancestors did when telling tales of hunts and long, strenuous travels) to today’s world where digital messages and intrusive notifications packaged in the form of text messages, email, social media, and application pings command our attention.
These micro-moments are not only changing the way humans interact with each other, but also the brands they purchase products and services from. A large driver of this communication shift is mobile technology; our society has been programmed to rely on mobile devices as an extension of who we are, who we know, and how we understand the world around us. Whether we’re interrupted by a notification, waiting in line, or watching TV, we continuously reach for our mobile devices to know what’s going on. Yet until now, content marketing hasn’t been able to keep up.
As human beings, human contact and emotional/physical experiences still resonate most and provide the strongest impressions. One of the inherently great things about storytelling is that the story’s recipient gets lost in the experience being described through the lens of the storyteller. In today’s business world, we need more of that. Brands need to make people feel and experience the stories they are spending millions of dollars to create.
So why are brands still bombarding consumers with mundane advertising—especially when more than half of consumers are going out of their way to avoid advertising messages? I honestly don’t know. But 2015 is the year brands need to invest in creating experiences that capture the attention of the digitally distracted, mobile-obsessed audience.
Sixty-nine percent of online consumers agree that the quality, timing, or relevance of a company’s message influences their perception of a brand. Let’s focus on the quality and relevance part as we think about how storytelling fits in:
Brands should look deep within themselves and ask, “What do we stand for?” The answer to that question will stir up multiple responses, opinions, and even biases. That’s why it’s important for a group of individuals to determine this, not just one person—say, a VP of marketing. By culminating the opinions of a group, multiple story themes will present themselves. Those stories can be optimized and brought to life for their audience. Mobile is an incredibly effective tool for this: Mobile devices allow a brand to be relevant quite often, and through effective UX and design, incredible stories can be woven.
Consumers are exposed to more than 5,000 advertising messages a day, according to Razorfish’s 2015 Digital Marketing Report. How do the recipients of those messages feel about the brands paying for the advertising? Eighty-six percent say they prefer useful, relevant brands over brands that are merely interesting. While a viral tweet may gain the interest of millions, does it lead a consumer to think differently or connect with a brand? Of course, this doesn’t guarantee the brands that have a useful product will win—the brand itself still has to be useful.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “What have you done for me lately?” That’s exactly what brands need to address. They need to do something for the consumer and craft a story that evokes emotion, inspires action, creates awe, or triggers empathy. Most importantly, they must use technology to deliver their stories at the right time, in the right format, and in the best way possible. Welcome to the new age of content marketing.
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