Stories are one of the oldest human traditions in existence and have had many years to imprint their importance upon the human psyche. While this is just a small sample, here are four reasons why stories so powerful.
Close to two-thirds of US adults are now gamers (Nielsen, 2015) – a finding shared by Peter Jonas at this year’s film music and technology festival South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas (March 11-20). The head of North American games and mobile app sales at Facebook told us the reason the number is so high is because it includes casual mobile gamers, who would not consider themselves to be in the same category as hardcore console players.
The number-one game genre on Facebook is slot machine games played by “mobile whales” (big spenders in-app) – of whom 73% are married with children. “Would these people identify themselves as gamers before they identify as parents, friends, executives?” asked Jonas. “The answer is no. [As a brand], are you breaking out of the stereotypes?”
Kym Nelson, senior vice-president of sales at live-streaming platform Twitch, agreed that games continue to offer huge opportunities for marketers: “[There are] 146 million women in the US who play casual games,” for example. And while mobile gaming is on the rise, it’s not cannibalising traditional console gaming: two out of three console gamers also play on mobile.
As an example of what’s possible when advertising and gaming meet, Nelson talked through the Chappie Challenge, a Twitch campaign promoting Sony’s sci-fi movie Chappie. Over a six-week period, Twitch players were able to challenge the eponymous robot to the game Evolve, with the chance to win $15,000 in prizes. The result was more than one million streams of Chappie content, 24 million impressions, and “incredible chat interaction and engagement” on Twitch.
Utility is the key for marketers when it comes to engaging gamers, according to Nelson: “Brands need to think about what value they’re offering the user playing the game.” She pointed to Covet Fashion, a fashion app that currently boasts more than three million users, as an example of a perfect symbiotic relationship between game and brand, as users “click to buy as they play the game”.
I recently read an article in HBR about how storytelling is a great way to explain a business’s purpose. I couldn’t agree more.
To me, purpose is about understanding and aligning a business’s values (who you are and what you stand for) and value (what you do and how it benefits others).
To activate purpose, you need to set a narrative. As with any good story, you need a beginning, middle and end.
You need to tell a personal narrative, focusing on real events in the founder’s life and explaining how these incidents established the personal values that will later link to the values of the organisation.
You then need to connect these values with broader shared values of the audience, clients and employees. You can aim to do this through sharing values, experiences, hopes and aspirations. By doing so, you can create a common narrative.
Once a connection has been established, you then need an urgent call to action for those who want to share the business’s purpose.
A great example of activating purpose can be seen with Kickstarter. They use storytelling as an impactful way of asking people to join their team. Their narrative begins with the founder telling the story of the company. Their website then includes pictures and short descriptions of each company employee. Finally, the narrative finishes with a call to action, asking the reader “Love Kickstarter? You’ll fit right in.”
Although the process of storytelling can seem daunting, it’s a powerful tool that builds passion, motivation and buy-in for the stakeholders of any organisation.
Image: FlickrCC/BY/2.0 Jim Penucci
It’s no secret the best marketing is based on storytelling. Throughout the course of human history, we’ve been fascinated by stories—from cave paintings to the Bible to sitcoms on the telly and now to… emojis, the modern child of the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
According to The Drum, Emoji is the fastest growing language with 80% of Brits using symbols to communicate. An increasingly popular form of messaging, four in 10 people report having sent messages composed entirely of emojis, and millennials and Gen Z-ers are the fastest adopters.
The universality of pictures can transcend language barriers making messages easily recognisable and understandable. Throw in emojis’ appeal to youth culture, and brands have a language to communicate with the hottest market across the world.
McDonald’s, famous for jumping on trends, executed its emoji-driven “Good Times” campaign in the UK and really got it right. After realising together the emojis tell a story, you can quickly piece together the messages to make sense. This allows for that wonderfully interactive gap-closure at a fast pace.
You have the woeful tale of someone waiting in loads of traffic and sobbing and then going to McDonald’s, which makes everything better. There’s the story of the extreme sorrow caused by a smartphone’s fall into the toilet, but again, fries from McDonald’s remedies the grief. The whole idea of the campaign is to show the power of the Happy Meal to transform any horrible moment into a happy one.
However, there is also the chance an emoji campaign can go horribly wrong. Take Above the Influence, an American organisation encouraging teens to lead a drug-free lifestyle, which just released an emoji ad campaign. Unfortunately, they didn’t quite get it right.
Amanda Roberts, copywriter on the campaign said, “We knew we wanted to be on a peer-to-peer level, so let’s do something in their [teen] language.” The campaign goes wrong though, by using verbal sounds of the emojis to string a sentence together rather than using them as glyphs to represent a concept. The result is a choppy sentence instead of a seamless story.
For example, the emoji series of eyes, 1, and ant fuse into “i want,” and the Italian flag and a gas tank (fuel) translates to “it feels.” The campaign claims it speaks in fluent emoji to the teen audience, but the organisation fails to understand how emojis actually work. The gap closure is too great and the ads are nearly incomprehensible. The tagline of the campaign is “not everyone gets it.” Actually though, it seems those not “getting it” are those at the organisation, which means their audience won’t “get” the ads.
Emojis are a fun, fresh and relevant way to tell a brand story, but only if used correctly. Can you figure out what the post image is trying to say?
Photo by Allison Penn/CC BY 4.0
Ghost writers are essentially writers for hire. They are paid by the named author to write copy but take no credit for the work produced. Books, blogs and social media are all examples of platforms that a ghost writer may be hired to write high quality copy for. According to Ebyline, 80% of published books are ghost written.
As the Washington Post reminds us, ghostwriters have channeled the thoughts of politicians, celebrities and business leaders with little or no credit since the 17th century. Those who hire a ghost writer usually do so because they have neither the time or desire to write. It’s a ghostwriters role to help them convey both the meaning and message of whatever subject is of importance to them.
However, a reader must be convinced that the author has written the copy themselves. Failure to capture the persona effectively can be damaging to the author’s career. Vlogger Zoella’s book ‘Girl Online’ presents as perfect example of ghost writing gone wrong. After failing to capture Zoella’s online identity, readers and journalists hounded the Vlogger on Twitter until she eventually admitted to using a ghost-writer. The scandal forced her to ‘quit the internet’ leaving her 4 million followers behind.
Here are my three tips for successfully ghost writing an online persona:
Who are you writing about?
One of my authors, “X”, is a very successful 62 year old male entrepreneur. I am a 21 year old female graduate who loves a good use of an emoji. Needless to say we have completely different interest, opinions and ways of expressing our thoughts. Understanding the author’s tone of voice is crucial at this stage. If possible, ask to spend time in a meeting where the author will be talking and engaging with others. From this you can begin to analyse their sentence structure, thought processes and expressions.
Understand the purpose.
Whether you’re writing a book, blog or speech you must understand the purpose of the project. For “X” the purpose was to raise the entrepreneur’s profile in order to become a thought leader. For this to be successful, there should always be at least 3 main topics to write around. We sat down with “X” and entrepreneurship, leadership and growth were the topics that were most suitable. I have the general knowledge to write across these three topics, but general knowledge will not convey the appeal of a thought leader. I had to immerse myself in the world of entrepreneurship, leadership and growth in order to not only report on news, but to also have a strategic point of view.
On a visit to “X’s” offices we had overheard his staff talking about their boss’ great new social media page, that was the moment I realised that I had the tone of voice and topics right. People who interact with “X” all day were not aware that a ghost writer was responsible for the content or activity. It wasn’t an overnight process, we went through vigorous trial and error testing for content, sentence structure and opinion.
The real reward for ghost writers comes in the form of successfully remaining unknown to readers.
Image: Flickr CC/BY/2.0 JulienDft_Photo
Whilst I got my haircut last week, I sat enthralled as my hairdresser regaled me with fascinating tales from her turbulent life (all 22 years of it). An ex-boyfriend in prison, a Brazilian wax using a wok, a job in a notorious Old Street nightclub aged 15. Her stories all followed a classic model: a hero you could identify with, that hero facing conflict and tension, and finally, resolution. I was captivated.
Everyone loves a good story. Moreover, increasingly, research in neuroscience is demonstrating how fundamental to human understanding storytelling is. Neuroscientist Paul J Zak has shown that a chemical called oxytocin is released in the brain when we are trusted or shown kindness. This chemical enhances people’s empathy and willingness to cooperate with others. Fascinatingly, Zak’s lab has also demonstrated that the production of this chemical can be stimulated with great storytelling.
Their research shows that character driven stories actually cause oxytocin synthesis. This leads to subjects being more willing to help others. More than this, the research found that narratives which hold your attention, by creating tension, make it very likely that you will share the emotions of the characters involved. You will also likely have greater recall of the main points of the story.
So how can businesses harness the power of great storytelling, and the profound effect it has on the brain?
- Think inside your business first. How did your business start? Can you tell a passionate tale of the heroic struggle to found the company and its journey to where it is now? Imagine how intensely this form of storytelling could act to engage your people in the values and mission of the company.
- Moreover, use storytelling to make your people more empathetic and cooperative with each other. A great example of this is LEGO Serious Play in which participants build models and then tell stories about them in a team setting. This builds high performing teams with a shared vision and understanding.
- When you talk to people outside your business, be it investors, customers or press, tell them a story. One with plenty of human interest and emotion. One that will get the oxytocin flowing. One that will make the empathise with you, want to cooperate with you and remember all the key information you want to impart.
The idea of using storytelling in communications has been around for a while now. However, to make sure you are really unlocking its full power, use my hairdresser’s model: tell character driven stories, with conflict and tension, packed with emotion and with a satisfying resolution.
Photo by Moyan_Brenn/Flickr/CC by 2.0