Transmedia storytelling is one of those monikers that runs the risk of being added to a Bullshit Bingo card some time very soon. On the other hand it could just be the saviour of brand communications. Google it and you’ll get all sorts of definitions that talk about evolving non-linear brand narratives, brand communities and deeply immersive narrative universes.
These posts were ahead of their time and have informed our offer but more often than not they redefine storytelling as a fluid collection of nuanced perceptions and responses orchestrated by the consumer, which just isn’t true.
It’s true that brands have less control than they once had. It’s also true that consumers can participate in the brand conversation in increasingly meaningful ways. However, the weight of influence still lies with the brand. Strong brands tell their story consistently, across channels and through media because they have a rock solid, unshakable idea of who they are and what they stand for. They have integrity. Consumers consciously choose to associate themselves with brands because of their semiotic value but before they are seduced by the brand story, they need to be convinced of its authenticity. Consumers increasingly require complexity, sophistication and subtlety in their brand communications in order to weed out the pretenders. Customer behaviour may therefore cross-examine brand stories, influence how the story is told and determine which part of the story is emphasised but at no point does the consumer write the story, nor do they wish to. Greater transparency demands greater integrity (and hallelluiah to that) but this does not mean power has shifted to the consumer, just that there is greater regulation (and hallelluiah to that too).
In the fragmented media landscape, brands use different channels to engage different audiences. Engagement may be conversational or collaborative but sparking the conversation or initiating the collaboration, requires great media. Consumers can pull different parts of the story together themselves, consume individual pieces of media or share their experiences with others but they still require a satisfactory resolve, they need to clearly perceive the underlying brand qualities. The art of storytelling is key to this resolution and key to customer satisfaction. The story itself is not fluid or nuanced but the way it is told and where it is told is.
Bingo chip image thanks to hownowdesign