Transmedia Storytelling is no new phenomenon, but as social media and mobile marketing grow in popularity, more companies have been using this digital marketing tactic as a way to integrate their brand for, and with, consumers. Digital Marketing doesn’t involve just social media, and while storytelling alone is a great way to improve your social media, transmedia storytelling is a whole other level of transcending your digital marketing strategy.
Now, more than ever, it has become more important to provide users with a seamless point of entry – regardless of the platform interaction occurs on. Transmedia Storytelling combines a multitude of marketing technique including: social media, responsive design, and cross platform media, to engage an audience by telling a story experience. Whether users are mobile, static, or somewhere in between, they should be able to view your intended media and experience its message at all times.
“A great user interface is so seamless that we don’t even think about it … but a poor user experience tends to make us frustrated, impatient, even angry – and we inherently remember that negative experience for a longer time” (Justin Mifsud)
To clarify, transmedia storytelling in its simplest explanation involves telling a story across multiple platforms. A combination of digital storytelling and responsive design, transmedia engages audience viewers using various techniques and digital tools to emotionally engage with them. Jim Stewartson said in his article, “We must stop confusing transmedia with marketing . . [w]hile ‘transmedia’ can be commonly used as a tool for marketing other forms of content or products, it is not the same thing as the marketing”. Instead, it really makes more sense to say that transmedia goes hand in hand with storytelling.
Here are five great examples of transmedia storytelling, and what you can learn from the companies’ who created them:
1. Hunger Games (2013)
Created by LA ad agency Ignition Creative, the Hunger Games film series ran a viral transmedia campaign for their second film release “Catching Fire”. The campaign began with the introduction of billboards which featured futuristic fashion and beauty items that read the copy “Capitol Couture”. If strangers bypassing the ad were curious enough to search the words online, they would then be led to a tumblr site, which in turn led to Capitol’s various other social profiles. The tumblr took the shape of an online magazine, so that readers skimming through the site were reading from the perspective of citizens of the Capitol.
Create Content that is Customer Centric, Not Product Centric
Content found on the Capitol tumblr was a great example of an important inbound marketing rule to follow – create content that is customer centric, not product centric. The blog content didn’t give much information on the actual movie itself, instead it gave readers the opportunity to truly experience the world of The Hunger Games and what it would feel like to partake in it. Articles discussed the latest Capitol events, trends, and even behind the scenes features, which all appeared to be happening in “real-time”. The line between reality and fiction were blurred even further when it was realized that “magazine” contributors were in fact real life writers and journalists. Fans were also encouraged to actively participate in the online movement by sharing the content and entering their own submissions to be seen and shared by The Hunger Games community.
They also had an impressive campaign for their first film, which you can check out here.
2. Infiniti (2013)
This transmedia campaign was launched by the Nissan’s luxury vehicle division with the help of Campfire, an ad agency in New York. A 3 part film titled “Deja View”, the campaign invited visitors to actively participate in the film by entering their phone number. Viewers were then called throughout the film, to assist the characters in real time on deciding what path to go down.
Make the “Advertisement” Invisible
Although the plot and viewer interaction was extremely engaging (and distracting), they were small reminders that the short film did in fact have a purpose, to advertise the new 2014 Q50. The key feat to take away that Infiniti achieved in this advertisement, is to make the “advertisement” invisible. By incorporating interaction to make the customers become a part of the story, Infiniti refocused attention onto the real time story experience as felt by the characters and audience members simultaneously. In doing so, the selling experience becomes direct and personalized for each individual viewer. The final result is an “advertisement” that subtly features all of the vehicle’s different components, while providing a glimpse into the luxurious adventure that comes with owning such a vehicle.
They also had an impressive campaign for their first film by Ignition Creative, which you can check out here.
3. Chipotle (2013)
Thoughtfully envisioned by advertising agency CAA Marketing, Chipotle’s recent transmedia campaign was a huge success, which despite the equal parts negative and positive feedback, remained the centre of discussion for a pretty long time. “The Scarecrow” was a short animation about a dystopian future where over processed foods ruled. The short ends with a quick promotional introduction to “The Scarecrow” app, which consumers can download and play to continue the animated adventure that they have been watching on screen. With millions of views, the story’s sombre yet uplifting tone remains consistent with Chipotle’s previous campaigns, promoting consumers to “cultivate a better world”.
Extend Reach and Effectiveness of the Message
Out of the five examples I am listing, “The Scarecrow” does the best execution of using transmedia storytelling to extend the reach and effectiveness of the message. By extending the short animation into a mobile app, Chipotle encouraged consumer interaction while further educating and building awareness around their anti-factory message. Where the ad ends, the app begins – a seamless point of entry from one platform to another.
While the next couple of examples are definitely not new campaigns, they are the ultimate introductory examples of transmedia storytelling transforming how consumers experience digital marketing, and the entire industry in and of itself.
4. Old Spice (2010)
“The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” is definitely a fan favourite, and a pioneer in transmedia storytelling. This award wining campaign crafted by Portland, OR based advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy involved the flawless execution of a one take viral video filmed in several hilarious settings using completely random props. From standing in a shower, to sailing on a boat, to being on a horse, this advertisement featured all sorts of entertaining fantasies.
Entertainment Value is Important
One of the main reasons I think it was so well received is because in order to craft a successful transmedia campaign, one of the most important things that an advertisement must have is entertainment value. By no means do all ads have to consist of meaningless, star-studded entertainment; however, sometimes meaningless, star-studded entertainment just works. For the case of Old Spice, Isaiah Mustafa’s good looks and charm definitely don’t do any harm. The real transmedia participatory aspect of this ad came from the encouraged interaction for fan followers to submit questions to the Old Spice man. Creating a funny and unique campaign doesn’t only provide entertainment, it allows consumers to seek out your company because your company is offering something that they want. “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” did a great job of allowing consumers to have a good laugh with each other, and at themselves.
5. Bing (2010)
Although this campaign is now four years old, it is definitely my all time favourite transmedia campaign.
Bing approached New York ad agency Droga5, to help them promote their recently launched search engine (at the time), in a creative and cunning campaign. What ensued was a highly interactive and unique promotional process that not only increased Jay-Z’s popularity, but also entered Bing into the global top 10 most visited sites. For the first time ever, “Bing became a part of the pop culture conversation”.
Brands Should Be Built For and With Its’ Fans
This campaign reminds us that brands should always be built for and with its’ fans. Without access to the millions of existing JayZ supporters worldwide, Bing would not have been able to promote itself on such a global scale. Droga5 truly understood the importance of combining something old, to help grow something fairly new. In this campaign, Bing quite literally promoted itself by telling a story. Thousands of users had to come together and build an online community through its search engine, in order to experience the full story, page by page, city by city. By targeting JayZ’s existing fan base, Bing was not only able to quickly establish itself as an industry competitor, but the company also created brand association with a Hip Hop Superstar who represents all things young, cool, and affluent.
There is a reason why transmedia storytelling is the (not so) secret ingredient to a perfect digital marketing formula – stories appeal to everyone.
With the growing usage of social media, a storytelling approach to building a brand is critical. Naturally a social account, stories transform the way connections are built between company and consumer. Transmedia does NOT change storytelling; transmedia simply provides new ways for a story to be experienced. Transmedia storytelling allows both the medium and the message of the story to influence the consumer experience in order to create a genuine connection with your audience. In the wise words of Marshall McLuhan: “the medium is the message”.