Are You Creating Content or Storytelling?
Storytelling is a part of human nature. Whether written, spoken orally, or recorded visually — the latter of which has been the case in the past century. Storytelling is essential to documenting history and communicating with humankind. In the advertising industry, the art of storytelling fell out of favor with the rise of salesmanship and consumer culture. Instead of building relatable, understandable, human connections, an authoritarian overtone seized the traditional media audiences.
Large ad agencies and big businesses spoke in condescending, corporate tones to their audience. These massive entities sent messages to consumers that they ‘needed this brand of deodorant to get a girlfriend’ or that ‘if you didn’t drive a corvette, you weren’t a man.’ Messages like these allowed the industry to place pressure on the consumer base to adhere with societal standards. From that point, big business sat back and let human nature take the reigns.
These early practices set the foundation for how agencies, and businesses alike, grew accustomed to this type of ‘transaction.’ Ex -storytellers continued to evolve their methods through legacy mediums in the form of advertisements, PSA’s, endorsements, and more. For decades, consumers were peddled products based on their need for fellowship and inclusion — The result of such consumer habits has been known to drive audiences into credit card debt, fraud, wasted retirement savings, etc.
The industry had a stronghold on consumer patterns, utilizing one-way communication channels to further bolster their storytelling methods. Unforeseen by the industry though was the digital revolution.
While the digital revolution further extended the reach of ad agencies and big brands to access their target audience, it granted the target audience unprecedented power. New media established: cellular technology, social networks, and mobile applications, which for the first time evened the playing field.
Consumers now have the power to not only create their own content, but have been given almost unrestricted two-way communication between brands and large corporations. What’s more is that these interactions aren’t confined to court dockets and almanacs, but are curated real-time, digitally in online communities, forums, blog posts, and social media apps. The result is a level of transparency never before experienced in the history of humankind. However, this new technology is continuing to evolve and has only just begun to see its greatest potential.
That being said, many marketers, brands, startups, and consumers have yet to fully envision the looming industry shift. Stuck adhering to outdated business practices, they have failed to realize that their audience is privy to more information than ever. This paradigm shift in business marketing has led to a divide in how brands are reaching consumers, leaving one important question — Are brands creating content or storytelling?
What’s the difference?
Well, storytelling as we mentioned before is innately human. It is timeless in that it deepens our understanding of our humanity through shared experience. The industry, prior to the digital revolution, poorly used storytelling techniques to create branded messages focusing on their bottom line a.k.a. revenue.
These stories targeted consumers, appealing to their emotions in one-sided exchanges — stories in which the protagonist gets the girl because of his brand of deodorant. But what if you don’t get the girl? Was there anyone else who bought the product and experienced the same result? Will blank brand deodorant help me find out what I did wrong?
All of these are questions that consumers faced when a wonder product didn’t achieve its desired affect. But what is true storytelling then?
Given the same context of our protagonist who seeks to ‘get the girl.’ What if the deodorant brand didn’t sell our consumer on the false promise that he would get a date. What if instead the brand said,
Blank deodorant was designed to give you superior anti-perspiration protection. Owner John C. Johnson, suffers from Hyperhidrosis. Johnson’s medical conditioned plagued him for years, affecting his confidence and daily habits as he had to accommodate his excessive sweating for every situation. Developing blank to combat his condition, Johnson regained control of his life and unlocked stores of hidden creativity he had yet to access due to his lowered self-esteem from his condition.
While the above examples could be more precise in their mediums, you can see the clear difference between creating content and storytelling. Content is created more for visibility purposes and regardless of their quality are meant to sell the audience on a product/service — you can pump out content relentlessly.
A story instead seeks to create a connection.
Instead of creating a themed or generic piece of content like an ad or a sales sheet, share your story. It’s important to remember that business is conducted person-to-person. We are dealing with people, and far too often our focus is shifted towards big data. There’s nothing wrong with have the facts and running analytics on your campaign, but you can’t build a campaign based solely on numbers.
You have to reach out to people with an offering of yourself. Some will relate and others will not, but that’s fine — SN: Hopefully, you’ve narrowed down an audience already. Being honest and sharing a story of triumph, a story of failure, a story of redemption, struggle, tragedy, etc. All of these play upon universal narratives and draw upon real emotions.
We can all relate to being happy, angry, sad, scared, proud, etc. Our feelings are universal, and an emotions wrapped in the proper context create our narrative.
Here’s our story.