I strongly believe that the pitfall of any writer is when he or she falls gets trapped in a danger zone of just tellingthe story. Yes, I know this sounds contrary to what we think writers actually do but bear with me. The book, “The Marriage Plot” has been a darling on the charts but 300 dull pages in, I’d endured more unbearable characters and chapters full of encyclopedic recounts of their lives than I care to ponder. Harsh? Yes, but as an avid reader expecting a bit more from a best-selling novel, I wanted the author to show me the story, to allow the plot and the characters to unfurl through careful dialogue and interesting interactions. Instead, I was offered a tangle of words and descriptions and cliché personalities that as an educated reader, I had to consciously ignore to get through the book. And honestly, I only reached the end because quitting halfway through something is just not my style.
For those of us who work in the advertising and marketing world, I hate to tell you this but we don’t have the luxury of putting dull, non-engaging creative work out in the world. Rarely will you find a consumer as headstrong as me that will be willing to wade through a boring ad long enough to remember what your product is called or figure out its purpose. The public is getting savvy and advertisers have to keep up with the demand for better, smarter advertising. Effective brands are those that 1) Know their target audience. Like, really know them and not only that, but dig their consumer, engage with them, like them even; and 2) Deliver their message to the consumer, where that person is at the best moment and via their preferred platform, whether that be mobile, social, you name it. This means you really have to know your target audience, whether or not they’re already interacting with the brand, and how they like to consume and interact with information.
No one enjoys sitting down anticipating a conversation with a friend only to have to sit back and put up with a monologue for an hour. The same holds true for advertising. The love affair between marketing and crowdsourcing, an attempt to tap into the collective mind, is a creative way advertising shows the story. Once upon a time Marshall McLuhan believed this yielding of the private consciousness for public manipulation was a rather aggressive Madison Avenue-strategy. However, in today’s world, directly engaging with the consumer via platforms they use every day arguably yields more authentic responses and engagement. If we can continue to create campaigns that organically evolve as the consumer responds, i.e. the Old Spice response campaign, we may find that our brands begin to experience a greater market share than before when they only relied on the traditional 15-or-30-second commercial spiel or Facebook page with no clear strategic direction.
I am most interested in the crowdsourcing commercials but also the social aspect being levied in the digital realm. The success of these campaigns leads me to conclude that when the consumer voluntarily enters into the experience and feels they have some autonomy and authority in the process (they have somehow affected the success of the campaign via their contribution), then the brand has successfully engaged. Nike when measuring success of their campaigns does not often rely on quantifiable metrics to determine whether or not they succeeded. If they can detect that brand awareness and loyalty have positively increased, it’s often enough to prove that something great was achieved.
So what makes a good story? How do we show a story better than the next guy so we get people to remember us long enough to buy our product and buy into our brand? The truth is that if we can offer creative work that not only shows a story but encourages consumers to add their personal plot lines to the narrative, we have ourselves a brand and a campaign that doesn’t just try to sell but it engages, resulting in sales now and loyalty for years.