The Lifespan of a Story

Storytelling makes skeptics into believers. Storytelling makes sleepy oversaturated consumers into awake, alert and attentive listeners.

And storytelling is making its mainstream comeback.

Remember the 2012 Superbowl Chrysler commercial “it’s halftime in America?” I do too, because it told a story.

Chrysler conjures the Reagan campaign “it’s morning in America.

The auto industry struggles to get back on its feet and consumer confidence dives deeper due to steep oil prices. But the entertainment industry continues to climb (with a 12 percent increase in 2011 totaling 726 billion).

More evidence that people want to be enchanted, wowed, moved. The interruptive adverts aren’t sticking.

Noah King of the Barbarian Group talks about the increasingly compressed nature of consumer interest in a given campaign in his article Understanding Social Behavior: The Interest Graph.

king says:

At first interest climbs up and up until it reaches the top of the stairs; but then it peaks and slides down and down until it reaches the ground. This happens with every product launch, every promotion, and every new piece of content that spreads virally. The only thing that ever changes is how long the initial growth lasts, how high the overall interest grows, and how long it takes for interest to peter out to just about nothing.

Content that’s captivating and hits viewers on an emotional level will not die. These stories will continue to live in active thriving communities across the web. Stories have a much longer lifespan than an interruptive message. Stories have the potential to live in communities for months, and continue to be shared among intimate groups of people.

Image source Party USA

As Noah’s article points out, “the time part of the graph is getting more and more compressed, while simultaneously the height of the peak is getting higher and higher.”

Marketing in today’s environment demands we slow down and create meaningful content. If we do this we will find the peak portion of the time graph expand.

Brand Storytellers at SXSW 2012.

A few brands this year at SXSW took a clever approach to engaging the community at South by, and those watching on the web. One example is the AMEX Jay-Z Sync Show that generated a ton of attention via twitter, in addition to interest after the event (with almost 221,000 views to date).

A second example from SXSW was Virgin Mobile who launched a new program called “What the App!?” In an effort to gain social media credibility with the developer community via buzz, Virgin Mobile launched this contest to help up and coming young developers. The brand shows a commitment to building stories with and about its advocates.

These two brands are building new human-centric paths to community adoration, and reaping the benefits.

Fluid Enough to Adapt

Modern digital media “demands a way of storytelling that’s fluid enough to adapt to whatever medium best serves the user,” said Frank Rose, author of The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories.

Rose said, “People have always wanted to involve themselves in great stories. With industrial-age media you could only involve yourself in a limited way – you could read Charles Dickens or Scott Fitzgerald and imagine yourself in the worlds they described.”

While many of us still have a soft place in our heart for Dickens and Fitzgerald, stories need to be communicated with transmedia, in a way that considers an audience on the go.

Good marketing should mean good content. It should Inspire, Inform, Educate, and Entertain. If you do your job as storyteller, you will find your campaigns much more impactful—your efforts alive for a much longer amount of time than with traditional marketing efforts.


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