Jenny Morris
18 January 2021 by Jenny Morris
Digital Storytelling

Digital content consumption soared in 2020. To meet customers where they are at many organisations put more time and resources into their digital marketing efforts. But excessive screen time leads to digital fatigue — consumers are being exhausted by the flood of adverts and other content — meaning that it is harder than ever for companies to capture their customer’s attention. So how can you stand out? By relying on an old staple in every marketer’s toolkit — creating emotional connection through story.

What is digital storytelling?

Digital storytelling is simply a marketing approach that utilises a narrative. For example, Apple’s recent advert told a story about how, despite the pandemic, we can use technology to create, connect and communicate. The aim is to create a genuine emotional reaction by putting the narrative before the product.

In the digital world, storytelling arcs can spread across media platforms and utilise multi-media content, including video, audio and the written word.

Why Storytelling works

According to psychology professor Jonathan Haidt, ‘The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.’ Storytelling is how we naturally try to make sense of the world, and we have been using it to pass down information for centuries. Working with the brain means it is easier to create a deep emotional response, which increases the likelihood that marketing content is engaged with and remembered.

How will storytelling develop in the digital era?

The core principles of storytelling remain the same, but with so many digital tools at our disposal, there is an opportunity for storytelling to have an even deeper impact.

Data-driven stories

Organisations now have access to a wealth of customer data, which allows them to create tailored content. The viral sensation Spotify ‘Wrapped’ list is a fantastic example of this. The feature tells a story about the user’s year by breaking down things like new artists discovered, favourite artists, most listened to genres and more. It is fun, engaging and, best of all, makes the customer the main character in their own story.

Immersive storytelling

As augmented and virtual reality become more accessible, organisations will be able to use immersive sensory experiences to create highly engaging stories. IBM provided an early example of immersive storytelling with their augmented reality app based on the movie Hidden Figures. The app featured a virtual museum highlighting the hidden contributions of women in technology and emphasising the wider importance of diversity. IBM created a compelling story that users wanted to interact with, and in the process forged a meaningful connection with their audience.

Embrace user-generated content

Now that so many customers have access to smartphones, there is a wealth of high-quality user-generated content. Engaging with your customers means you can benefit from authentic interactions that real people are having with your brand, raising the overall integrity of your social media channels and avoiding being seen as ‘selling’ to your market. Shopify consistently do this as part of their digital marketing strategy by sharing short videos about the business owners that use their platform. In a recent example, Shopify highlight the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of a Tanzanian-inspired clothing shop.

No matter the medium, it is vital that the storytelling comes first. New techniques like data-driven stories, virtual reality and user-generated content can result in deeply immersive and memorable experiences. But technology shouldn’t be allowed to take over — an authentic story that works with the brand is the real key to connecting with an audience.