Transmedia is all the rage these days. So too is Digital Storytelling.
The idea seems both plausible and realistic: extend your brand into as many different media channels and platforms that the public can bear. Don’t pound one message down into every channel in a repetitive fashion, but create different stories for each channel and have everything link back to the brand that gives it a closer and more interesting experience for the consumer. In best case scenarios, include the consumer in the creation and/or collaboration of these activities. What the brand will net out with is: multiple and original stories in multiple places that are customized for each experience, and that brings people closer to the brand.
Does it work?
A better question may be: "how can it not work?" One of the best executions on the concept of Transmedia is the movie, The Matrix. From comic books to billboards in Time Square to animated shorts and video games, the launch of that movie brought people into the brand from many different corners. Consumers didn’t need to take part in every adventure, but if they did, it created a much more engaged experience. The challenge is this: Transmedia and Digital Storytelling clearly works if what you’re selling is a story in and of itself (like launching a movie or a television series). Do you think a toilet manufacturer is going to get the same kind of returns?
Stories are important but they’re not everything.
Twitter fascinates me. Each day, I can watch the stream of my limited amount of people that I am following, and whether or not I click on every link this trusted group serves up to me becomes somewhat irrelevant against the bigger picture: trying to create stories is not enough. It’s not even close. The story is the starting point. What works is how the stories moves people and – ultimately – the experience it creates for them. Stories are created. Stories are published. Stories die. The best stories can transcend this loop, but it’s not easy. The best stories really do create experiences, but it’s not easy.
Start with what the experience should be.
This is brand new thinking for brands. In a world where success is defined by how well you can publish relevant content and get it to connect, the next generation of true engagement is not going to be about these stories, but the experiences that come from it. So few brands working in the Social Media channels understand and embrace this. They publish Blog posts, they create videos on YouTube, they tweet and push people to "like" them on Facebook in hopes that something "viral" happens. Ultimately, it about how these people spread this one gem (or germ) through their networks and how that causes more people to buy from them. Ultimately, it’s not about the true brand experience but about capturing a second of attention that will (hopefully) extract the money from a consumer’s wallet and deposit it in the brand’s bank account.
True experiences aren’t simple and they’re much harder to make work.
Brands are going to have to face themselves in the mirror some time very soon. They’re going to have to ask themselves if "likes" or views on YouTube really mean anything. They’re also going to have to think long and hard about whether or not all of that time and effort would have been better spent planting seeds of content that tell stories that actually do create a true and meaningful experience. Something a consumer not only latches on to, but actively seeks out and shares because it – like an great experience – the more you engage, the deeper and more meaningful the relationship becomes. While I hate to constantly use Apple as an example, they are one. All of the stories people tell about Apple means nothing unless the experience not only matches, but surpasses the story… because that’s how experiences take hold. What does that mean? The experience has to be better (much better) than the story that created it.
I’m not sure that brands are ready for this. What do you think?