Web Storytelling: a new challenge for brands and marketers – Joseph Sassoon
WEB STORYTELLING:A NEW CHALLENGE FOR BRANDS AND MARKETERS Joseph Sassoon Partner at Alphabet Research Associate partner at Open Knowledge Milan, June 5 2012 Social Business Forum
What is Web Storytelling? “The art and practice of developing content for online brandcommunication which has symbolic depth, narrative value and ability to appeal to people’s imagination”
Why is it important?On the web too, nothing is as emotional and involving as narratives (brand stories and stories of any kind)
We all know what a story isBut what makes some stories so much better than others?And how can you make your online brand story as attractive as a great novel or movie?
Some tools may be of help In particular: Semiotics ScreenwritingLogical categories Applied art Web storytelling analysis Main reference: Main reference: Jean-Marie Floch Christopher Vogler
Narrative structure: the actantsAccording to the French school of semiotics, the narrative outline of a story is based on six main‘actants’: Addresser Object of Value Hero Anti-Hero Helper Opponent In every tale, these categories are very powerful. In brand communication, the product typically covers one of these roles: Hero, Object of Value or Helper.
Example in fairy-tales: a classic storyA king (Addresser) orders a prince (Hero) to look for the magic sword (Helper) to kill a dragon (Anti-Hero) and free the princess (Object of Value). Anti-Hero Addresser Hero Helper Object of Value
Example in movies: CinderellaA king (Addresser) is ready to welcome Cinderella (Hero), but she has to meet some friends and get a magic dress (Helper) to overcome her stepmother (Anti-Hero) and be able to unite with her love (Object of Value). Addresser Helper Object of Value Anti-Hero Hero
Example in advertising: Macintosh 1984A girl (Hero, symbolising the product) runs with a heavy hammer (Helper) and is pursued by guards without faces (Opponent).She throws the hammer at a large screen where floats the face of a Big Brother (Anti-Hero), gaining the freedom of the subjugated men (Object of Value). Anti-Hero Hero + Helper Object of Value Opponent The product is Hero by metaphor
Narrative sequence According to semiotics, in the development of stories there are four fundamental steps and three trials connected to them: Addresser’s pathManipulation SanctionThe king asks the Hero’s pathprince to free his daughter Competence Performance GLORIFYING TRIAL QUALIFYING TRIAL DECISIVE TRIAL The king gives the prince The prince finds the sword The prince defeats the dragon his daughter’s hand
American storytelling Joseph Campbell and the adventure of the Hero Call to adventure ElixirThreshold crossingBrother-battle Return HelperDragon-battle ResurrectionDismemberment THRESHOLD OF ADVENTURE RescueCrucifixion Threshold struggleAbductionNight-sea journey TestsWonder journeyWhale’s belly Flight Helpers 1. Sacred marriage strong influence 2. Father atonement on George Lucas for STAR WARS 3. Apotheosis 4. Elixir theft
Christopher Vogler’s contribution A smart adaptation of Campbell’s model to screenwriting: ACT I Ordinary World ACT III Separation Return Call Return with the Elixir Refusal of the Call Resurrection Meeting the Mentor ORDINARY WORLDCrossing the First Threshold Road Back SPECIAL WORLD Tests, allies, enemies Reward Approach ACT II-A ACT II-B Descent Ordeal Initiation
A new mix of principles Intermixing Vogler’s approach with that of the French school: ACT I Ordinary World ACT III Separation Return Call Return with the Elixir Refusal of the Call MANIPULATION SANCTION Resurrection Meeting the Mentor ORDINARY WORLDCrossing the First Threshold Road Back SPECIAL WORLD Tests, allies, enemies COMPETENCE PERFORMANCE Reward Approach ACT II-A ACT II-B Descent Ordeal Initiation
Now, how can you apply those principles to online communication?Nike site is an excellent example of web storytelling. Many athletes, many stories, but just a single meta-story.
Addresser If you have a body, you are an athlete just do it
However, this is still relatively traditional, one-way communicationThe fact is, the web and social media are dramatically changing the rules of brand storytelling
Some of the big changes:• Power and control• Story types• Conditions of credibility• Budget logic
Power and controlOld ruleThe brand has total narrative supremacy Brand Brand New role The control of brand storytelling is shared with web users
Story typesOld ruleBrand stories have a beginning and an end New rule Brand stories are often non linear
Conditions of credibilityOld rulePeople want to be persuaded New rule People want authenticity
Budget logicOld ruleYou must shout to be heard (big budgets) New rule You must listen then whisper (little budgets)
In fact, with storytelling and word of mouth…“people are claiming back a communication form which has always existedand has been made marginal by mass media only for a limited and, after all, quite short historical period” Advent (or recovery) of user-generated content
Example: United Breaks GuitarsGreat case of bottom-up storytellingWent viral with 12 million views!
But how can brands deal with viral issues? By keeping in mind that:− of all possible kinds of content, the most likely to go viral are those that are expressed in narrative form.− some specific characteristics of stories have a big role in helping them ignite a viral explosion.
Example: Will it blend? That is the question! 33
Example: Vinnie Jones and the British Heart Foundation
Example: The new Passat and little Darth Vader
Some analysts say that viral success is just a “happy accident”.Yet, it is possible to increase the chance that your story will go viral by sticking to a set of principles about: • story form • story structure • relationship with context.
Here are some of those principles:• Build your story on two axes of meaning• Introduce unexpected final turns• Try an inversion of Objects of Value• Pursue logical or behavioral transgressions• Play on contrasts• Make sure that your story creates emotion• Always tell a transformative story
ConclusionAdopting the rules of web storytelling may allow brands to create and select their messages more efficiently. The final goal:creating brand stories for the web that spread widely because a lot of people are eager to share them with their friends.