The new frontier of participation branding

The new frontier of participation branding
SHARE
THIS



The best brands have always told great stories. But in the world of real-time social connections, multiple screens and a culture of immediacy, the concept of the brand story is changing. They’re no longer linear and they’re no longer told in one sitting.

Welcome to the era of interactive storytelling – where audiences become characters influencing the story.

The best brand stories now encourage different levels of participation to achieve maximum impact and scale. This means designing interactive stories for ‘skimmers’ (those exposed to the story), ‘dippers’ (those sharing the story) and ‘divers’ (those immersing, influencing and advocating the story) is a must for marketers. 

Whilst it’s easier to entertain or engage ‘skimmers’, what is interesting is how brands are developing interactive brand stories for the ‘dipper and diver’ audiences – as these are the most influential groups.

Many brands have experimented with interactive storytelling where the audience becomes the narrator (such as Chrysler’s ‘Steer the Script’, Coke’s ‘Share a Coke’, and many alternate reality games such as ilovebees and The Dark Knight).

The other popular strategy has been crowdsourcing the story, where the audience becomes the creator of the whole story. While some brands have done this well (Arvo Beer’s Perfect Lager Project, Magnum Pleasure Store, Fanta Flavour Lab, MyStarbucks Idea, The VW People’s Car Project in China, our own digitally customisable London Olympic Mascots), others have missed the mark (Raymond Weil’s ‘Help design a new watch’ Facebook competition springs to mind) .

But the new frontier for participation branding is putting the audience into the story, as an actual character influencing other characters and the outcome. That is, it’s not just about giving a few people a unique experience (such as the ‘Best job in the world’ campaign) any more and relying on the online amplification of that (does anyone even remember who won Best Job?), but actually creating multiple stories for the many, democratising the experience so to speak.

To understand this we look to narrative theory. That’s the idea that in any story there are typical characters we identify with – the protagonist, antagonist, foil, mentor, threshold guardian, trickster, minion etc.

If you think about what’s been hot in popular culture, TV dramas such as The Wire, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad (and more recently The Fall, Luther and Game of Thrones) play around with who’s the hero and who’s the villain. While if we look to gaming, we can see evolving storytelling arcs and different role-playing in games such as Bioshock Infinite, Last of Us, Diablo, World of Warcraft, Heavy Rain, Skyrim and Final Fantasy.

Narrative theory has even transcended into the music space, with pop band IO ECHO launching an interactive music video, Ministry of Love, that allows audience to control the band through a series of rooms.

So what’s happening at the more ‘creative’ end of interactive storytelling in terms of the role of the audience?

Audience as the protagonist is still the most common approach (for example, the character Alex in Toshiba/Intel’s ‘The beauty inside’), however brands are now playing with more unusual roles – the most famous of those being the audience as foil in Dove’s ‘Real beauty sketches’ and Old Spice’s ‘The man your man could smell like’.

The role of audience as mentors to the community is also becoming a useful tool, some interesting examples being ‘Curators of Sweden’ (where Swedes get to manage the country’s Twitter account) and Google’s Build with Chrome collaboration with Lego (disclaimer: I worked on this one).

At Iris, we’ve experimented by thinking about audience as threshold guardians of the story, where fans work with each other to inspire or help the protagonist achieve greatness.

For example, our recent Adidas #hitthewinner Wimbledon Twitter game inspired Andy Murray fans to predict where he would hit a winner during his Wimbledon matches in real time. Fans won prizes if they predicted correctly, but what they were also doing was playing the role of guardians motivating him to Wimbledon glory.

So where’s the white space for brands looking to experiment with new interactive stories?

Thinking about audience as sidekick rather than protagonist is an interesting place to start. Imagine audiences feeling like they are working alongside the brand. Also thinking about ‘groups of heroes’ rather than relying on one main protagonist to engage. We know people seek brands that help them belong, so brands with big advocate communities should explore this approach. The real visionary brands will involve audiences as an antagonist or anti-hero as they look to create provocative ways for characters to interact and compete with each other.

So yes, the brands with the best stories will always win. However, if you neglect to think about what role your audience plays in influencing the story outcome, you’re missing a massive engagement opportunity.

Dan Pankraz is regional strategy director APAC at Iris Worldwide.

This piece first appeared in the September issue of B&T magazine.

Please login with linkedin to comment

Latest News

Attention! B&T’s Inaugural Bootcamp Launches!
  • Advertising
  • Marketing
  • Media
  • Technology

Attention! B&T’s Inaugural Bootcamp Launches!

B&T announces its new industry bootcamp! And, if you're like us & didn't know anything about it, all's revealed here.

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Facebook Makes Another News Feed Change
  • Media

Facebook Makes Another News Feed Change

Social media behemoth Facebook has announced its second major update for News Feed to make sure the news people see, while less overall, is high quality. This week, Facebook announced that the platform will launch a small test in the US focused on prioritising news from publishers that users find trustworthy. Facebook is also exploring ways […]

Domain Boss Anthony Catalano Exits
  • Media

Domain Boss Anthony Catalano Exits

Mystery surrounds Domain boss's surprise exit, although the Mystery Machine nor a talking dog not spotted at Fairfax.

PHOTOPLAY Offers A Ghost Train Ride Like No Other At Sydney Festival
  • Media

PHOTOPLAY Offers A Ghost Train Ride Like No Other At Sydney Festival

Jasmin Tarasin, director at boutique production company PHOTOPLAY, is inviting invites audiences to take a trip through the inner-workings of the mind in ‘Ghost Train’, her latest multi-sensory VR project set to feature at this year’s Sydney Festival. Working in collaboration with musician and co-creative director Jonnine Standish, Tarasin’s uniquely immersive ‘Ghost Train’ is a […]

March One To Rebrand Fundraising Institute Australia
  • Marketing

March One To Rebrand Fundraising Institute Australia

Independent advertising and branding agency March One has been appointed to oversee the rebrand and repositioning of Fundraising Institute Australia (FIA). FIA is the national peak body representing professional fundraising in Australia. It was established to advance advocacy and professional standards, and has identified the need to better promote its role as the industry self-regulator, […]

Victorian Government Launches VR Bushfire Experience Via The Fuel Agency
  • Advertising
  • Campaigns
  • Technology

Victorian Government Launches VR Bushfire Experience Via The Fuel Agency

As part of its summer fire campaign, the Victorian government has launched a virtual reality (VR) bushfire experience and content series via The Fuel Agency. The VR experience places the user in the midst of a large bushfire, and is designed to encourage people to leave early on high-risk days before it’s too late. The […]

Local Ad Tech Company VeNA Partners With RugbyPass
  • Advertising
  • Media
  • Technology

Local Ad Tech Company VeNA Partners With RugbyPass

ad tech company VeNA has signed an exclusive reseller partnership covering Australia and New Zealand with digital rugby network RugbyPass. Across Asia and parts of Europe, RugbyPass is the exclusive digital rights holder and over-the-top broadcaster for live rugby, including the Super Rugby, the Rugby Championship and autumn internationals, the Six Nations, the Aviva Premiership, […]

SpotX Appoints Gavin Buxton As Asia MD
  • Advertising

SpotX Appoints Gavin Buxton As Asia MD

Video advertising platform SpotX has announced it has appointed Gavin Buxton as managing director of Asia to lead the company’s expansion in the region. Buxton has over 17 years’ global experience in the digital advertising space, having worked in leadership roles at tech and publishing companies, including Microsoft, Turner Broadcasting, and LinkedIn, with the last […]

Big Mobile Doubles Down On Ad Tech & Rebrands
  • Advertising
  • Technology

Big Mobile Doubles Down On Ad Tech & Rebrands

B&T Awards 2017 finalist Big Mobile has unveiled a fresh look to reflect its new ad tech credentials. The company successfully pivoted its business from ad network to mobile ad tech vendor when it announced a joint venture (JV) with Widespace in October last year. As a result of the business changes, Big Mobile wanted […]

March One Appoints New Senior Account Manager
  • Advertising

March One Appoints New Senior Account Manager

Independent ad agency March One has appointed a fresh face to the team, with Melanie Tozer to reinforce its mission to put humans first as a senior account manager. Tozer (pictured above), an up-and-coming talent from New Zealand, will align her extensive experience in FMCG marketing with March One, having worked on accounts for Bunnings […]