The new frontier of participation branding

The new frontier of participation branding

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.

B&T Magazine
Posted by B&T Magazine

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.

Latest News

Crash The Super Bowl: Aussie Contender Just Misses Out
  • Advertising

Crash The Super Bowl: Aussie Contender Just Misses Out

Sadly, Australia cannot call itself a Crash the Super Bowl winner. Peter Carstairs and his ad Ultrasound made it into the final two being aired during the Super Bowl however its competition Doritos Dogs was the ad that took home the coveted prize. Doritos handed the $US1 million prize package to Jacob Chase, a writer […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Instagram Finally Launches Account Switching
  • Technology

Instagram Finally Launches Account Switching

Instagram has announced it’s officially launching multi-account support inside the photo sharing social app. The inability to switch between multiple accounts has frustrated Instagram users, especially With the rise of profiles dedicated to businesses, pets, etc. Account switching will be available as part of Instagram version 7.15 for iOS and Android. In a blog post, an Instagram […]

“No, Social Media’s Not Just For The Millennials!”
  • Opinion
  • Technology

“No, Social Media’s Not Just For The Millennials!”

In this guest post, Paul Whybrow (pictured below), Capegemini’s media and entertainment industry lead, has just discovered the joys of Snapchat. And this 50-something dad argues it’s not just for the young ones… Both my teenage kids have been globetrotting far away from Sydney, my youngest in immersing herself in France and the other enjoying the historical delights […]

Opinion

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Majority Of Brits Want Junk Food Advertising Banned: Cancer Research Survey
  • Media

Majority Of Brits Want Junk Food Advertising Banned: Cancer Research Survey

Three quarters of the UK want a ban on junk food advertising before the 9pm TV watershed, according to a new YouGov survey published by Cancer Research UK. The survey of more than 1,700 people found almost seven out of 10 respondents said there should be cuts to junk food advertising online while 66 per cent […]

UK Media Voted Most Right-Wing. Most Other Europeans Say Theirs Is Too Left
  • Media

UK Media Voted Most Right-Wing. Most Other Europeans Say Theirs Is Too Left

The UK’s media is regarded as the most biased and right-wing in all of western Europe according to a new poll by research firm YouGov. The research involved respondents from seven different European nations responding to their own country’s media. The other countries included in the survey were France, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Denmark and Norway. […]

by B&T Magazine

B&T Magazine
Red Lobster Responds To Beyonce’s Lyrics In The Worst Way Possible
  • Marketing

Red Lobster Responds To Beyonce’s Lyrics In The Worst Way Possible

Beyoncé has dropped her latest tune Formation which includes racy lyric referencing seafood restaurant chain Red Lobster, with bated breath Twitter waited for Red Lobster’s response and alas it was terrible. In the song, Queen Bey says: “When he fucks me good, I take his ass to Red Lobster, cause I slay.” Check out the banger here:  Getting […]

Medibank To Build ‘Better’ Through New Advertising Campaign
  • Advertising

Medibank To Build ‘Better’ Through New Advertising Campaign

Medibank's new advertising campaign, named ‘i am better’, celebrates and embraces the diversity and individuality of Australians. Developed with Whybin/TBWA, it highlights Medibank’s commitment and enthusiasm to continually evolve to serve the varied needs of Australia’s ever-changing and expansive demographic.

Dig+Fish Kick Off New Year With Two New Senior Appointments
  • Marketing

Dig+Fish Kick Off New Year With Two New Senior Appointments

Melbourne brand engagement agency Dig+Fish has announced two new appointments to its senior management team, kicking open a fresh chapter for the burgeoning business. Rowena Fitzgerald and Sarah Gibbins-Paley have both joined the team in the newly created position of group client manager, and will be responsible for overseeing client relations for all areas of the […]

TEN’s Summer Audience Jumps Up By 10%
  • Media

TEN’s Summer Audience Jumps Up By 10%

Network Ten was the star performer during the 2015-16 summer television ratings season, achieving double-digit total people audience growth on the primary TEN channel and its best ever network summer audience share among people aged 25 to 54.