Sunday Musings: Why “Narration” is the Next Wave in Storytizing

What is next is often sitting right in front of us.  However, we often miss the initial wave of innovation, since we are so focused on how we do business “today” and we can’t see clearly how an incremental advance is actually a tectonic shift.  Narration is just such an example.

Three distinct facts set me off to explore this area in more detail.

When Facebook Live started in January 2016, most of us thought it was nice, but not much more.  Now, with nearly four billion live broadcasts completed, we can see that Facebook Live sessions are watched three times more often than regular videos…..worldwide.

Earlier this year, I was listening to Snapchat talk about their business and heard them say that more than one trillion snaps were taken in 2017.  So, 159 million members of Snapchat took more photos than the other several billion people with cameras in the world.  Wow.

And then I was talking with my nephew, Anthony Gaetano, who describes how to play video games for Roblox, Minecraft and now Fortnite.  On Roblox, Anthony has over 1.1 million subscribers who listen in daily to what he has to say.  This is an example of one of his daily videos which has 380,00 views where he is teaching his Dad, Anthony, on how to use Roblox.  How many brands get this level of interest for each video?   Fortnite is also growing towards this level of audience for Anthony.

So, what do they all have in common and what is the average marketer or communicator missing?  Well, it’s pretty simple when we strip it apart.

Authenticity – we want to hear real conversations from real people helping us navigate the world.  We do not want polished videos, polished speeches and talking points.

My life – if we can map out our lives visually, it helps us realize what we did each day and it helps us build a new type of digital relationship with our peers, which is exactly what Snapchat accomplishes.  How many brands make it easy for you, the customer, to maintain a history of what you like about that brand and what it does for you?

Advice – video game narrators are showing us what big brands should do.  We’re not waiting with baited breath for the next margarine ad or even the next post.  We want experts to tell us what we need to know in a way that is real…..in a regular cadence.

What this means for content creators is powerful.  We often think in terms of “campaigns” or “new brands” or “voice of the customer” when in reality, what our customers want is for us calm down and share our thinking.  Here are a few examples.

Running – what if you could follow running experts from shoe company X who share their learnings with you every day via YouTube and occasionally listen to them on Facebook Live at events?  They occasionally mention their equipment, but their goal is to share their love of running with you.

Health – patients, nurses and physicians speak candidly about what it is like to battle cancer.  What are we thinking when we go to the chemotherapy center?  What is it like to deal with insurance?  What do you tell your loved ones?  We also mention treatments and related ideas, but, again, within a much larger context and we get this on a daily basis.  Why?  Well, if you are battling cancer, you have all of the time in the world to listen to others who may give you ideas and hope.

Deeper Websites – you no longer get someone to go to text on a website and declare victory.  Instead, you can click and learn more about the topic from an expert(s) who continually update their thoughts.  You enter a learning center, not a site, and form a relationship with real people from the company.

The list can go on.  The key is when we say that content needs to be more agile or more transparent or some other word choice, we should ask ourselves a deeper question.

Are we narrating life for our customers or are we just trying to sell them something?  The former is powerful and will build long-lasting relationships.  The latter is transactional. 

And that brings me back to a final point.  The antibodies of our world will say “yeah, but you don’t get how media really works”.   My point back is one trillion+ snaps, four billion broadcasts and 22-year old’s with more than one million subscribers……..what am I missing about what really works?

It will be a fun era as we reinvent how we “Storytize” rather than advertise.

Best, Bob

Bob Pearson
Bob Pearson

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