Storytelling is the ultimate crowd-pleaser. Everyone wants to be engaged, loves a distraction and enjoys getting pulled into a different world.
The enduring power of storytelling is why poets and writers have been heralded throughout history. It’s why we hold actors and directors in such high esteem today. It’s what politicians rely on during their campaigns to connect with voters. It’s the reason parents read a book to their children before they go to sleep at night. To tell a story is to share an insight into a new world.
But in today’s marketing world, brands need to do more than just tell a story.
They need to live them.
It’s no longer enough to simply create a humorous poster, heartfelt commercial or a buy-one-get-one-free deal at the point of purchase. People hold more power than ever. They demand experiences that truly matter, which is why ‘story living’ is becoming so important. It’s one of the best ways to connect with those who prefer to spend their money on brands that stand for more than their bottom lines.
Retailers have a privileged position in this regard: they create environments that engage, entice, reward and satisfy customers often at the point of purchase. Customers still relish the opportunity to walk from store to store, grab a coffee, touch, feel, experience the products and service that only these physical locations can deliver. Those who have physical stores can harness these environments to create experiences which tell powerful, engaging brand stories.
Even with the continuing rise of mobile and e-commerce, the vast majority of retail sales are still through bricks and mortar stores and that’s because of the experience. It’s one of the reasons that Amazon is currently opening grocery stores in America and a physical book store in New York.
And as even more online-only retailers move to set up stores, their business models are often far different to those who started life in bricks and motar.
Their delivery and overhead costs aren’t as restricting, so they can put extra emphasis on creating spaces that truly engage.
As consumers spend increasingly more time in the digital world, retailers have a unique opportunity to combine those physical interactions with innovative digital technologies to live their brands stories in a far more thorough and engaging way than ever before.
The growth of live-streaming and 360-degree videos on the likes of Facebook and YouTube in 2016 highlighted the demand for experiential consumer engagement online. By enabling consumers to engage with a live event as and when they choose, in both the physical and digital landscapes, brands have the ability to create a highly personalized, on-demand experience. Forthcoming projects for Adidas – that allow fans to customize their own trainers or browse the brand’s section in Harrods all within the virtual space — are good examples of how we’re helping our clients successfully live their stories through innovative and immersive experiences.
Retail marketers who use digital capabilities in store with advanced online ordering and delivery systems are able to truly bring to life their brand stories in an unprecedented, cohesive way that works across multiple channels and locations. Those retail brands that put the experience of purchase and post purchase at the heart of their business models will be the ones that others follow.
And retailers who combine new technologies with increasingly accurate data are able to bring to life stories personal to each customer. Successful brands: understand the future of retail storytelling is designed around individuals, not customer types.
All in all, the experiential industry is flourishing, with key trends from past years evolving and becoming much more focused. With the evolution of content and consumer touch points, brands can extend an experiential campaign much further than the end of an event. They now form the basis of entire campaigns rather than acting as a standalone marketing effort, with memorable activations living on long after an experience comes to a close.
So, it’s time for brands to start living. The stage is set, they just need to give their audience a role to play.
Jamie Allan, Group Managing Partner, Intermarketing Agency.
Tel: +44 (0)113 275 3912 (Leeds)
+44 (0)203 841 2888 (London)