Stories shape our understanding of the world from infancy through to adulthood, so brands must be impactful storytellers to get their message heard.
Effective storytelling authentically illustrates a brand’s values and aspirations. It communicates where the brand has come from as well as where it is going.
Advertisers can use the brand story to guide consumers along the path from introduction and awareness to purchase and loyalty, delivering key messaging about how, what, and why of its offering at every stage.
The multiple channels, devices and formats now available to advertisers provide endless opportunities for brand storytelling. But they also bring the challenge of conveying a seamless narrative across an unpredictable and complex consumer journey. Instead of linear storylines, advertisers need dynamic frameworks, engaging the right user, in the right place, at the right time, with the right variation of messaging.
To meet this challenge, brands can leverage technological developments such as retargeting, dynamic advertising, cross-device targeting, and sequential messaging, all reinforced by data analytics, to enable effective storytelling techniques.
Technology can support brands’ storytelling strategy by following the ‘five Rs’ of creative advertising:
Relevance: Brands needn’t waste ad budgets shouting into the void. Instead, they can use a variety of data points to find users with a vested interest, ensuring relevance and receptivity. Through intelligent targeting based on online behavioural, demographic and campaign data, advertisers can bring ad messaging and consumers closer together.
They can even use unified data to personalise their messaging, taking into account the recipient’s interests or immediate mindset.
The relationship between data and creative builds the fundamental framework for brand stories.
Reaction: To have an impact, advertising must form an emotional connection with the consumer and provoke a reaction. Storytelling sparks the development of complex thoughts and emotions, with the power to captivate but also to distract or repel.
As the advertising industry explores increasingly immersive and interactive experiences, brands shouldn’t forget tried and tested narrative patterns and trajectories that have the ability to capture attention and create a deep resonance.
These basic types of stories include: rags to riches, rebirth, journey and return, and overcoming the monsters – all strong narratives on which to build the brand story.
Reach: Brands understandably want to increase the reach of their campaigns across multiple devices such as smartphones and connected TVs.
Technology can help them achieve this by aggregating multiple deterministic datasets and then supplementing through probabilistic cross-device data providers.
Brands can also make use of look-a-like modelling, identifying common characteristics in their own customer data that can be used to build larger audience segments.
This reach doesn’t stop at the device level; with emerging formats such as digital audio, digital out-of-home, and virtual reality providing access to new audiences for immersive and emotional storytelling. Through intelligent data use, advertisers can determine where consumers are picking up the brand story, implementing sequential advertising to continue the narrative.
They can set frequency capping across all channels and formats to ensure users are immersed in the storyline without being bombarded by ad messaging.
Real-time: The immediate nature of modern advertising, where data is analysed and executed in milliseconds, creates exciting possibilities to adapt one ad to deliver multiple messages. Developments such as dynamic advertising make it possible for advertisers to adapt messaging in real-time to suit contextual variations, producing multiple variants of the same ad through automation.
Ad creative can be tailored using demographic, behavioural or customer data to intelligently retarget with messaging that relates to a user’s exact point in the purchase funnel. Creative can also be adapted using contextual data such as date or time, location, and weather conditions.
Ad messaging can even be customised around live data about events in the wider world, such as major sporting fixtures that are likely to impact the consumer mood. This type of real-time dynamic personalisation turns static ads into living and breathing illustrations of the core brand message that are continually changing to maximise relevance to the consumer and their context.
Reporting: With the path-to-conversion now including multiple interactions on various channels and with different formats, advertisers must understand the impact of every touchpoint and how it is contributing to the overall brand story.
This level of understanding requires advanced attribution techniques that go far beyond the last click to produce accurate, in-depth reporting.
To ensure effective analytics advertisers require reporting based on data not assumptions, consistent tracking implemented across all channels, and insight delivered by an independent neutral provider to avoid channel bias.
Storytelling is fundamental to effective and impactful advertising. By leveraging technologies to support dynamic storytelling in today’s complex and unpredictable landscape, advertisers can reach large audiences with relevant, personalised, sequential messaging that encapsulates the brand narrative and inspires positive reactions.
Angus Blackwood is the commercial lead for Australia and New Zealand at Adform