The reinvention of brand storytelling in a VR, AR, and AI age

(c)iStock.com/mediaphotos

The last few weeks have been abuzz with news stories across the digital and marketing technology industries, as Dmexco 2016 and the ninth annual Social Media Week London has snatched the headlines of the marketing trade press. From Twitter reclassifying its 140-character limit to Facebook Live taking centre stage at Burberry’s SS17 catwalk show and UAE-based bank, Emirates NBD launching AI robot in-branch assistants, one thing is certainly clear – the way we communicate is evolving, and fast!

As creativity and technology continue to grow closer together in the marketing space, and the way consumers are able to interact online changes as fast as the digital platforms themselves, the major question now is: What does this mean for brands?

Brand storytelling is not a new concept. If anything, it is a cornerstone of modern-marketing which is drummed into practitioners from the crib (well, university) these days. But as new technology and platforms across the digital space continue to shape how and where consumers engage with brands, the problem becomes how to stay ahead of the game in a unique and relevant way in order to be heard.

The answer therefore, is for brands to start thinking of their marketing story as a living, breathing entity in its own right and begin planning activations which allow consumers to engage and immerse themselves with them.

Whether it’s through VR, AR or AI, the wealth of innovative, creative technology we have seen coming through is making it ever easier for brands and marketers to create and invent innovative user experiences, both online and off, which can offer something truly different and allow consumers to really understand and feel exactly how the brand wants its products to be perceived. From Burberry launching the world’s shop-as-you-see catwalk show through Facebook Live to Taco Bel hosting a pop-up VR arcade, value-add experiences such as this offer brands a tangible way to connect with consumers and bring them into the brand. Which in turn helps to build stronger relationships, greater brand loyalty, and drives higher ROI for digital activation.

So if it’s this easy, why isn’t everyone doing it?

Well, it’s actually a lot more complicated than that. As with all marketing activity, it’s about making sure the brand in question gets it right. Using the right technology, at the right time and in the right way to achieve the desired outcome. Rather than just undertaking an activation for the sake of ‘being seen to do it’. 

In a similar way that content, data and personalisation have all been the marketing buzzwords of the last few years, brand experiences are rapidly becoming the term de jour and we’ve seen many brand successes – and failures. Yet, as with these other tools of the trade, it’s not just having or using them that counts - but doing them in the right way and with the right objectives in mind, to ensure that the right technology is used for the activation to drive the intended reaction from the end consumer.

We’ve all read the articles criticising the use of data for data’s sake and the creepy line of personalisation, and it’s no different with brand experiences. Tech-based activations are only as good as the marketing strategy behind them and an understanding of what you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to capture data? And you looking to drive engagement on social? Is it as PR stunt or press activation? The answers to these may seem obvious, but if they’re not considered in the planning phase, they won’t show in the end result.

What correctly planned and executed campaigns do, is take all of this one step further. In a similar way our industry is beginning to talk about ‘smart marketing’ over doing something for the hell of it, we need to start considering ‘smart experiential’ and the impact it can have on helping consumers to live the brand story, as well as just telling them. This in turn provides smart brands with innumerable opportunities to not only build strong relationships with their target audience, but to also build on other needs such as data capture, customer loyalty, and social media engagement by feeding their goals into the development of the activation from the start.

This shift from brand storytelling to brand ‘story-doing’, a phrase first coined by Beto Nahmad - executive creative director of VCCP Spain, offers a unique opportunity for those brands (and marketers) looking to get ahead of the game to really stand-out in their marketplace and make the most of their respective budgets. For brands this means that ROI is maximised and campaign objectives are hit in an innovative and attention grabbing way. And for consumers, the chance for a tailored and engaging experience, which simultaneously allows them to connect with their favourite brands and receive a more personalised brand experience as the relationship develops. 

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