“Storytelling” has seemingly always been a buzzword in the marketing industry, but what does that entail? During Advertising Week, five top marketers explained how they tackle storytelling without sacrificing authenticity.
During a session called “Wired Brand Storytelling,” Viacom Velocity CMO Dario Spina mentioned a study recently commissioned by his company called the Study of Cultural Proximity. The findings, that brands and consumers are acting more alike, was relevant in that storytelling shapes our culture.
“What we found is that in generations past, culture was a top-down driven process. Big companies, news organizations, sports entities were spewing content down to the masses and it was hard for us regular people to take part in the conversation. Now we see with the advent of the internet and social media that us regular folks actually have a hand in shaping culture.”
One of the speakers not only helps shape pop culture but is a prominent member of it.
Stephanie McMahon is the chief brand officer of WWE but as the daughter of Vince McMahon, her path to marketing started out different than most. From modeling merchandise as a child to answering the phones, McMahon worked her way up through the company to the creative writing team, where she was unexpectedly promoted after just two weeks. Today, she works behind the scenes but also in front, playing a villain during matches.
McMahon explained that WWE is driven by stories and character engagement.
Your audience or consumer will tell you what they want, you just have to listen. McMahon explained the example of #GiveDivasAChance. In 2015, female wrestlers—called Divas—were treated as secondary characters compared to male WWE superstars. The hashtag called for better storylines, more athleticism and generally more prominently featured. WWE responded by rebranding Divas to Women’s Division and calling the athletes Superstars alongside the men.
Trade Desk, an ad-tech company, recently used social engagement to begin a conversation around digital advertising. The company took out a full-page print ad in the New York Times saying, “Possibly the worst ad we’ll ever run.” The ad was designed to be provocative not only to marketers but to consumers. It worked.
“It had a lot of digital and social traction,” said Susan Vobejda, CMO for The Trade Desk, adding that print will always be a part of consumers’ lives. “There were people defending print. It was a very interesting moment.”
Overall, the message of this session was to listen to your audience and be ready to communicate—and when you’re not being a part of social conversations, start one. The beautiful thing about storytelling is that there’s no one way to do it effectively. Whether it’s through content marketing or starting a little controversy, storytelling has and continues to be a cornerstone of today’s marketing strategy.