I remember the day I first heard what a fax machine does. It sounded like something from an episode of the Jetsons.
If you’re under 30, I will continue while you Google “fax machine” and “Jetsons”. A friend with a jet-setting father told our hushed group of primary schoolers that you put a piece of paper in the machine and before you had finished pushing it through, it came out of a machine on the other side of the world. It was mind-bogglingly futuristic.
Just 30 or so years later and we’ve come a long way since the days of fax machines. Think smartphones, supercomputers, Alexa, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things. It thrills me to think what the digital transformation trajectory means for the brand storytelling world.
Stories are a traditional tool used as a warning, for inspiration, to share life lessons and to pass on heritage and history. Yet that is why they are so effective – because stories are the way we, as human beings, prefer to receive information and have been since the beginning of time.
Brand storytelling taps into the human need for connection through story and tells the customer who your brand is and who they believe in. The brand story is delivered to the customer at different touch points in the customer journey and through omni-channel storytelling.
A term coined by Klaus Schwab, the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR), describes the extraordinary technology following on from the Third Industrial Revolution that will blur the lines between, physical, digital and biological worlds. Like the fax machine and the cellphone, we are at the beginning of an era where we have a mere glimpse into what the future could be like.
We keep talking about the 4IR as if it is coming, but, like the internet, it arrived unannounced while we were still defining it. If you’ve used Siri or Google Maps or a Facebook Bot, guess what? You’ve ushered in 4IR. Amid talk about how jobs will be augmented or even replaced by the change in the digital landscape, brand storytelling is one of the fields that could be affected significantly by 4IR – for the better.
There is a lot that is being said about how jobs and job descriptions will be changed by the move to digital. We have artificial intelligence (AI) programmes that can process masses of data to help us understand our customers and ourselves better, but does that mean they will do all our marketing for us? I don’t think so. The traditional marketing function, which includes CMOs, brand storytellers and creatives, will use the same marketing principles, but become more strategic in their ability to apply the data and to personalise their message and creativity for specific customers through different channels and formats.
The team make-ups will be more varied. For example, journalists and video editors, and graphic designers may work together on an infographic that tells the customer a story about where you source your ingredients.
The more devices there are the more opportunities there are for you to tell your story. The concern here among customers, especially Generation X and Z could be that your brand “knows too much” as the Facebook Advertising reporting tool puts it.
They tend to equate marketing with advertising – in a negative way. That is why it is important that this would not be the medium of your first interaction with the customer and that you have taken the time and other platforms to introduce your brand and values to them to build their trust.
Another example will be influencer marketing. Again, you can use AI tools that identify your target market or even a new key demographic you may have missed that can be pursued by finding a micro or even nano influencer who speaks where your ideal customers live online.
With a myriad social media platforms, brands are presented with the blessing and the curse of real-time feedback. Like the mythical Icarus, flying too close to the flames of instant gratification can be amazing if your brand is killing it, that is you are transparent, warm, generous, witty, helpful, socially or environmentally conscious, but catastrophically different if who you say your brand is, is not who your clients experience. For example, your customers will be unhappy and tell the world faster than you can say #trending if you portray yourself as an environmentally conscious supplier of foodstuffs, but your main suppliers are found to be polluting their immediate area using cheap manufacturing methods.
The other side of agility points to the ability of your brand to be quick in its response. A classic example being the responses of Oreo and Tide during the 2013 Superbowl power blackout, with Oreo (Mondelez) tweeting: “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.”
Yes, video content for advertising on TV is still slower to produce and still popular in terms of revenue, but quick thinking and clever creativity on social media channels could augment your brand personality in a viral way.
With 4IR upon us, instead of fearing change, specialist brand storytellers can use creativity and strategic focus to change perceptions, evoke positive emotions and create trust in brands using the new technological tools in our palette. One technology at a time.
Yaw Dwomoh is a managing director at Idea Hive, a specialist brand storytelling company.