Oct 22, 2013

How Cross-Channel Storytelling Engages Broad Audiences

honda drive in

One example of a campaign that incorporated storytelling was Honda’s “Project Drive-In.”

Yesterday’s Variety Entertainment and Technology Summit, held in Marina del Rey, CA, brought together a powerhouse panel that focused on the role of storytelling in today’s media environment.  Top digital marketers and their technology partners across the entertainment and brand landscape discussed campaigns that are making an impact now.

Moderated by David Hayes (@heydch), Entertainment Evangelist, Tumblr, the panel was thick with heavy hitters from impressive brands.

  • Bettina Sherick (@bettina), Senior Vice President, International Strategic Digital Marketing Twentieth Century Fox
  • Malcolm De Leo (@innovationmuse), Chief Evangelist, NetBase
  • Alicia Jones (@aliciajones), Manager and Head of Social Media, American Honda Corporation
  • David Gibbons(@gibbosf), VP Product Marketing Ustream
  • Nicolaus Beraudo, EVP Worldwide Sales, GM US, App Annie
  • Jared Hoffman, EVP Content and Programming Partnerships, Alloy Digital

The panel first gave a nod to their favorite brands.  They ranged from some long standing, tech-oriented brands like Sony and EA Sports to retail and apparel giant Nike as well as the uber successful sandbox indie game, Minecraft. The most interesting brand mention was Star Wars.  Jared Hoffman explained that he is fascinated by how it has come to mean many things to many people.  It has now engaged at least two generations, showing its enduring tale has serious staying power – - it has has infiltrated Angry Birds and is currently featured in a Verizon commercial.

Alicia Jones gave two very powerful examples of Honda campaigns that made good use of storytelling.  “Million Mile Joe” is a real person whose Honda was just about to tip the odometer over 999,999 miles. This story was brought to Honda’s attention by Joe’s local dealer in Maine.  It was an organic, authentic customer story– easy to tell and easy to digest.  Moderator David Hayes basically defined a successful campaign by having brand pillar messaging hidden inside a consumer story, like “Million Mile Joe”.  See the campaign here: http://www.rpa.com/portfolio/honda-million-mile-joe_surprise-parade/

In the same vein, Bettina Sherick elaborated on 20th Century Fox’s  “Life of Pi” promotion  using Yahoo!’s contributor network and encouraging the telling of real-life accounts of heroism, stories of overcoming adversity and inspirational vignettes in the same vein of the award-winning film.  This resulted in editorial impressions and many levels of engagement via comments and sharing.

Another great story from Honda was one that PR Newswire was proud to play a part in executing.  Project Drive-In was created by Honda and tapped into the major challenge of drive-in movie theater’s conversion to digital projection.  By telling a story integral to American car culture, a car company was able to engage the public with a good emotional draw and maintain a positive message without over commercializing the brand.  Honda used digital delivery, social engagement and traditional press release distribution methods to garner editorial coverage and increase overall exposure.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/hondas-project-drive-in-helps-save-four-additional-theaters-nine-in-total-continues-fundraising-effort-to-help-others-224840162.html

Overall, the panel seemed to agree on the success of storytelling as a sales tool, but what must be recognized is that the narrative must be told across platforms to drive and sustain audiences throughout the story arc.  Marketers need to embrace the sheer size of the potential audience and it’s important to listen as much, if not more, than you talk.  Malcom De Leo summed it up by reminding us that we live in “post-authoritarian economy” and to a very great extent, the audience controls the success of your message.  So we need to take all this into consideration, sit side-by-side with those audiences and craft a good old fashioned story with a beginning, middle and end.

Author Heather Williams (@heatherw716) is a national broadcast manager with PR Newswire/MultiVu. 

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