Posts Tagged ‘storytelling’
14th November 13
Posted in strategy
Authors: Jim Carroll, Chairman & Nick Fell, Strategy Director, BBH London
The Marketing World is in awe of tech brands.
It has visited the Valley, gathered at the Googleplex. It has listened to their leadership and consumed their case studies. It has invited them in for partnerships, hangouts and huddles. It has adopted their products, processes, principles and patter. It has acquired their interior design, appropriated their casual clobber.
But has the Marketing World learned how to talk like a tech brand? Is there an underlying assumption that tech brands can teach us how to behave, but not how to communicate? An ongoing suspicion that the engineer-led cultures of tech brands don’t quite ‘get’ communication?
We suspect the Marketing World has a long held, deep rooted belief that tech brands obsess too much about their own product and experiences; that they’re introverted.
Tech brands may make cool products, but they’re not so hot on insights and benefits, emotions and humanity. They don’t understand empathy. And whilst tech brands revel in the complex, coded and arcane, they’re not schooled in single-mindedness and sacrifice. They don’t know how to drill down or ladder up. They may get big data, but they don’t get big ideas.
So for all their many virtues, there’s not much the Tech World can teach the Marketing World about communication. Or so the conventional wisdom goes.
But conventional wisdom may actually be an albatross around our necks. This same wisdom tends to create a convergent mush of mood board marketing, a farrago of facile insights and shallow lifestyle posturing. Modern brands from all sectors would do well to look properly, not just at how tech brands behave, but at how they communicate.
Let’s consider a few themes.
1. Pride in product
Tech brands spend the vast majority of their time and energy in the pursuit of innovation; creating astounding products is their main obsession. There is always something new to say, whether it’s a big breakthrough or a modest upgrade. Which is why their communications are so firmly rooted in product truth.
This might be considered old-fashioned in a world of purpose-led brand building. But it provides a refreshing break from the pseudo-insights, hyperbole and overly-elaborate ideas which fill much of today’s communications landscape.
2. UX meets advertising
User experience has been defined as “the totality of an end-users’ perceptions as they interact with a product or service” (Kuniavsky, 2010).
Tech brands employ user experience design to create products which we love to use, but the influence of UX is also clear to see in how tech brands talk.
Thinking in terms of “end-users”, not audiences, means the usability of the communication is given primary importance. The result is often a visual language which is clean, precise and with plenty of white space (more on the rise of “flat design” in Adam’s post here). Tech brands also use as few words as possible to meaningfully make the point. This type of communication is disruptive precisely because it respects our desire for space and time.
3. Narrative through product
Tech brands cannot rely exclusively on the elegant delivery of product truth to succeed.
As in all other categories, communications which evoke an emotional response help brands to create affinity and preference. However, tech brands do not treat emotional and rational approaches to communications as mutually-exclusive, like oil and water. Instead they intimately combine the two; using the product as a medium to weave rich and emotionally-engaging narratives.
For example, telling the story of a teenager building a media empire through interactions on a web browser in BBH’s Google Chrome campaign or showing a dramatic rescue through a GoPro camera attached to a fireman’s helmet.
4. Cultural collaboration
Conventionally, brands employ celebrities as a means to gain attention and credibility. These are often one-dimensional, transactional relationships.
Tech brands, on the other hand, enter into genuine partnerships with individual and institutional players in culture with the aim of creating something fresh and interesting for the world to explore. Google and Arcade Fire, Samsung and David Bailey and Intel and Vice are all examples of this.
In these relationships, both parties have a part to play; the cultural collaborator is the “cool kid” to the tech brand’s “geek” persona, bringing creativity and humanity to code and hardware.
When the most innovative tech brands work with the foremost tastemakers, the result can be an irresistible combination of science and art, left brain and right brain, intelligence and magic.
5. Built-in marketing
With the previous themes, we have considered the unique way in which tech brands talk in their marketing communications.
But tech brands are also highly skilled at building marketing directly into their products. When we use Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp and SnapChat, we also promote them. For example, to access my friend’s pictures on WhatsApp, I have to download the app. This built-in network effect means that WhatsApp has grown to over 350m unique monthly users, with 400m photos being shared every day. All of this without any significant marketing investment.
So, let’s not just admire the Tech World’s innovative culture, agile processes and beautiful products. Let’s embrace their very particular perspective on communication. It’s a perspective that could perhaps lead us out of some of the cul de sacs of contemporary marketing. Whatever business we’re working with, in whatever sector, shouldn’t we all consider talking like a tech brand?
4th November 11
Posted in Events
Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH Labs
Preparations for our night of storytelling for Internet Week Europe are almost complete. And with less than a week to go until Thursday the 10th, we thought we’d share a little preview info of some of our speakers. Tales will include…
It’s looking to be a lot of fun. It looks like we’re at capacity, with a heavy waitlist – but there is still one way to get in. We’ve still got space for a few micro-stories: that is, tales of five minutes instead of ten. So, if you have any internet incidents that you think might amuse and enthrall and you want to come, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org in the next few days.
And if you just can’t make it but want to tune in, watch this space – we’ll try to get a stream up and running on the night, right here.
19th October 11
Posted in Events
Author: James Mitchell (@jamescmitchell), Strategist, BBH London & BBH Labs
In the main, Internet Week Europe is about making better use of the internet, from bringing out the amateur behaviourist in all of us to trying to master its very nuts and bolts. And BBH Labs has been no exception: last year, we got together with google for the binary bootcamp that was Coding For Dummies.
But while we should strive to do more with the net, it’s already done much for us to celebrate. The much-feted promise of connection that was heralded in 1990 has come true for us all, whether through Facebook, Twitter or a dodgy backroom BBS. And while it’s easy to talk about the macro impact cases, from Libya to London, the personal stories often remain just that: personal.
So as part of IWE’ 11, on Thursday 10th November, join us at BBH from 7 for TaleTorrent: a night of true stories about the internet. It’s a conference, a campfire, a confessional. Eight storytellers will take ten minutes to tell us something.
There are two ways to get involved. One: come along by grabbing a ticket on our Eventbrite page.
Two: we are still looking for a couple of people to tell their stories – it could be five minutes, it could be fifteen – in our little gathering. Funny, sad, uplifiting, anything you like. If you’d like to share with us, get in touch with me at email@example.com.
30th June 11
Posted in Participation
Labs were lucky enough to be invited back to Power to the Pixel’s Pixel Lab held at Schwielowsee this week. The attendees – writers, filmmakers and producers among them – spent most of the week intensively workshopping their cross-media projects, punctuated by tutorials and talks from external experts.
Raising money in a still nascent format is always going to be challenging, so Pixel Lab participants were keen to know how brands and advertisers viewed transmedia storytelling as a platform and what approaches were likely to lead to successful fundraising.
Using the smart thinking from Metafilter forum user blue_beetle as the starting point I suggested that rather than try and sell a story to a brand, selling the audience might be a more productive approach. This is partly because it’s so noisy out there that a brand needs to work exceptionally hard to cut through with a story and also because increasingly brands see participation (through a variety of mechanics) as a good route to engaging an audience and building brand loyalty.
It wouldn’t be a Labs talk if we didn’t reference Kevin Kelly, and his ‘Six words for the modern internet‘ made for a useful primer on participation and behaviours. Taking each of the behaviours and looking at campaigns that had shone them through a branded lens I asked whether it was possible to extend the idea of audience as product and ask what they paid with for each form of participation.
With each of these costs of participating the audience clearly need to be rewarded and this reward will vary with the depth and type of participation. The reward might be a story or another form of transmedia experience but there are other rewards for participation and access and engagement might sometimes be reward enough.
The full presentation is below – let us know what you think in the comments.
29th November 10
Last Thursday (on Thanksgiving, if you are so inclined) the great and good and up-and-coming of London’s planning community gathered at the British Library for the APG/Campaign Battle of Big Thinking, an annual event that pits mind against mind for the chance to be crowned the Biggest Brain of All.
BBH London was well represented, with Peter Sells sharing thoughts on ‘The Fall of Capitalism, Bloody Revolution and the Destruction of Civil Society ….. And it’s Effect on KFC AM sales in the Tyne Tees Region” and winning his category in style. I apparently offered what was described as ‘an entertaining after-dinner speech’ on “What I have learned in 39 days in the advertising Business” and didn’t win my category which was won by an excellent pitch for a planner-owned product by PassionBrand. We’ll put these presentations up when the videos of the day become available.
But the star of the show and a very, very close runner up to the eventual overall winner was James Mitchell, who provoked and entertained the audience with his smart thinking and charming discourse on advertising, caring and storytelling.
So here is the extended remix of James’ talk – put on some headphones, hit play, enjoy and be provoked.
29th October 10
Aside from the smart, engaged and talented colleagues here at BBH and likeminds the world over, at Labs we are lucky to be in close proximity (in the same office in fact) to the smart, engaged and forward-facing Power to the Pixel team. Their mission is to explore new ways of getting stories in front of increasingly fragmented audiences and support media producers wanting to make the sometimes difficult transition to digital and cross-media distribution.
Audiences no longer think in silos – the recent 2Screen evening demonstrated the power of creating compelling behaviour drivers and experiences across multiple platforms. Power to the Pixel’s recent centrepiece event, the Cross-Media Forum in London, brought together leading thinkers and pioneers from across the media industries who are instrumental in changing the way stories are conceived and are reaching audiences.
Below, PttP’s CEO Liz Rosenthal and COO Tishna Molla picks out some themes that are emerging from their work and, for anyone interested in new tools for storytellers, links to deeper thinking from the Pixel Report.
“The best storytelling devices are, and have always been, rooted in human behaviours and desires,” says Mike Monello, Founder of Campfire and Co-Creator of The Blair Witch Project. His keys to creating a successful story experience are;
- Communal experience
- Making it tangible
- Fostering discovery
- Making it personal
- Building a world larger than your characters
Story = brand
Whilst marketers have long been used to advertising products across multiple platforms, do they really understand how to keep audiences engaged? How do you begin to find your audience, let alone engage them? How do you decide which platforms to use to tell your story, let alone work out how to use them? Director Jon M Chu, is an expert in how to not only reach, but to sustain an audience. He conceived The Legion of Extraordinary Dancers (The LXD) – “a living, breathing comic book” – first and foremost as a brand, enabling connections with different audiences across multiple platforms.
Power lies with the audience
With the impact of new technologies has come a shift in authorship and access. Audiences have moved from passive viewer to active collaborator, stakeholder, co-creator, marketer, distributor, even financier. There’s a new breed of storyteller emerging, one that understands the new technologies, tools and services that are changing the way that stories are told, how and where audiences can interact with them and, as a result, the whole business of storytelling.
Lance Weiler (@lanceweiler), US filmmaker and story architect, grew his audience for Head Trauma - a fusion of feature film, live performance, mobile interaction, online gaming and remix – by allowing the audience to discover and expand elements of the story, moving them from one platform to the next in the process. Audience numbers grew in direct correlation to the number of access points made available to them.
Finnish director, Timo Vuorensola is an expert at collaborating and engaging with his audience throughout the development, production and distribution of his films. Crowd Controls is one great example of a tool that he uses to harness the power of the audience.
With technology advancing so rapidly, the possibilities for storytelling and audience interaction seem limitless or intimidating, depending on your point of view. No-one has all the answers anymore (if they ever did) which makes it essential now, more than ever, to share information and foster new networks, collaborations and partnerships. Which is what we do @powertothepixel.
26th January 10
Posted in crowdsourcing
“New tools give life to new forms of action…eroding the institutional monopoly on large-scale coordination… We are seeing an explosion of experiments with new groups and new kinds of groups.” Clay Shirky, Here Comes Everybody, 2008
One of the things that caught our eye last year was a blogpost from Len Kendall sharing the plan for a simple, yet audacious lifestreaming project. Every day for 365 days, Len and co-founder Daniel Honigman were going to get a different person to write about their experience that day. If you will, a crowdsourced diary for 2010: the3six5 Project.
Just under a month in and c.250,000 site views later, the project is growing into something with real currency AND potentially long lasting value. Before we get into the interview with Len and Daniel, here are a few early thoughts on why we think the project is turning out to be so interesting. As always, we’d love to hear other points of view, so please let us know what you think.
1. Currency: the3six5 mashes up three communication themes – crowdsourcing, curation and lifestreaming – neatly in one idea. (At the same time it’s a simple journal. The combination is very seductive: it feels experimental and familiar at the same time).
2. Cultural value: if the entries continue in the vein set down so far, it’s a time capsule of intensely individual thoughts. One year seen through 365 different minds, gathered in one place.
3. As communication models go, a continuous, virtuous circle. Fresh, surprising content, which in turn its originators & their supporters want to promote and propagate.
4. Great content: none of the above would mean anything if the words didn’t leap off the page. And boy, do they. A lot of writers have taken Daniel & Len at their word and taken risks, others have brilliantly evoked the day and their state of mind, often to profound effect.
5. Success or failure depends on the community: The project has the chance to go wrong at any point, all it takes is a missed post. If we’re honest, that adds to the frisson around the project. It also proves yet again that crowdsourcing is no cop-out for the curators. As wonderful as everyone is, we suspect it can still feel like herding cats at times. As one of the contributors so far, I can also testify to a what-if-you-fail-to-come-up-with-anything? feeling in your gut as you sit down at the end of the day to write a post to an immovable deadline.
We caught up with Daniel and Len, to hear how it’s going so far from their perspective, as well as their hopes and expectations for the rest of the year.
Read full post
18th December 09http://www.vimeo.com/8217311
We were stopped in our tracks by this concept video from the design consultancy Berg for Bonnier R&D. There is a fluidity and beauty to the design that suggests a significant step forward from the first generation, ‘push button’ e-readers. We particularly liked the fact the prototype (which makes its debut around 1 minute in) suggests it has been designed to create a better reading experience, as opposed to recreating slavishly the experience of reading a magazine. Not that this has been ignored: Berg make the point that magazines still arrive in separate issues, for the simple reason that “people like the sense of completion at the end of each.”
You move through the magazine by scrolling articles placed side-by-side (they call it a ‘mountain range’) and whilst they were aiming to create a “a space for quiet reading. It’s pleasant to have an uncluttered space”, you can heat up the words and pics to share, comment, and to dig into supplementary material. It certainly seems a logical and neat way to resolve the oft-discussed need to balance our thirst for more, more, more information, with the requirement to concentrate on one thing from time to time.
If you’ve been following the fortunes of e-readers, none of this may sound particularly radical. The bit that’s impressive is the execution. And, in their own words, Bonnier are interested in “sparking a discussion around the digital reading experience in general, and digital reading platforms in particular.”
That discussion is certainly happening. Aside from the general rants and evangelism, there are more balanced points of view on the topic, not to mention an excellent follow-up post here from Tim Maly at Bookfuturism that examines the operational, production process piece missing (possibly inevitable at concept stage…) and why it’s important. Well worth the read. There’s clearly huge scope for development: our own Richard Schatzberger notes the multimedia opportunities haven’t been looked at deeply enough. “The move to magtabs will start to break down the barriers between web broadcast and print. Live news playing inside the article about the same subject, your friends opinions connected to the content, live audio conversations about the story as you read it (like being in a coffee shop and hearing everyone talk about an article in the times).”
Either way, we liked the concept and we look forward to seeing where Berg and Bonnier take it. One thing is for sure:
“Ebook readers will be completely different in 2020. And paperback books will in all likelihood still be very much around, and pretty much the same.” Comment from tcarmody on Bookfuturism’s “Nostalgic Myopia” post
10th August 09
We’re super proud of our friends at BBH London who’ve produced something very special for Johnnie Walker. “The Man Who Walked Around the World” is a six-minute piece of storytelling that features Robert Carlyle walking through the Scottish Highlands. Carlyle tells the story of the brand’s birth, growth and development via some dazzling copywriting from BBH’s Justin Moore. This alone is an achievement – to keep the viewer listening intently for six-and-a-half minutes in a world where 140 characters constitutes ‘engagement’. Clearly Carlyle plays a huge role here as well.
What’s even more impressive, for us, is that this was all achieved in one take, with no editing done afterwards. Apparently there were 40 takes in total, and this was the last, completed at 8pm on the last day of the shoot. When you see how finely timed this is you’ll see why we’re in awe of the production.
There’s a great interview with the Director, Jamie Rafn, on the Shots site which goes into detail about how the piece was shot and some of the considerations that affected how it turned out. Definitely worth checking this out. Rafn took on a challenge many others thought impossible. As Mick Mahoney, BBH London Creative Director of the project told us:
“Every director we spoke to told us that it wasn’t possible to do what we wanted. That we would need concealed cuts and so on. Which would still have made a good film, but it’s the undertaking, the commitment, of doing it all in one take that makes it. Jamie Rafn was the only director who felt the same. Getting Robert Carlyle to do it then just took it up a gear. He has exactly the screen persona that we wanted. Tough, uncompromising, enigmatic.”
30th July 09
“There are always at least two ways to tell a story”
Launched last month under their Puffin label, We Make Stories is the latest in a long line of digital publishing innovations masterminded by Jeremy Ettinghausen (@jeremyet), Penguin’s Digital Publisher. This is the second piece we’ve done in recent months looking at the publishing industry as a whole. Back in May we wrote about the transformational change going on at TMG in the UK (also check out the ever brilliant Nieman Lab for a far deeper examination of journalism in this respect). Why are we so interested in what’s going on here? In short, we’re witnessing a radical re-shaping of an industry we believe we can learn a lot from. An industry which – aside from its sheer cultural importance in the first place – has been experimenting with new creative & organisational solutions for some time now.
The launch of the new service from Penguin was a good excuse to catch up with Jeremy and find out what he’s learned from this and other past projects, as well as ask him to share his thoughts on the future of digital publishing, the struggle to monetise content & services online, the impact of the web on storytelling and finally, what role he sees for brands in this space. So just a couple of meaty topics then…