For the past few years, storytelling, or the 'art of storytelling' has been at the centre of boardroom conversations, not just in consumer product businesses, but also among very large B2B players. I have also conducted a few workshops on 'storytelling' and how it can impact 'brand value'. These workshops typically had two parts - 'what makes a good story', and 'how do you tell a story about your brand'.
Time just flew by - things changed - the time-spans/attention spans were getting shorter and the stories doing the rounds were innumerable. We got our consumers confused many times. And often, uninterested. That wasn't great news.
Digital tools helped us listen to what was happening around the world. And, many times, the chatter wasn't to our liking. We continued telling stories that either didn't resonate or weren't heard.
'So, as a marketer, what am I supposed to do?' many asked, and often.
Before I attempt to answer that let's acknowledge what's changed.
• Today, we have the power to listen to what consumers are talking about. Actually, it's not really new. Been around for a few years. But, the tools are as good as the person who is using it. So, getting engaged is a start.
• Quick alterations are not seen as a change in strategy. Face it, your creative idea isn't your strategy. If one fails, you should quickly replace with one that works. In keeping with your strategy. Of course, when you're sure.
• Digital impressions are what give you more visibility today. Spend a lot of time engaging with it and not delegate it to the people who don't have a strategic handle on things.
Today, we need a dynamic conversation mechanism where we are flexible, fast, and willing to learn and alter at any point in time.
So, now if we get real and realise that digital conversations is what will drive future brand presence and salience, the intelligent question to ask is what kind of conversations should my brand have.
Once you have isolated the core essence and the broad definition of your brand and the tonality of its communication, it's time to deliberate on what 'kind' of conversation.
There are normally four kinds of conversations that take place between two individuals which can easily be transposed to conversations that consumers have with brands.
• Banter: Preferable for all low-involvement categories and FMCG products
• Discussions and deliberations: freewheeling on a variety of topics related to the brand. Higher involvement categories will typically engage in discussions
• Subject oriented viewpoints: Subjective idea, objective facts - could be done for a variety of brands that want to instil belief about certain facts, history, or even intent.
• Functional conversations: About a goal (individual or group), small talk. This could be used across categories where there needs to be a sense of urgency that needs to be built such as sports branding, elections, and corporations.
The above categories are permeable. And, can be used strategically for any product/organisation/people brand needs. However, the magic lies in the creation and evolution of conversations that are interesting, differentiated, and therefore, relevant.
It's time all of us gave more thought to the chatter and the art of it.
After all, conversations are the new stories.
(The author is sr partner at YAAP, a digital content company)