Simon Dolsten – R.I.P. Storytelling, Hello Storysharing!

Simon Dolsten, Student, Syracuse University Newhouse School

Storytelling, one of the most powerful forms of cultural communications, is losing relevance in the world of advertising. Marketers started using storytelling to engage consumers on a whole new level, blurring the lines between entertainment and marketing. Storytelling helped create some of the most iconic campaigns of our time. What happened to this seemingly flawless marketing technique?

By its very nature, storytelling is a closed system that relies on one-way communication. As we all know, storytelling requires a powerful storyteller and a silent audience.  In our case, the brand is the storyteller and the consumer is the audience. This worked for a very long time. Every now and then, the storyteller would look up and get some input, or market research as we like to call it, but most of the time it was a one man show.

Social media gave consumers a voice and in turn incredible amounts of power.  They were tired of being the audience, they wanted in on the fun. Most consumers, however, didn’t have the necessary resources or permissions to do so. This is where a new and exciting concept I like to call Storysharing came into the picture.

Storysharing is the collaborative dialog and interaction between brands and consumers about products, experiences and events that they both care about. There are of course vested interests on both sides but Storysharing truly works at its best when there is an authentic connection between the two sides.

There is a strong difference between Storysharing and customer engagement. Customer engagement campaigns often aim to get consumers to take part of a game, competition or challenge created by the brand. Storysharing happens when a brand offers the audience a blank canvas on which they can craft their message.

Ford recently promoted a very interesting campaign that allowed for elements of Storysharing. Ford hired stunt drivers to drive their new Ford Focus through Key West. Instead of simply filming a commercial, they asked consumers to shoot parts of the race on their smart phones and then put them together as short films. They could have hired a commercial director to make a glossy reel but instead took a risk and asked fans to  film the race. Storysharing happens everyday on Twitter and Facebook, but companies really need to be bold and create their own platforms for interaction.

Storysharing is only in its early experimental stages. As the idea of shared collaboration between companies and consumers gains traction, Storysharing will become a more powerful and developed medium. To ensure the authentic growth of Storysharing, brands must push themselves to take risks and consumers must be active contributors. Not all Storysharing campaigns will work or succeed, some might even cause great controversy, however, the future of advertising will undoubtedly reward those willing to take risks.