A panel of speakers at the Ad Age Digital Conference, at Pier 36 in New York City, Tuesday afternoon highlighted the importance of talking with consumers instead of talking at them.
David Berkowitz, CMO of MRY and moderator of the panel, said that marketers have been communicating with their audiences on digital platforms and telling stories from a “storyteller’s lens” rather than taking a “story-making” approach. According to Berkowitz, story making is when a brand facilitates and taps into the stories that consumers create and share about the brands they love. It’s the job of the brand, Berkowitz said, to help amplify the reach of those stories.
Berkowitz shared the following cartoon by “Marketoonist” Tom Fishburne to make his point:
One company that actively engages in story making is Adobe (CMO.com’s parent company). Panelist Ann Lewnes, Adobe CMO, played this video for the audience, which Adobe created to celebrate 25 years of Photoshop.
The video also pays homage to the large community of artists that have made the Photoshop brand what it is today. “Every piece of artwork is by one of our community members on Behance,” Lewnes told attendees. “They gave us the work for free, and we asked five movie studios to give us art as well. The fact that they gave it to us is a testament to how we’ve been nurturing our brand for 25 years. A lot of work we do is community-based, so not using the work of these artists to tell the story would be criminal.”
According to Lewnes, Adobe is all about story making--and it’s not just a strategy for marketing Photoshop. Adobe Youth Voices, a corporate responsibility effort by the company, is another example of the way in which Adobe gets its communities to want to participate in its marketing. For Youth Voices, all of the work is submitted by kids.
“Story making is huge, and we do it in all customer areas,” Lewnes said. “It’s a huge opportunity for [companies] to leverage their communities. But you must be transparent, and you have to give them something in return. In our case it’s showcasing their work.”
Ashley Kaplan, head of content at Fullscreen, a global network of content creators, talked about a program in which Universal Studios teamed with Fullscreen creator/star Kian Lawly for a campaign that went viral. Lawly disappeared off all social media for five days to promote the upcoming Universal horror film Ouija. The stunt began with a video posted to Lawly’s YouTube channel, which claimed he was missing. It asked viewers to use the hashtag #OuijaWhereIsKian if they knew anything about his whereabouts. At the end, the video showed “found footage” of Lawly being dragged out of his room by an unseen force.
To date, the stunt has resulted in more than 7 million Twitter mentions of the movie, 17.3 million hashtag impressions, and more than 2.3 million video views, Kaplan said.
“Universal was trying to convert the affinity of [Lawly] into the affinity for the movie, and it worked,” Kaplan told attendees. “The creator is core to everything we do since they are the ones with the relationship with their audience.”
Eric Hirschhorn, CMO of Burger King, said the company’s approach has always been about story making. Starting a conversation in social media has somewhat of a risk factor for the fast-food burger chain, he said, which is why it focuses on inserting itself into existing conversations. For example, Burger King found that many of its consumers in the 13-to-24 age range were upset when it did away with its Chicken Fries, going online to express their feelings with emojis. In response, the company created a Chicken Fries emoji.
“Being perceived as preachy is risky,” Hirschhorn said. “We’ve found it is most effective to give people the opportunity to have an opinion. And you know what? Having negative sentiment about a brand isn’t an awful thing.”
Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer at Visa, talked about the card company’s announcement last summer about a digital product called Visa Checkout, designed to make it easier to buy products and services online and on mobile. Partners such as Pizza Hut, Staples, and United Airlines were on hand to support Visa. An executive from United Airlines said it had built its mobile application for the traveler in the airport, lugging his suitcase with one hand, and using the app in the other.
“We have used that as an insight to drive creative for the Visa Checkout campaign going forward,” Curtin said. "We wanted to highlight how easy it was to make a payment using only one hand.”
He played the following video for attendees:
Curtin underlined that while Visa is not actively encouraging fan participation, listening to fans, customers, and partners can lead to creative genius.
MRY’s Berkowitz noted at the end of the session that, while brands may facilitate story making, there’s no guarantee that consumers will take the bait. So what’s the secret sauce?
“Brand love leads to story making,” Adobe’s Lewnes said. “Fans must be engaged and very attached to you--otherwise it is difficult to make stories.” Nurturing and fostering ongoing engagement and loyalty with customers builds brand love, Lewnes said.
Read related article: Ad Age Conference Keynote: Agency Health Depends On Creativity, Utility, Data