AGENCIES ADD THE HUMAN ELEMENT TO DATA INSPIRED STORYTELLING
By Ami Murphy Iannone, Creative Director - January 15, 2019 Why agencies are right for the job.
There is no turning back, video consumption and production habits have changed in this mobile, social world and they are constantly in flux as technology and the way it powers creativity continue to evolve. Along with these changes come new demands on brands— it is no longer enough to broadcast overt advertising messages. Consumers are constantly finding new ways to avoid interfacing with ads and they are simultaneously demanding entertaining experiences from the brands they choose to follow and engage with. In order to maintain customer attention, brands are expected to be entertainers. Digital leaders are using video to rise to the top and social channels are prioritizing engaging videos. But while it is easier than ever to make and share video, it is trickier than ever to make engaging video because now you must cut through the incredible noise resulting from this democratization. The consumer has nearly infinite choice in what to watch. So, in order to attract attention and own a share of consumer’s growing screen time, brands must become not only entertainers but expert storytellers. And telling compelling stories is what they’ve always relied on agencies for.
Brands need storytellers
Agencies have always been home to the best creative talent in the marketing and advertising world. Part of the appeal may be the opportunity to work on several different brand challenges and devise innovative, compelling solutions to many unique problems rather than focusing on the creative needs of a single brand.
To this day, agencies are still the masters of creative, emotional, compelling advertising. Agencies are uniquely positioned to succeed in this new video paradigm because they know how to do what the robots can’t do, and what brands need most, expert storytelling. Video enables emotional storytelling and provides a uniquely captivating medium through which to engage consumers. Storytelling allows people to empathize with brands which is critical as brands have had to adapt to spaces designed for humans, like social media profiles, and must function as entities with personalities in order to correctly connect in these spheres. Agencies have an opportunity to once again lead their clients into the future of branded storytelling. This means helping them understand the value of messages that do not always feel like brand or product pitches and may or may not end in a CTA but are designed to appeal specifically to targeted groups and produce emotional connection and affinity with the brand message. The most successful branded storytelling authentically conveys a brand’s purpose by connecting with the shared values of its audience members. Here are a few examples of exceptional branded storytelling.
Examples of exceptional branded storytelling
Storytelling is a compelling means of explaining a brand story and making something intangible, such as a travel experience, tangible. On their Community Stories page, Airbnb features short videos that include real hosts who take the viewer around their town or city. Walking through the streets, visiting the local merchants, and hearing the passion behind the hosts’ voices about their neighborhood makes the viewer want to visit. It isn’t about selling a location or destination, but rather the viewer buys into wanting to have the experience for themselves. Their brand story comes alive through these short videos because they highlight the nuances of different locations, uncover hidden gems, and remind the viewer of what the world has to offer. Furthermore, the videos serve to show the humanity and hospitality of the Airbnb hosts around the world— tying the viewer into an emotional connection and making them wonder about the friendships they could be forging across the globe.
There is no firm CTA driving people to click or buy, but instead, the brand is creating a culture of desire and emotion around the service they sell by telling enticing stories.
This natural brand has been selling the same story for 34 years: the story of a man and his bees. The beeswax-based line of body care and cosmetics got its start from a roadside honey stand and was named after founder Burt Shavitz and his hives.
Videos like The Nature of Burt showcase the company’s deep-rooted history in the narrative and beliefs of their founder, even after his passing. An entire section of their site is dedicated to Burt’s legacy: “Wild-bearded and free-spirited, Burt Shavitz was The Bee Man who contained multitudes. We fondly remember Burt as the man who taught us how to live simply and harmoniously with the natural world.” The site features a 360 tour of the tiny house Burt occupied during his life— codifying his dedication to simplicity. These values are played out throughout the brand, all the way down to the smallest packaging details and product container recycling offer. This kind of thorough, legacy-driven storytelling helps reinforce the company’s wholesome, all-natural image — and ultimately it builds trust with consumers from a sense of emotional connection and transparency. Earth and health-conscious consumers can feel good about purchasing from Burt’s Bees because they are clear on the brand’s values. What these examples of exceptional brand storytelling have in common is a deep understanding of their company purpose and their audience’s interests. Deep audience knowledge is the only way to authentically deliver compelling branded storytelling that will resonate. Obtaining the right data can help you understand your audience at the level necessary to craft these kinds of impactful campaigns.
Brands need “travel agents"
Everyone is moving toward providing data in some form or another. As we see brands insourcing their agency functions, they’re also seeking out tools and consultants to help them navigate the glut of owned and external data available to them. Many platforms and tools have been popping up and brands are becoming overwhelmed by these options.
The consumer travel industry has undergone a similar revolution. For decades, travel agents were the go-to resource for booking everything from corporate trips to family vacations. With the emergence of the first popular internet travel tools like Tripadvisor and Kayak enabling consumers to coordinate their own travel, the need for travel agents decreased. But the number of tools and platforms kept increasing, the airlines and hotels all began to cater to self-service trip planners, and sites like Airbnb and VRBO allow people to list their personal properties for rent… Now with a flood of travel-planning tools at our disposal, it has become overwhelming to navigate all of this information and determine the best value and best experience. So we’re seeing the comeback of the travel agent. Agencies can serve as the ‘travel agents’ for their clients in these new data-driven endeavors because of the long-seated position of trust that they hold.
Brands need a consigliere
Similar to the travel agent, with their deep, historical knowledge of the travel industry, agencies are specially positioned to help brands navigate the glut of data available because they have been operating as trusted advisors all along. The agency has always been on the client’s side, vested only in their best interests and success, whereas data-brokers can often have their own dogs in the fight. Some companies providing data may benefit from swaying a brand’s decisions. Agencies can impartially interpret data, helping brands navigate with their best interests in mind. Beyond providing unbiased data and guidance, agencies have the historical creative experience to allow them to disrupt and innovate on their client’s behalf. Just as data outside of context is useless, so too is prescriptive data. Agencies have always served as the seat of creativity and innovation. To discard that avant-creativity in favor of purely data-driven decisions would be a huge mistake and a swing too far in the opposite direction. Instead, creative agencies have a distinct opportunity, and duty, to use data as the guardrails for their creative exploits. Once you understand the data, you can actually become more creative within those boundaries. All data really does is give you much more real-time, credible information to move forward in a creative brief. And A.I. can provide predictive validation that your brief will be successful because the data clearly points it out. Sometimes the data is actually telling you to ignore the trends. This is where creatives are especially well suited to succeed because they have historically been the disruptors and innovators for their clients. Being able to look at the data in the inverse is just as informative, if not more, than looking at its face value. Data can allow you to understand the gaps that exist around your audience interests and competitive landscape so that you can carve out new, ownable ideas for your brand clients.
Agencies can own the future of data inspired storytelling and ICX Media can help
ICX Media captures and analyzes real-time, cross-platform, video intelligence to help inform true Data Inspired Storytelling— allowing you to use data before and after the pitch to make smarter creative and more precise audience targeting decisions.
We apply proprietary artificial intelligence, machine learning, and custom data science to more than 5 million creators, 400 million consumers, and 4.5 billion social video data points to help our clients discover and analyze smarter video strategies. We’re helping cutting-edge agencies lead their clients into the future of Data Inspired Storytelling.