Telling Compelling Stories through Original Entertainment Content

Alysse Campbell - October 12, 2018

Storytelling has been a key form of communication since language was first developed. It’s how creation stories were passed down through indigenous tribes and how legends of Greek and Roman Gods were established. There’s a reason people connect with stories. So why does advertising often lack a compelling narrative?

Too many marketing directors think that sharing specific details of their offering is the best way to connect. But consumers are so jaded and overwhelmed with advertising that they won’t even listen if you don’t catch their attention.

How can you fight back against this apathy?

How to Draw in Your Audience with Storytelling

There is a way to build an audience and stand out from the crowd with your video content. It’s by combining original content with a distribution strategy that focuses on enticing viewers with a compelling story. Entertain your audience instead of lecturing them. Focus original content on connecting emotionally instead of stating facts and figures about your product or core offering. Bonus points if the story inherently conveys a core value or deep-seated belief of the organization.

Whether you delight viewers with a charming anecdote, tug at their heartstrings with a tear-jerking redemption tale, or inspire them with possibilities of a better future, stories will make far greater impact than focusing on product facts and figures.

Finding a story with actual meaning and value to your audience helps them form deep connections to your brand. It brokers an even exchange where viewers are willing to watch the content instead of rapidly clicking away. But telling the right story, one that your audience truly cares about, begins with strategically understanding your audience. Do you know what is important to them?

The Power of Stories in Video Advertising: A Shining Example

Shinola, a watch manufacturer based in Detroit, is deeply committed to products that are built the American way. For their latest product and video campaign, they searched for stories that resonated with their target audience, who Shinola identifies as more of a general persona than a demographic. Their customers care about quality, design and the intimate details of how the product is made. Aware of that level of sophistication, the marketing team searched for a complex story that went beyond watches. Ultimately they landed on the celebrating the Statue of Liberty, a universal symbol of freedom, diversity, and democracy through the eyes of new Americans.

“At Shinola, we support diversity within our communities and in our American workforce,” said CEO Tom Lewand. “We welcome these newest citizens because with each new perspective, America grows stronger and more whole. We see it every day in our company. We’ve seen it in this country for nearly 250 years. We’re a better nation because of it.”

To emphasize this core value, Shinola created a short film called “From This Second Forward.” It follows 10 new citizens of the United States, providing a glimpse into their homes, neighborhoods, and celebration of their naturalization ceremony.

It’s an inspiring story about the makeup of America, one that will stick with viewers long after the six minute video. The film associates a deep sense of meaning to the Shinola brand, one they hope will encourage sales for their Statue of Liberty timepiece collection.

Following Through With Original Content’s Distribution

So what’s the path after you find a captivating and untold story? Expand your distribution strategy to include film festivals and press outlets. The critical acclaim and awards, rarely coming from straightforward product videos, will create a new level of credibility while increasing your audience reach and brand awareness.

More than ever, branded stories are premiering at major film festivals and streaming on digital platforms. NetScout, a tech company with network performance management products, took a chance on original content with incredible business results.

What started as a short form digital campaign between NetScout and their agency developed into a full length documentary when they brought legendary Director Werner Herzog onboard. Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World is a film about the existential impact of the Internet, robotics, AI, the Internet of Things, and many more technological advances on human life. The completed doc premiered at Sundance, where it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures and is now streaming on Netflix.

NetScout’s chief marketing officer Jim McNeil said, “there’s value in being a thought leader and beginning an important conversation without making it all about you… We wanted to get people to think that, hey you’re living in a historic time and there’s some things you should be paying attention to.”

But keep in mind, these branded stories are focused on conversations related to a company’s core values and beliefs, not product features or offerings. The film entertains and provides value to the audience. It both shocks and inspires viewers with the impact of technology on our lives.

And it had a measurable impact on NetScout: The most new business inquiries in NetScout’s 30-year history and a 10-fold increase (25 billion) in NetScout’s annual impressions.

“If we had put racks of Netscout equipment in there,” McNeil said, “or Netscout employees, or even Netscout clients talking about how important Netscout technology is in protecting the connected world, this thing never would’ve got to Sundance.”

NetScout took a big risk by creating this film, but it paid off. Original entertainment allows your brand to rise above the noise, by deeply connecting with your audience and raising the conversation the something greater than yourself.

Don’t be afraid to raise the stakes with your content marketing.