Immersive storytelling was on nearly every list of top trends for 2017 – and with good reason. Companies report increased user engagement, interest, and brand loyalty after telling stories with content instead of simply trying to push sales. Modern technologies have taken storytelling to the next level, pulling the audience directly into the experience, instead of keeping them silent observers to a marketing message.
By mastering the art of storytelling and using cutting-edge mediums to connect with your audience on new levels, you can become a brand that captures the world’s imagination for years to come. Here’s how to sculpt a story your target audience will never forget.
Tell a Story People Want to Hear
Before you master immersive storytelling, you must first focus on the storytelling aspect. Customers won’t bother engaging deeply with a story they don’t find interesting to begin with. Some of the most successful brands in the world got their start with excellent storytelling. Airbnb’s rags-to-riches tale, Minnetonka’s inspirational company history, Nike’s ability to send a message without pushing sales…all of these are examples of storytelling done right. At the heart of all of these success stories is one main element – authenticity.
More entrepreneurs have inspiring stories. Even if you didn’t rise from nothing to become a business tycoon, there is likely some element of passion, excitement, and fervor you can add to your “About” page. Maybe you gave up job stability in a corporate office to try to make it on your own. Perhaps you stayed up all night fleshing out your business plan before an important investor meeting. If you look hard enough, everyone has an authentic, engaging story to tell. Find yours, and jot it down. Don’t worry about polishing, editing, and vamping it up at first – simply focus on telling the story and sticking to the truth.
Authenticity is the most important part of immersive storytelling. You can use all of the exhilarating tech gadgets in the world to bring your tale to life, but if it doesn’t ring true, customers won’t want any part of it. Today’s consumers want more from a brand than the best deals and flashy sales – they want to feel an emotional connection. Your story, if told right, can give your company value no amount of selling and advertising can. You can motivate consumers to buy and remain loyal to your company by showing them you are honest, transparent, and trustworthy. Tug at heartstrings, be humorous, offer advice – do what speaks to the essence of your brand the most. Whatever path you choose, be authentic.
Break the Fourth Wall
Now that you have a story worth telling, it’s time to capture your audience’s attention. Achieve this by selecting a storytelling canvas that wows. Advanced technologies have made this possible for brands of all sizes and budgets. You no longer have to make your story shine using only text – there is an ocean of digital, virtual, and augmented options at your disposal. Brands have access to more ways to tell an engaging story that grabs attention than ever before.
The fourth wall is often used to describe the invisible barrier that separates the players from the audience during a theater production. The fourth wall is what sustains the illusion that the story is happening on stage, in a separate time, space, and universe than the one the audience members exist in. Breaking the fourth wall shatters this illusion and pulls the audience directly into the story. Suddenly the audience can interact with characters, make changes to the storyline, and join in an immersive, shared experience. This is your goal with immersive storytelling – to create an experience that involves the audience mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
Several new innovations have made this possible for companies around the world. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and gamification are the top ways to pull your audience into your brand’s story. VR and AR bring your story to life, adding a new dimension your customers have never seen before. Gamification makes your users players in your story with the ability to write their own endings and explore new possibilities. These immersive, interactive, and enjoyable ways to tell stories are marketing’s next big thing.
Go Viral with Virtual Reality
Virtual reality began as science fiction. Then it moved into the real world for only highly specific technology tasks, such as MIT research. Finally, technological advancements and more affordable platforms made VR reach the level of commonality among businesses, consumers, and the everyman. Today, VR is quickly becoming an expected form of media and entertainment around the world. Consumers are excited about the seemingly endless possibilities of VR, and are eager to engage with brands that have made smart use of this technology.
VR makes digital interactive, transforming the screen into a 360-degree window into a virtual world that reacts in real time to a user’s movements, actions, and desires. Equipment such as the Oculus Rift, Sony PlayStation VR, and Zeiss VR pioneered the virtual reality market for the everyday consumer, and gifted the power of immersive storytelling to the business world. More scalable options from Google and YouTube (Cardboard and Tilt Brush, respectively) helped boost VR adoption and widespread interest in this medium. Now companies have the power to build 3D virtual reality apps without hiring an expert or breaking the bank.
Play with Augmented Reality and Gamification
Pokémon GO gave consumers the first taste of the future of augmented reality (AR). Now, they’re hungry for more. AR applications using devices consumers already own allow a brand to market products and reach out to consumers in innovative new ways, without much effort on the consumers’ part. Unlike VR, which requires a headset or at least Google Cardboard, users can engage with AR right from their devices.
Pair AR with gamification to make your brand something users want to come back to again and again – much like the addictive nature of Pokémon GO. Gamification incorporates fun into your marketing strategy, making people want to participate organically. Instead of simply creating brand awareness, your AR game can forge a deep, emotional connection with your audience and foster a longer lasting relationship. There are plenty of apps and gamification service providers to help you create your immersive, interactive company AR game.
VR and AR are changing web design, and you can change with it. Browsers already exist to accommodate VR users, and marketers across all industries are coming up with ways to integrate this exciting tech. Integrating these components into your web design can position you as an interesting, savvy, and tech-forward company that invests in its consumers. Catering to the VR/AR crowd is a wise decision for the future of your company, as these applications are becoming more popular and sought-after by consumers.
Master the Art of Storytelling without Interactive Tech
Immersive storytelling using mixed realities, gamification, and interactions with the audience takes content to the next level. If you can implement virtual storytelling or gamification into your brand, you will be miles ahead of your competition and well on your way to lifelong brand loyalty from customers. If, however, you prefer to keep your storytelling in this reality, that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice user engagement.
There are other ways to accomplish visual storytelling without investing in cutting-edge technologies. For example, you can tell a cohesive story using imagery and interesting video content. Make your users characters in your brand’s story, stun them with high-definition original photography, or channel their emotions with gripping videos. Make your website visuals responsive, triggering an intriguing reaction when users scrolls and click.
No matter how you tell your immersive story, give users a beginning, middle, and end. Above all, your audience wants to feel a connection with your brand and a sense of achievement in interacting with your company.