Why Brand Stories Must Move From Fiction to Nonfiction

September 7th, 2016

Why Brand Stories Must Move From Fiction to Non Fiction

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Storytelling in business is all the rage.

Companies of every shape, size, and description now seek to sell goods and services via heroic tales in place of bullet points, features, and benefits.

It’s an interesting – and often effective – tactic. In fact, we talk about it every week on our Business of Story podcast – a great show hosted by Park Howell.

But the problem with many of these branded stories is that many of the brands who are telling them lack the conviction to go all-in.

Many of these “stories” are just that…works of fiction (in whole or in part).

Many of these “stories” are just pretty commercials made to wear beat up sweatpants to try to boost authenticity and believability.

Many of these “stories” are curated and polished like a rock in a tumbler, until you can see your own reflection in their pseudo-artifice.

The storytelling pendulum is about to swing back the other way

It’s about to get REAL in the world of branded storytelling, for two big reasons.

In 2017, smart marketers will focus on non-fiction, not fiction.

First, Millennials abhor falsehoods (not that any generation craves them, but Millennials are especially angsty about marketing wolves in sheeps’ clothing). And as Millennials become the dominant buying cohort for more and more companies, storytelling will become grounded in unvarnished truth.

The rise of Snapchat (which is exceedingly hard to “fake” because you can’t import content from elsewhere) and its massive popularity among this group, is a marker sign for this shift. And, the new addition of Instagram Stories – called “Snapchat for old people” by my kids – opens up a similarly authentic aesthetic for an even larger audience.

Second, the rise of live video (both a cause and an effect of the shift to non-fiction storytelling) will require brands to get comfortable with documentary style communications, warts and all. Look no further than Southwest Airlines’ use of Facebook Live to broadcast their COO talking to an angry mob of customers about their catastrophic outage. That type of immediate non-fiction is compelling because it’s real, and would have been unthinkable – especially in a crisis scenario – just one year ago. Now, it will become commonplace.

Even my own Marketing Marvels show features live recordings of software demos, showcasing tools marketers will love. That kind of on-the-fly content creation would have been very difficult to execute in the recent past.

Further, real-time video is being incorporated in multiple customer service contexts including the integration of Facebook Live into Messenger, and Twitter encouraging live video replies by brands.

This accelerates the merging of marketing and customer service, with video content as one of the binding ligaments.

Storytelling has to shift from an emphasis on the story to an emphasis on the truth.

This move from fiction to non-fiction will impact every company, and will be the big content and social story in 2017. Can you handle the truth?

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