Show Me a Story: Better Storytelling Through Interactive Content

 Anna Talerico, ion interactive's EVP and co-founder
Anna Talerico, ion interactive’s EVP and co-founder

Story and sight are more enmeshed in the human mind than most marketers realize. From the time toddlers open their first picture books, they learn not just to connect images to language but also to interact with visual storytelling. In fact, research shows that up to 93% of all human communication is non-verbal, meaning that audiences are more likely to engage with visual cues than any other kind.

But digital marketing has moved far beyond the days of passive picture books for audience engagement. Right now, taps, swipes and clicks mean more than they ever have before, and adding interactive elements to your static stories will not only put you ahead of the curve when it comes to communicating with your audience, it can also keep fans of your brand coming back for more.

Microsites Keep Users Engaging

Did you “Elf Yourself” last Christmas? You’re not alone. Over half a billion people have used Office Max’s microsite to have some silly holiday fun. And what’s more, they can’t wait to do it again. If you go to the Elf Yourself microsite, you’ll see a holiday countdown clock with a notification sign-up option to let fans know when they can create this year’s elf alter egos.

And all this buzz over the clever holiday story creates genuine, lasting engagement between buyer and brand as Office Max extends that holiday goodwill year round by staying in touch with the mailing list Elf Yourself drives each year, which could be why Forbes calls the interactive microsite “the greatest holiday digital execution of all time.”

If you’re looking to tell a hyper-focused story that will drive engagement, an interactive microsite could be your best bet for both drawing in a new audience and opening the door for future communication.

Take the Listicle One Step Further

When Buzzfeed first popularized the listicle, marketers jumped at the chance to organize content in a logical, audience-friendly way. The listicle is king of user-centric static content, giving readers quick access to information without forcing them to dig for it while also allowing them to pick and choose which parts of the content are most important.

However, the popularity of the listicle could be a drawback for brands looking to stand out. For example, when UBM, a global events communication firm, wanted to publicize London Technology Week, they created a “Geek’s Guide to London” showcasing the highlights of the event. Once upon a time, a listicle may have drawn the eyeballs the company craved, but today, a static “Best Of” guide gets lost in a sea of sameness.

So UBM created an interactive map that not only used all the great storytelling included in a successful news article but also enabled users to virtually experience London Technology Week even as they physically explored it, which created an engagement loop that drove users from the event to the digital content and vice versa.

Interactive Video Can Make the Mundane Seem Magical

Gating content seems like a no brainer; after all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But in reality, most audiences don’t like giving up their information, especially when they aren’t sure what they’ll get in return. Users are much more likely to stick around for ungated content than gated.

Additionally, content that makes customers want to interact is much more effective than content that forces them to. Recently, French cable company Canal+ utilized interactive video to create a form so entertaining that users kept coming back. They used popular characters from their channel to crack jokes, prompting users to sign up for email lists, newsletters and even give telephone leads. Each section of the form led to more jokes and more fun, making it hard for customers to quit the communication. Overall, the video was a resounding success, leading to 400,000 uniques and 10,000 new email leads.

The lesson to be learned from Canal is that storytelling should never take a backseat, and brands should always strive for engagement, even with something as mundane as online forms.

Personalize Your Pitch

The truth is, most users are so swamped with information, the last thing they want is yet another sales pitch. More than anything, they want to see how your product can work for them. Case in point, when L’Oreal Paris wanted to engage users with an app, they didn’t post a static catalogue of cosmetics. The brand set themselves apart from competitors by letting audiences see how lipsticks and eye shadows would look with virtual makeovers via the “Makeup Genius” app.

Now, not every brand has the budget of a multinational cosmetics corporation, but we can all take a lesson from their ingenuity. Taking existing content, such as static catalogues, and combining it with interactive elements, like quizzes and digital lookbooks, can show audiences exactly what your brand brings to the table by allowing them to virtually “try before they buy.”

Even in the digital age, nothing takes the place of great storytelling, but technology has provided us the opportunity to make the user experience even more magical through interactive engagement, leaving the field wide open for intrepid brands to tell more memorable stories than ever. 

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