2014-08-September-Play.jpgFrom desktop, to mobile, to tablet, to TV, to even over-the-top platforms, consumers are forcing advertisers to scramble in order to keep their media strategy on par with their behavior -- and tell a better story. Because whether it’s a book, a movie or a marketing campaign, great storytelling will always resonate with audiences. However, today’s consumers don’t want to just hear a story, they want to interact with it.

Luckily for marketers and consumers, it's possible for audiences to both influence the unfolding of the story and have a say in its outcome. The in-the-moment relationship between brand stories and audiences is driving a new method of advertising that goes beyond just storytelling, to storybuilding.

Storybuilding is essentially a more engaging and entertaining way to weave your brand message into consumers’ lives than just purely informational tactics. It puts mobile, video, social and of course, data, to work, while seeking customer involvement along the way. And while it may sound daunting, developing a strategy to maximize both the chances the audience will come into contact with the story, and increase the opportunities for engagement is priceless.

Storybuilding redefines the ways in which brands measure success: instead of thinking in terms of reach and frequency, engagement, time earned and total activity will gain importance when it comes to understanding campaign success.

Let’s a take a look at a few ways brands are using storybuilding to interact with audiences:

Enhance Digital Experiences with Interactive Video

It seems just as marketers were catching up to any video strategy at all, a new layer was added: interactivity. As brands realize that audiences are consuming more and more video, whether online or mobile, this new medium of advertising has grown in leaps and bounds. With this type of consumption comes an opportunity that's different than TV advertising can offer: the ability to have consumers touch, feel and be one with the ad.

For example Mercedes-Benz USA recent “Take the Wheel” campaign used a multi-channel approach to disseminate its story in multiple layers, and used interactivity in certain key channels to pull in its audience. Mercedes took its desktop and mobile video ads and added roll-over components that allowed users to learn more about the campaign, enter an Instagram contest and follow contestant's journeys with a hashtag. It resulted in an increase in campaign participants via social media, and increases in ad engagement and interactivity. Merecedes-Benz built a story across channels, and made its audience a part of it.

Bridging Offline to Online with Personalized Products

In a world gone madly digital, it’s sometimes easy to forget that physical interaction between consumers and products is still highly important. In other words, bridging the gap between offline and online is a must-have for brands who wish to storybuild successfully. Most consumer packaged goods brands rely on clever ad creative and a lot of eyeballs to determine campaign success, but Coca-Cola showed us that making your brand shareable in real life as well as online is a winning strategy. The “Share a Coke” campaign cleverly updated its product packaging to be a bit more personal by adding common names to its cans, such as Buddy, Sarah or Star, and encouraging users to “share a coke” with a friend.

While initially aimed at college freshmen who may have needed a little social nudge, the result showed us that consumers en mass did what they are naturally inclined to do: share -- on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and of course, in person.

Give Audiences a Vote

American audiences are no stranger to voicing their opinion. But advertisers who use this tactic in a smart way win over consumers. Voting helps individuals not just feel like a part of the story, but become of a part of the story’s outcome, and feel a higher sense of brand connectivity.

Look at AT&T which has been a prime sponsor of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Its commercials are always memorable and repetitive. While this approach is great for meeting reach and frequency goals, it doesn’t provide the value of consumer engagement. So AT&T decided to become the mechanism by which basketball viewers could vote for the Naismith Trophy winner via a mobile call-to-action and social media share feature. Throughout the tournament, voters watched their actions dictate the outcome of a major award, so they had extra incentive to return to the programming and continue interacting with the brand.

As always, the most important thing in any campaign is the overall message. The greatest marketing strategy in the world can't cover for a bad story. Every day new technologies are introduced that allow marketers to communicate their message and engage with audiences like never before -- and tell dynamic, interactive stories that will benefit both brands and the individual consumer.

Title image by kris krug (Flickr) via a CC BY 2.0 license