For marketers, immersive storytelling has become a buzzword denoting the groundbreaking technologies capable of blurring the worlds of the real and digital. Often, what first comes to mind are virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI). But are we getting too caught up in the technology? Is this all that there is to immersive storytelling?
And, if so, “is our audience ready for it?”
Joey Tiempo, Executive Creative Director of NuWorks Interactive, posed this question during GetCraft's previous Philippine Content Marketing Meetup (Keeping Up With Content: 2018 Review and 2019 Preview), when asked what she thought of this trend.
First of all, let’s get our heads out of the clouds, take a step back a bit.
Understandably, it is exhilarating to imagine the possibilities that come with engaging our audiences via Tron-like worlds, letting them interact with our brands in the way Iron Man does with Jarvis. Don’t get us wrong, there’s nothing wrong with dreaming big. But you see, when we look far off into the distance, we tend to miss what’s immediately in front of us.
Also read: Keeping Up With Digital Trends
As The Guardian notes, immersive technology, at its core, is about giving people the feeling of “being there.” It is making audiences feel that are an integral part of shaping or controlling the experience they consume.
Tiempo explains: “Audiences want to be involved in the storytelling. ‘As an audience, I want to be able to influence the story. Either by a comment on an IG story, or being able to choose which path I’m going to take in a game.’ I think that technology right now allows for more audience participation rather than a passive viewership as defined by, for example, TV commercials. I think that’s what technology could bring to the picture.”
Yes, technology can help realize our visions, but just because you aim to give audiences an immersive experience, it doesn’t mean that you have to resort to AR, VR, or AI. For Tiempo, when it comes to shaping these experiences, “the key is knowing who you’re talking to and how they’re going to take it.”
Let’s go back to a basic platitude: “know thy audience.”
According to Tiempo, “I’m not going to serve 360 videos to a mother who is so busy and is not really going to be impressed by it. A young kid, say, 16-year-old kid, would probably be more impressed by that.”
When it comes to immersive experiences, the excitement that comes with experimenting with new technologies can at times lead to misfires. At the end of the day, effective marketing is less about creative executions and is more about making genuine connections with your market. And to keep these connections authentic, you must make an effort to know who you are talking to.
“I think it’s important for us to know the behavior of the people we’re talking to, rather than as a brand be sort of blindsided by what we want to say. Because I think on a very general standpoint, all we want to do is to make connections with our market, whether you be a brand or an influencer, or a creative person just like me—we just want to make connections, and how we make these connections is primarily based on how well we know who we’re talking to.” Tiempo explains. “Tune into what kind of content they want to hear before you get carried away with new technology.”
Next, just as well as you learn about your audience, you should also be aware of who you are as a brand and what you stand for.
“What is your brand’s personality? Are you a brand that is actually allowed to experiment? Because not all brands have that luxury of being cool and experimental," Kate Delos Reyes, Managing Director of GetCraft, says. "Think banks, for example. Banks are definitely more conservative, and they would want to take a more careful approach in trying out new platforms.”
Take BPI-Philam. Mika Prado-Calixterio, Head of Customer Content and Marketing Communications, says: “The direction we take at BPI-Philam is very different and very conservative when it comes to technology. We can’t exactly create a Snapchat account, for example. In the first place, why would we? It doesn’t make sense for our brand.”
True enough, for Prado-Calixterio’s brand, crafting immersive storytelling is about going back to the avenues that resonate most with their audience. And this is via blog posts and social cards.
Prado-Calixterio says that through these stories—stories focused on helping their audiences first, product mentions coming second—they are able to produce immersive content that people actually read.
You may be asking: “So, are you saying we should stay away from VR, AR, and AI?” No, not at all. Instead, consider these as words of caution. Yes, new technologies should open different streams of engagement, but remember, everything must be purposive. The trick is strengthening the narrative.
“It’s okay to experiment. There are new tech, new platforms. Experiment away. Find one that works for you. Find one that increases your audience engagement and delivers results,” Delos Reyes shares.
For Joey Tiempo, at the end of the day, the process has not really changed, the creativity put into the work is the same. “It’s just that, with all this new technology available at our disposal, I have more ways to express myself and more ways to get my message across,” she says.
But, just in case you were wondering where you could start, Tiempo advises that Filipinos should consider mobile games. “There’s a huge, huge rise in e-games recently. There’s a recent comeback of Ragnarok on mobile. There’s a really huge leap in how people consume stories.”
Furthering Tiempo’s point on new ways of consuming stories, just look at December’s cultural sensation, the Black Mirror special, Bandersnatch. Through an interactive movie, the platform found a new medium for immersion, one that immersed viewers by putting them at the center of the story.
Now, we’re not asking you to build an algorithm or make a film. But take the creativity these examples exhibit to heart, come up with off-kilter, unique ways of engagement. Just remember who your audience is and think of the appropriate methods that feel genuine to your brand. All things considered, you might just be able to craft the right memorable, immersive experiences for your audience.
And, when you're ready to take your content up a notch, it's always best to work with the best content creators in the field. At GetCraft, we connect you to thousands of professional writers, graphic designers, videographers, influencers, and so much more. Visit the GetCraft Marketplace today to meet people who can be part of your team.