Brand Storytelling with Transmedia Storytelling
A new form of brand storytelling that has gained popularity is the concept of Transmedia Storytelling which initially appeared in the entertainment industry. Think of marketing campaigns like that of the cult-favorite movie, The Blair Witch Project, whose promotional campaign comprised documentaries on the Blair Witch, a fictional character. This campaign also involved people who distributed missing-person flyers for characters who disappear in the movie. So effective was the campaign in blurring fact from fiction that it generated tremendous buzz and interest around the movie. It went on to make nearly $250 million in the box office. The movie’s budget had been a mere $60,000 USD.
Media form can include text, images, video, audio, illustrations and interactive forms. In cross-media storytelling, the same content is repurposed and distributed in different channels or mediums. You can tell a story via print, TV, radio or digital channels but it is the same story distributed via a variety of channels to reach a bigger audience. Transmedia Storytelling, on the other hand, is a coordinated story experience with each channel or medium telling a part of the story. In transmedia storytelling, many stories are told on different media channels to broaden our understanding of a story, topic or subject. This approach is used to create a holistic experience for the viewer, a story world of coordinated content that draws the viewer into a deeper, connected experience. Each medium is leveraged to present a snippet of the story to create an integrated story world.
Transmedia storytelling is pervasive, persistent, and personalized. To create an effective campaign, you must have all four elements working in tandem to create an immersive experience. This approach is illustrated by the promotional campaign of The Hunger Games movie series. Instead of using established media channels (TV, radio, billboards), posters, a website, and You Tube teaser videos to create awareness, the film’s marketing embarked on an ambitious and elaborate campaign to attract fans.
Six months before The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’s opening, the film’s marketing deployed teaser billboards in various cities. An elaborate online fashion magazine was created on Tumblr, called Capital Couture. The Tumblr site, in turn, led fans to additional content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. Fans were encouraged to create their own content through pictures and videos promoting their own fashions and creativity in a section of the Tumblr site called “citizen activity”. This approach to include fans in The Hunger Games’ narrative was deeply appreciated and led them to influence others to share and participate in the initiative. Fan engagement was very high and led to an extraordinarily large amount of fan-created content on Tumblr.
The film’s marketing leveraged both online and offline channels to reach its target audience (pervasive); it used multiple channels (social and digital) to create awareness (persistent); and it created a, engaging (personalized) experience when it allowed fans to participate in contests. So successful was this campaign that the film’s Facebook page garnered 10 million likes and 850,000 followers on Twitter. It became a trending topic on Twitter and its trailer was one of the most watched videos on YouTube. In its opening weekend, the film made $158 million at the box office. Hunger Games went on to become the highest grossing film domestically in 2013.