Storytelling and research: fumbling around in the dark

team member

Maarten Albarda

Overused “storytelling” needs some serious data upgrades to make it a real marketing tool.

How often does the word “story telling” feature on MediaPost? I think it is pretty much almost daily.

The Instagram Stories feed at the top of your Instagram app is one place where story telling content can be found, as well as on the My Story feature from Snapchat. There are now lots of people cobbling together short bursts of photos, gifs and video to share with their fans that they went to Coachella this past weekend.

And then there is Facebook live. I was at Walmart on Saturday, where the Easter Bunny was walking the isles, handing out free chocolate eggs for the kids. There was also a guy who immediately created a Facebook Live feed from Aisle 9, shouting to his camera phone “As you know, we like to go live where ever we go, so we are here with the Easter Bunny”. I am sure his three followers were extremely excited to see him completely ignore the children while monopolizing the poor Easter Bunny. Perhaps I am unfair to the Facebook Live guy in Aisle 9 (could have been 8). Perhaps he had 10 viewers. Or a 100,000.

I am sure you are aware that there is advertising content emerging in these feeds and stories as well. Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook – they are all rallying to bring advertising… er… storytelling content to these new platforms, to… you know… monetize them.

Last week there was a heated debate here on MediaPost: one lamenting the imminent death of television due to FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix,  Google/YouTube), versus another celebrating “long will TV live” in opposition to the imminent TV death opinion. FANG certainly delivers a very real and powerful set of platforms that in our household competes with “real” TV.

And I think we all agree that it is fair to say that consumers have embraced the new “stories” platforms to express themselves to their friends, family members or hundreds of thousands of followers. I am just not sure consumers appreciate or watch those same platforms with the same level of interest when the story comes from Gatorade, MasterCard or Ford. And why am I not sure? Because we have no standardized, publicly available data.

With “real TV” at least we kind of, sort of know what we are getting. We know that the ratings for traditional live network and cable TV have been steadily trending down and skewing older. We know that some shows are doing great, and others are tanking. We know the ups and the downs of networks, programs, program categories and more because… we have ratings.

Sure, we no longer have one gold standard rating because Nielsen and ComScore are competing on that front. But that is only mildly confusing when compared to FANG, where we have pretty much no idea regarding how many people watch anything of anything. And so we don’t really know the things a TV planner knows: how to build an effective delivery schedule. What is hot and what is not is still measured in “likes” and “views” but with no ability to plan and measure across platforms, content, audiences, etc.

Story telling efforts? Sure! But if I tell a story I want to know how to effectively reach my audience. FANG in that respect is still rather toothless…

We have helped many clients with establishing a process and eco-system that allows for some bite in their marketing. If you are interested, please feel free to connect with us and we will show you some great examples of how other marketers have tackled both storytelling as well as measurement and ROI for marketing investment.

[Maarten is a featured contributor to MediaPost, this article was originally published here]

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