Getting Real – The future of storytelling
Imagine this: How would you feel if you could experience the world with ‘another person’s eyes?’ Suppose you are reading a biography of an influential person, like Alexander Graham Bell, and by using augmented reality or location aware apps, you could get a sense of how Mr. Bell looks at your mobile phone.
Wouldn’t it be amazing to catch his reaction when he sees your phone and realizes how far we have come from the first voice-over-wire transmissions?
Today, several brands are trying to engage the audience with more ‘customizable’ experiences. However, the storytelling platform is rapidly evolving to enable more ‘participatory’ experiences where the audience can actively engage in real time with the story than simply being voyeurs.
You could say that this evolution is partly due to the increasing audience appetite for enriched content experiences. The audience, of now and henceforth, seek experiences that will allow them to not only delve deeper into stories, but also bring these stories out of the screen – literally and figuratively – to blend with their real lives.
This desire for new content experiences is widespread and growing. Since we live in an ‘always on’ mobile world, the audience expectations are increasing and they have a place in their lives only for those brands that provide them a memorable experience, in other words, ‘an experience of which they are a part!’
As content creators, it is our responsibility to ensure that our content paves the way for more enriched experiences where we not only make it available and accessible 24/7 but also make audience interaction, one that blends both physical with digital world, a part of the narrative.
Out of the screen, into the real world
With access to content around the clock, it is imperative that this content gets smarter by becoming relevant to where we are and what we’re doing in the physical world. Real world will then become another platform and different technologies like 3D projected environments, augmented reality, etc. will become the bridge between the real/physical and digital world.
Lonely Planet in its endeavors to stay ahead of the curve is creating an app that will combine the real and digital world. In an interview with Outside Online, Matthew McCroskey, Head of mobile products, explains, “You’re in Rome, standing by the Colosseum. It’s 3 P.M. on a Thursday in summer. You open your phone, and it says, ‘Hey, glad you enjoyed the Colosseum, which was on the itinerary we helped you make. We know you love coffee. Time for a cappuccino! The best cappuccino place in Rome is two blocks away. Here are walking instructions. And while you’re walking, you should know: Don’t order a cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy; they only drink them for breakfast, and they’re going to think you’re a stupid American. So you should get a macchiato. And this is how you ask for it.'”
Wow. Isn’t that something?
In the above case, content creators have two tasks cut out for them. One is to have all the relevant information about the itinerary, the audience preferences (café or gelato), best places around, how to get there, some local facts and how to ask for it in Italian. The second task entails tying these bits of information with a single thread to provide a more unified, seamless and real experience.
The ‘getting real’ of the content can lead to increased immersive, interactive, integrative and impactful content experiences and drive more engagement than ever before.
Immersive – Can one go deeper into the story-world, by learning more about it or by heightening the sensory experience of it?
Imagine an app that gives information about what else was going on in real world when ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was conceived. How did it draw inspiration from the world around it? What was going on in the author’s mind?
Content creators can activate the world of that time with relevant cross-information to immerse the audience into the story.
Interactive – What if the audience could change or influence the elements of the story in some way? Or interact with other people around the story?
What if they could solve a crime with Mr. Sherlock? Help him find evidence, give him suggestions. It would be like a story playing out in real-time where they not only befriend the character but significantly participate in the storytelling by modifying it based on their interaction.
As content creators, we must ensure that their interaction is exciting and real and provide enough possibilities that the audience feels in control of the situation and can influence it in any way they prefer.
Integrative – Is a cohesive story being told across platforms? Can you interface with the real world in some way?
For instance, a clothing brand like VERO MODA could change its inventory every month to support a new theme or ‘story’ (love, friendship, work, passion, etc.). Here, content creators can turn a physical space into a story and provide an enriched experience. Undoubtedly, integrating with the ‘real world’ is an interesting opportunity for retail brands.
Impactful – Does the story inspire you to take action in real life, such as making a purchase or supporting a good cause?
Zombies, Run an app that makes routine running sessions much more fun has reportedly led to several health benefits. It is an immersive experience with a positive impact. Conspiracy for good, a first-of-its-kind interactive story, empowers its audience to take real-life action and create positive change in the world. They call it ‘Social Benefit Storytelling.’
Content creators have the opportunity to use current events as themes for the story-world which in turn could lead to a positive impact in the actual world – for individuals or for the society.
Need for Control
As the web becomes more interactive and real-time, audiences will want increased control over their individual content experiences, one that would allow them to alter a storyline or manipulate plot events.
For instance, what if the Game of Thrones TV show had a separate production for web consumption where storytelling decisions came from the community! The audience could influence or become the character themselves, alter the storyline, then compare it to the book or the show on TV. How awesome would that be?
Content creators must craft narratives with enough leeway to allow the audience to donate creativity can open up a whole new realm of storytelling and content experience.
When characters become friends
We always identify with our favorite characters’ specific challenges and aspirations but that is usually from a distance. What if the audience could have more personal and fluid character encounters— one where he/she seeks advice, explains a complex relationship or even confides in them? This character will then become a friend with whom they share an emotional bond.
Content creators have the opportunity to level up on the character-audience relationship. They can make the characters more compelling by making them more human and more relatable. The audience loves to delve deeper into the minds of our favorite characters and want to establish a relationship with them. Building a strong, relatable character, one with whom they have an emotional bond can have a great impact on creating brand awareness, influencing purchase decisions and encouraging positive action.
A Parallel world
Just as we can access content constantly, is there a possibility that the content can access us as well?
As characters become more ‘real’, it is only natural that they go on living even when the audience is not tuned in. When significant events happen, they receive a notification about the recent developments via text alerts. Such narratives with a ‘real-time’ story-world will definitely motivate the audience to tune in more often to ensure they aren’t missing anything.
Content creators must strive to create an ‘always-on’ content experience. They can push the limits of how, when and where stories are told to provide a more wholesome, real-time, real-life experience where events keep unfolding in the story-world and the audience can tune in whenever they like.
Imagination is everything. Since it doesn’t cost a dime to imagine, content creators and storytellers can never shortchange themselves when they stretch their imagination!
The future of storytelling is all about making it ‘real’ for the audience. Content will play an important role to weave these ‘real’ experiences by replacing lackluster information with compelling narratives. Technology, undoubtedly, will become a great enabler of these next-gen narratives to create enhanced content and brand experiences. How else do you imagine Mr. Bell peering at your mobile phone?