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Stories of a future

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Stories of a future

I like stories – I like to listen to stories and I like to tell stories. Words and images, for me, are living things that lead me into new worlds where I craft my dreams, just the way I want, something that is not readily available in real world.
Stories are going to be embroidered into human lives for as long as human life persists, to lend their singular beauty and color. Like fallible human memory they might change color and texture, but stories will continue to percolate all facets of life. And technology, our faithful companion, will make our stories come alive, and how!

The sky is falling

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Stories of the future will enable us to make the sky fall exactly how and when we want. As consumers, we will earn that power.

Already, brands are telling a variety of stories, in many different ways. About mothers, babies, Christmas shopping  and teenagers in love. As consumers we love them- we root for the underdog, we shop for the largest Christmas tree and grow old with the kind lady living at the end of the street.

We think about these stories and characters long after their images have faded from our mobile screens. We google them later to experience that same old feeling again. The next day, we bring it up at lunch and someone asks for a ‘share’. Within seconds, we are sharing it on social channels – pinning it up or tweeting about it.

Stories of the future will engage our senses in a whole new way. We will be able to reach in and put flowers at the old lady’s doorstep. We will wait for her to smile when she emerges from her door the following day. Technology and content folks will arrange, and rearrange our onscreen  realms like gods, and we, the consumers will experience  these worlds in ways that will combine our realities and imaginations.

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Imagine this: A bank based in Europe sets up its Indian shop in the Mumbai of the future. As a launch vehicle, it creates the perfect interactive love story, and consumers love the shy boy Ken trying to win the feisty Mumbaikar Asha. Imagine if a Bengali girl in downtown Kolkata can reach out and ‘put’ a red bindi on Asha’s forehead, or if she can change the color of Asha’s dress. Or give her a Bengali song to sing in the Mumbai drizzle. That is the future.

Changing the course of a life, albeit in a story, is the magic we crave. Content will lead us there – enabler in the most subtle of ways. Content will be lighter, richer in visuals and malleable – in language and dialect, in style and form, in mood. It will embrace a variety of means to tell a story – innovative, simple, and tailored to the story at hand and the content-writer’s comfort.

The Real Democracy

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Content will be democratized. Crowd sourced stories will fly (when the sky falls) and before the morning is out, an orange sky will have replaced the fallen azure! While individual flavors of a story will find favor with individuals, a backbone narrative will run through them all anchoring the brand and message. It could be immensely exciting, and a huge challenge to content creators.
Content aggregators will be the backbone of these rich experiential story boards. Editors and storytellers of today will surely morph into content aggregators of tomorrow – grafting local flavors upon global culture, sifting and pulling together real-time user content to make stories breathe in sync with users’ heartbeats.

It will be fulsome and dynamic story-telling, where the excitement will continue day after day. Narrations will vary with geographies, local flavors will fulfill locally relevant needs, and the circles of influence of brands will widen in ever-enlarging circles. Every person will be an influencer… well almost.

Here’s how brand HSBC does it… it is one way of keeping an eye on a future content need.

Documentaries, sharpshooting film clips of 30 or 60 seconds’ duration and video blogs will be all the rage as every user becomes a publisher in real-time. A short text-vignette on college exam blues plus an Instagram image – and a blog post is ready in right about 3 minutes of commuting time, published on a vlog or some fast-speed video channel and shared with the global community of college-goers. In about 5 minutes, 10-20 responses are notched up, describing the state of college affairs in other parts of the world.

This group will get their first jobs soon – and soon they will be swapping stories of their first jobs. Demographic waves, this and others, will lend themselves to deeper insights in terms of behaviors and preferences, and this precious knowledge will be leveraged by brands .

Content folks will easily be the UX experts and content strategy will need to be ‘agile’ and yet remain focused. Every user will be more important than the whole segment.

In a prescient move, smart brands are already upping the ante on content.

The Atlantic was founded in 1857 as a general editorial magazine, by a group of prominent American thinkers that included among others, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Harriet Beecher Stowe. It recently rewired its native ad strategy to a highly shareable, immersive and customizable platform. One of its biggest custom content campaigns to date is for the luxury auto brand Porsche.

What makes this campaign unique? Watch it here.

Friend for all seasons

I watch my 12-year-old engage with his voice-messenger ‘Jarvis’.  I notice his tone when he ‘tells’ Jarvis to ‘make a call’ or ‘when’s the next metro’ – it is easy, conversational, the way he talks to his friends. Jarvis does not also mind his incorrect grammar and never ignores him, the way I do on occasions. Jarvis has a clear edge over me.

Hark! That’s the future, and it’s here.

Conversations… we will be making friends with the technology embedded in the very fabric of our lives. Siri and voice-enabled phones will be passé; there will be social robots, comfort cats, self-replenishing refrigerators with a personality… wearables and mobile devices are the writing on the wall.

Sherry Turkle, Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, focuses on the changing nature of human-technology interactions. She has written extensively on the psychology of human relationships with technology and strongly believes our human identity is morphing due to the slow but steady erosion of boundaries between humans and machines.

Indeed, it is becoming more and more obvious that coming generations will completely identify with machines and engage with them in fuller ways, without any aversion and embarrassment, without any inclination for the human alternative.

Just as humans evolve their ‘machine-bone’ (think bionic man), machines will need to grow a ‘human-bone’. To begin with, they will need to have the capability to converse, to engage in verbal exchanges spanning the range of human experience – from the banal utterance of a 9 to 6 workday, to social conversations, and deeper, probably soulful heartbreak conversations.

Content writers will be the gadget-conversationalists – creating personalized, personable conversations – for all occasions and all kinds of machines. They will not only create conversations, they will need to inject into those, the clumsiness and spontaneity of real human conversations.

Real human conversations are threaded with memory, and built upon shared experiences, images and thoughts about things, ideas, hopes, fears – a microcosm of the universe. Real conversations have a dash of fun, coupled with love, surprise, up and down the scale, and often that magical union of the senses. Machine-conversations will need to simulate that shared experience, the elusive human-like quality.

A content challenge, but isn’t the future always a challenge to be overcome and conquered…the Darwinian roadmap for survival? So the sky does not fall upon our collective human heads.