“How can my brand carve content experiences that can transform potential customers into life-long customers?”
You and your team may return to this question time and again. You might have an excelling product range and product position. But in a world brimming with heavy competition in practically every industry, how can your brand get noticed and freeze in your audience’s memories? How can your brand fashion a content experience that can intermix powerful content with fresh, experiential design?
The answer in two words: Narrative Design.
Read on to understand what narrative design is, how it impacts a brand, and how your brand can benefit from it.
What is Narrative Design?
Narrative Design uses “story” to weave both materiality (for example, your products or services) and cultural meaning (things that resonate the most with your collective audience). The result is a highly interactive and memorable experience that, in many cases, leaves a long-lasting mark on the audience. Many brands, today and throughout history, could tap into the power of narrative design to literally change the way people live and work.
Customers today want to have memorable experiences that are not only meaningful for them but also relevant to their lives. When infused in content marketing, narrative design can become the difference between top-notch and mediocre.
Let’s take the example of video games to understand the power of narrative design. Unlike in movies, you cannot predict how a story would unfold in a video game because a lot is influenced by the way players interact with the game.
Here, the creators create a whole new world around their product and offer the players a chance to become an important part of the game. In other words, in the world of video games, stories are not made by simply putting some text on the screen. Instead, they pop out from every element of the game itself. This factor makes video games a lot more engaging and immersive for players.
But when it comes to your brand, how can you ensure your content remains unique and compelling – with the ability to keep your customers engaged from start to end? Read on to understand.
Bringing Home the Power of Narrative Design
Narrative design goes beyond the realm and technicalities of pain points and solutions. Here’s how to tap into the power of narrative design:
Establish the “Story” you Want to Tell
In narrative design, the story becomes the medium through which you deliver your content experience to your audience. Here’s the best way to go about creating a story:
1. Engage the senses – A story must have the right elements to target human memory and emotions. When you engage your audience’s senses through a story, your product tends to stay in their minds for years.
2. Go beyond the technicalities – your product might be the best in the industry. But to help your audience see that in the crowd requires the power of story. Sprinkle elements like universal belonging, joy, memories, and others to form a story that reaches straight to their hearts.
3. Target the collective consciousness – This can be done by using relational meaning to connect your content experience with your collective audience. Apple’s early campaigns discussed below are a great example.
Steve Jobs didn’t present Apple’s products as just, well, products. Instead, he triggered the target customers’ desire to transform into pioneers of the future. His campaign “Here’s to the Crazy Ones” and “Think Different” resonated with the collective audience from the 90s nerd culture.
Apple quickly became the king of the tech jungle because it made use of consistent storytelling to target the collective consciousness of the customers, create lasting memories in a meaningful manner, and align its content experience beautifully with the target customers’ desires.
Get to Know Your Audience Better
Every company knows how to discover and address its audience’s pain points. But what does a truly successful company do differently? The answer: they know exactly how to relate their brand to their (potential) customers’ dreams and aspirations. In other words, they let their brand use the power of empathy to strike a “connection” with their audience in a meaningful space.
Great content marketing goes beyond the Q&As of paint points and solutions. They invest time and energy into understanding “who” their audience really is. They journey beyond the data offered by consumer-based consensus. Instead, they try to explore the collective psyche of their audience to understand what “grips” them the most.
A great way to understand your audience is to understand what their cultural reality looks like. Ask yourself, what do your customers dream about? How can you make your brand resonate with them across multiple geographies and cultures?
Take companies like PayPal, Airbnb, and Uber. One of the reasons they could be wildly successful was because they launched product categories that never existed before. These brands cultivated a solid understanding of what their audiences aspired for and engineered innovative ways of marketing content. GoPro, for example, established every user as a “hero” by allowing them to connect with their products on an emotional level.
In-depth research on these questions discussed above can help you unravel the real-time relevance of your product. They will help discover innovative ways to understand your customers’ needs, desires, and dreams – so you can weave the webs of narrative design into your marketing.
Put the Spotlight on Immersive Experience
What’s the difference between watching a film on your laptop and watching a film at the theatre? Better immersion. When you elevate the level of immersion, you automatically strengthen the context of the experience you offer – making it a lot more impactful and memorable.
Immersive storytelling has the capacity to engage human senses on a more magnified level. It is when your audience interacts effortlessly with your story. New mediums of delivery such as VR, AR, and MR are the future of immersive content marketing.
While not every new technology can be applied to every business, it’s still important to offer your absolute best.
Collective Creativity Can Work Wonders
Collective creativity acts as fuel for creating a valuable narrative design. When new ideas from diverse teams collide, the magic begins to brew. Thanks to a highly globalized world, there is never a shortage of fresh ideas and imagination.
With easy access to outside consultants, agencies, artists, and creators, creative workforces today stand stronger than ever. With an endless train of diverse ideas at your disposal, now is the best time ever to extract everything that can add value to your narrative design.
Remember, when it comes to tapping into collective creativity in your own business, it is important that you create a space for diverse creatives who bring fresh ideas, never-before-explored strategies, and innovative solutions to the table.
Let Your Customers Explore the “Unexplored”
As humans, we love to discover new experiences. The possibility of experiencing something new and unique excites us and when we appreciate these experiences, they stay with us for years. As humans, we are wired to be curious!
So, what happens when your narrative design taps into your customers’ tendency to be curious? They look forward to journeying through the experience through self-discovery, interacting with your content, and (sometimes) even finding the answers to their pains. When your audience journeys through these experiences, you also stand to understand “exactly” what it is they want more and how you can deliver it.
With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility
Brands tend to have a massive impact on different groups of society. They also have the power to inspire the masses to think or act in a certain manner. In fact, brands throughout history have even transformed the way people live and work.
While the power a brand may hold might open up new possibilities, it also comes with heavy responsibility. You want to create stories that lead your customers into a positive future. This includes offering products or services that are meaningful, cause considerably lower environmental waste, and more.
Every content experience your brand churns out must be treated as a cultural artifact. The goal here is to help your audience understand the future is meant to be a lot better than the present.
While you might not have to bear the burden of such a lofty responsibility just yet, it is still worthwhile to include it in your narrative design toolkit.
That said, a winning brand is always responsive to what its customers need across several platforms. They ensure each interaction their audience has with them becomes a valued experience. You might create a meaningful story, but the narrative design process isn’t complete unless you run this story through the activation, placement, and exposure of each experience. After all, these are the experiences that can impact markets and transform societal values for the better.
How Narrative Design Sets your Brand Apart
Now that you know how to bolster your content experience using narrative marketing, you’re probably wondering what positive results it can bring to the table. Here is how narrative design changes how your brand is perceived.
1. It Goes Beyond Just “Serving the Purpose”: Your product is nothing more than “a tool” if it acts only as the answer to a need. On the other hand, if your content experience blends function with form and context, you begin to stay ahead of the curve. Today, the customer seeks “identification” and “meaning” when using a brand. What other way to shine a light on these feelings than through a great story?
2. Making A Difference
You might offer the best product in the market. But does your audience believe that? The short answer? They don’t. The reason? Any other brand can just as easily call itself the best. So, how can you convince your potential customers that you, in fact, have the best product? Nothing does the trick better than great storytelling. Through narrative design, you can not only build a new category of products but also establish your brand as the leader of this category.
3. Being Highly Interactive, Persuasive, and Engaging
Remember our discussion about the link between video games and narrative design? Narrative design can help your brand harness a similar power to get your audience to interact and engage with your brand. The story you deploy can pull your collective audience into the world of your product and allow them to become a valuable part of it. This, in turn, helps your brand expand through more discussions, shares, and conversions.
4. Bringing Down the Customer-Acquisition Costs (CAC): There are countless players in every industry, each fighting to be on top. As a result, brands have been experiencing a steady rise in customer acquisition costs. Sure, you can try to pierce through the competition. It might even work at times. But what happens when you “differentiate” yourself from the rest using narrative design? The audience interaction with your brand increases, lowering the investment costs of CAC along the way. In addition, prospects that interact and stay engaged tend to share their own journeys from time to time. The result is an increase in the reach of your acquisition channels.
3 Holy Grails of A Solid Narrative Design Strategy
Narrative design demands comprehensive understanding, planning, data gathering, and creativity.
Not every brand may be willing to pour in the hard work that it takes. But for your brand’s voice to be “heard” in the loud din of a competitive industry, the use of narrative design is vital. There is no “special formula” to build a narrative design strategy. No one-size-fits-all method.
However, three critical elements – your audience, your product, and the story you want to weave – can offer you a solid roadmap to build your own strategy.
Let’s dive deeper into how you can work on the following holy grails of narrative design to stand out from the crowd:
1. Your Audience
As content marketers who plan strategies on a regular basis, your team must already be skilled in gathering data related to your competition, buyer persona, and the channels you must use. But when it comes to using the narrative to build your own (separate) category, you’ll need a lot more than you already have.
Remember, the customer is always the protagonist of your story. Find a way to introduce them to your product in a meaningful and entertaining manner.
Understand what pains your audience has that your competitors are trying to solve. How can you deploy storytelling through a fresh and interesting experience that can’t be found in any other type of content in the industry?
Remember, narrative design in marketing is about targeting your customers’ emotions, dreams, and aspirations – it’s not just about habits, age, and financial situation. The only way you can offer the best content experience is by knowing your audience’s lives better than any other competitor.
2. Your Content
For your narrative strategy to work, you need to first build a consolidated world and lay out an easy path to guide your customers through it. The map of this consolidated world will comprise all the content you craft to put your story out there, your distribution channels, and the methods you will invite your audience to be a part of it.
A great first step would be using interactive content (quizzes, infographics, videos, ebooks, etc). When telling a story, it is critical to strike the right balance between your strategy’s set-ups and payoffs. But don’t just build the hype, deliver all of it.
3. Your Story
When a brand executes a successful narrative design strategy, they stand out from the crowd for its innovation. You might weave a great story with narrative design, offer a memorable content experience, and even become your audience’s favorite. But success won’t last very long if you stop after one story.
Think of it as any successful TV series. Every episode has a story to tell that “hooks” the audience in. To keep them hooked to your show, you’ll have to keep offering great episodes consistently.
Remember to build a new story by hopping back to the first plan each time you see the need for a fresh product positioning or any other brand transformation.
To Wrap It All Up
The great thinker Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”
This line pretty much sums up all the principles that narrative design is made of. Strategizing your next content experience using narrative design starts with out-of-the-box thinking. When thinking in the language of narrative design, you get closer to what the future could be like for your company.
This future could either include entirely new product categories or unlock fresh customer experiences. By consistently researching on your audience, your story, and your content – you begin to discover what the technical or repetitive arenas of marketing tend to limit. As discussed, a narrative design that emerges from collective creativity thrives through a constant supply of fresh ideas. If you’re ready to take your brand up a notch through the art of narrative design, Iris Marketing Solutions can help transform your target audience into loyal customers.