Transmedia – Branded Storytelling (part 1)

Storytelling has always been the best marketing tool that man has ever discovered. For thousands of years, stories have mesmerized awestricken humans and sold all sorts of theories, concepts and beliefs through their magic. Stories hence are a fundamental part of who we are and how we communicate. But stories would be of no value if there did not exist a way to spread those thoughts and beliefs to the world around us. So in order for the stories to be passed along and communicated from generation to generation and also to other cultures and societies, these stories require suitable vehicles for transportation. The invention of paper was the start of a great journey for stories which could then be saved for all of eternity. Moving forward to the 1900s to a time of mass media and broadcast tv/radio, the communication spectrum exploded. When radio came along, there was no competing medium for the next 20 years. In this time marketing campaigns either unconnected mediums with little or no integration of the message between mediums mainly due to lack of resources. After the advent of broadcast tv, and a myriad of new mass mediums like mass scale outdoor and country wide circulation of some newspapers, it was time for integrated marketing communication. With only a few channels to choose from, one could often see an adaptation of the TVC to the radio script and the same visual being used in print and outdoor advertising. Soon enough, multiple channels began to spread off and all kinds of consumer niches began to see dedicated content portals delivering to their needs. This was the time of 360 communication where a single minded proposition of the advertiser was portrayed on multiple channels, each medium running content most suitable for that medium. The major difference between IMC and 360 was that the message was tailored according to the medium so one could see a totally different story on print versus what was shown on TV ofcourse keeping with the same campaign theme. The internet had already been invented for more than 30 years when the 360 communication concept got another major addon. Web 2.0 or the power of social media made sure that the era broadcast advertising was coming to an end. Broadcasting, as the word says for itself is content sprayed on to the population. It is a one way road. But the new technologies put the power back into the hands of the people. The broadcaster can choose to spray but the consumer will chose what he wants to see. Also the consumer now has total control to manipulate the content in the way he sees fit. Welcome to the world of transmedia integration. Here each medium gets its own version of the story with little overlap between mediums. This is great a departure from the media neutral thinking that most communication strategists are taught to master. For transmedia integration to work, the central concept of the story is conjured by a grand storyteller who marries the brand idea to an interesting and captivating story. The central story is then handed over to sub level storytellers who are expert storytellers of their mediums. These experts do not have to care about maintaining the integrity of the plots on their own medium of choice. For these experts the story on their medium of expertise has to be extraordinary as a standalone on their individual medium. The layered structure of trandmedia storytelling cannot ensure where the consumer will pick the thread of the story from. That is why each medium needs to have standalone appeal.

Transmedia Integration is relatively new to the world of branding but as a communication science it has existed for a while now. The most formal version of it was first seen on cinema’s in the form of The Matrix trilogy and soon afterwards it was theorized and given a formal name. In the words of Henry Jenkins, the most acclaimed author of the book Convergence Culture, in transmedia storytelling “each part of the story is unique and plays to the strengths of the medium. The result is a new kind of narrative where story flows across each platform forming a rich narrative tapestry that manifests in an array of products and multiple revenue streams. The audience is both validated and celebrated for participating in the story world through the medium of their choice”

This brings me to the end of part 1. Part 2 would talk about a global example of transmedia storytelling in the world of brands.

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~ by illuxon on January 12, 2010.

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