The Case for Brand Storytelling

The art of telling your own stories.

Call it what you want – brand journalism, transmedia storytelling or brand storytelling – but the concept is simple (and powerful):

Brands should tell their own stories in multimedia formats and share them online via interactive social networks.

Here’s why.

Your Customers – Online

Consumers are using the internet as their preferred medium for finding and discovering information.  It is the first place they go to research new products and services.  It is the first place they go to read news.  It is where they talk with family and friends, discover new ideas and products and where they share everything from restaurant reviews to vacation photographs.

Here are some recent statistics showing this mass movement online – in every age group in the United States:

  • 96% of Generation Y (ages 18-32) belong to an online social network
  • 40% of Generation Y has written a blog
  • 85% of Generation X (ages 33-44) are online
  • 80% of Generation X buys products online
  • 47% of Baby Boomers (ages 46-63) in the have joined a social network
  • 49% of Baby Boomers say they have been influenced on a purchasing decision by an online review
  • 36% of Older Americans (ages 64 and up) maintain a social network profile
  • Older Americans are the fastest growing demographic on Facebook

No matter how you slice it: The web is where people of all ages now connect and where they find answers to their questions.  And social networks are becoming the home base for many people online.  The destination where they keep their personal items – photos, links, and connections to family and friends.

The Information Shift

More Americans are going online because there has been a seismic shift of information from offline sources to online sources.  Newspaper circulations are in a massive freefall – and have been for decades.  A recent Audit Bureau of Circulations released last month showed another 5 percent dip in newspaper circulation in the last six months.  Look at these drops in the last 20 years at some of the nation’s largest newspapers:

  • New York Times circulation: 1990 – 1.1 million, 2009 – 900,000
  • Los Angeles Times circulation: 1990 – 1.25 million, 2009 – 625,000
  • Washington Post circulation: 1990 – 750,000, 2009 – 570,000

This same loss of audience is also happening for network news stations.  In 1980, the big three networks – ABC, CBS and NBC – commanded 42.2 percent of the television news audience.  Last year, that number fell to 14.7 percent.  If you think these newspaper readers and Network News viewers flocked to cable TV – you would be wrong.  Cable TV news audiences have had stagnant growth for several years.

These readers and viewers are going to the web. See the chart below:

The result is that the web is the biggest source of information in the world.  That’s why Google processes more than 2 billion searches – every single day.

It is why internet users rank the internet as an important source of information (78 percent) higher than TV (68 percent) and newspapers (56 percent), according to eMarketer.

Mass Media Transformation

But at the same time that traditional media is in collapse – it is also evolving.  So if you visit any “traditional” media web site today, you’ll find a plethora of multimedia and interactive features. Take the Bloomberg Businessweek web site. Visit and you’ll discover a blog network, dynamic video content, podcasts, reader forums, interactive galleries and reader generated content.

Journalists used to be responsible for writing news articles. Now they are responsible for blogging (at least 40 percent are now required to blog for their publications), tweeting, creating videos and podcasts, maintaining their own social networks, appearing on TV and radio and even authoring books (both traditional and electronic).

These journalists – call them Social Journalists – are now in dire need of multimedia content – because they need to create it themselves.

The Rise of Brand Storytelling

Given the climate – consumers flocking online for information and mass media transforming into multimedia platformssmart brands are realizing the power of controlling and creating their own online storytelling.

So what is Brand Storytelling?

It is when a company or organization creates its own interactive content and shares it online through various channels and in multimedia formats.

This can be like what Kaspersky Lab’s is doing with ThreatPost or the way brands like Boeing are rethinking the way they present information on their corporate web sites.

Kaspersky Lab’s ThreatPost is operated as an online security magazine.  The company hired professional journalists to run it and create multimedia content about online security.  The web site provides news articles, features, podcasts, videos and slideshows that are available at Threatpost or via newsletter, RSS, Facebook, Twitter, etc.  They even have an iPhone application.

The site has been growing an audience for the last two years and now has more than 40,000 monthly readers.  Threatpost has become a go-to source for security information – all of it sponsored by Kaspersky Lab.

Boeing recently dumped it’s old corporate web site and instead has replaced it with a multimedia, interactive magazine-style site.  They feature bold, innovative stories about employees, projects, culture and trends happening in its industry. Boeing is writing the stories and features about itself that it used to pitch to the media.

Think of the power in that premise.

What about your brand?  Are you telling your own stories?  Do you have a content creation plan?  Are you proactively engaging with customers online?  If not, why not?


David Meerman Scott’s post on Brand Journalism

Steve Rubel’s post on Transmedia Storytelling

Newspapers Spin the Bad Circulation News

Traditional Media is Social Media

Businessweek web site

Do Corporate-Sponsored News Blogs Work?


Boeing’s web site

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7 Responses to “The Case for Brand Storytelling”

  1. It has been predicted that by 2020, newspapers will vanish in US & 2040 in the world…

  2. you bring a cogent argument to the table about why brands need to be telling their own tales. but i still wonder if most consumers are willing to listen to brands in this way. hasn’t social media made us all suspect the motives of corps.?

  3. Hi Jack345:
    If brands don’t talk about themselves – then others will. Why not provide information and engage in the discussions? Especially when the talk is about you, your products and services?


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