Transmedia Storytelling - Power of Multiple Media Channels

Posted in Marketing & Strategy Articles, Total Reads: 847 , Published on 09 October 2015
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You get a Twitter update in the morning regarding a recent event of public interest. You probably open the link to the article sometime during your lunch break, and go back and read up on it more thoroughly in the evening at your own leisure. What you’ve just experienced, is the everyday phenomenon of crossmedia storytelling.

Crossmedia involves the same contribution to a story – only through multiple media channels. Now, imagine that each of these specific mediums makes its independent contribution to the unfolding of the same story. This method involves the pendulum-like movement between fandom and canon that comprise the universe of the story. Spin-offs, prequels, sequels – narrative expansions, in addition to recaps, timelines, merchandizing, installations – lateral expansions, all comprise the world of Transmedia storytelling.


Hence, merely declaring that “Content is King” may not suffice today. A single blog post, meme or infographic cannot suffice in narrating a brand story. What brands need today is to deliver a powerful message build around a narrative that echoes its central philosophy, and in turn helps establish a long-lasting bond with the consumers or audience.


Genesis

Although the practice has come into its own in recent years, we can trace its origins back to the Japanese media mix strategy of the 1960s. Some even claim that the roots go further back, to the earliest works of literature.



Image: flickr-body-bytes


The processes by which stories are spread and evolved are linked to the long-standing models of media franchising. Transmedia brands, so to speak, have traditionally depended on trademark laws, however the social consumption of the same is spread across geographies based on licensing agreements. Simultaneously, new digital avenues of creative licensee acquisition (read: Creative Commons) have supported the practice in today’s digital age. In terms of scholarly research, one of the first mentions of the term “Transmedia” was by Marsha Kinder (1911) in her essay on children’s culture being newly constituted by “entertainment super-systems” across films, TV & gaming. It was further defined by Henry Jenkins – “Transmedia Storytelling represents a process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified & coordinated entertainment experience.”


What makes a brand’s story “Transmedia”?

Transmedia can be used most effectively while building stories that are authentic, human, interesting and capable of invoking emotions in the consumer.

• Narrative: Transmedia helps create a detailed fictional universe, or can even take an existing, factual universe – and allows it to be viewed from the perspective of the brand’s proposition.

• Hypertextual seriality & subjectivity: As the story unfolds, many facets represent different point of views of the characters, and help add multiple layers to the existing story.

• Audience: From a creator’s point of view, transmedia involves the production of content that engages the audience, making them not just the consumers but the “prosumers” – consumers + producers – of the universe.

• Business Model: Being a flexible and democratic marketing technique, Transmedia can be adopted by all kinds of brands or organizations for all stakeholders – B2B, B2C, and even C2B. A successful business strategy for Transmedia utilizes one of the following options – free, paid, sponsored or crowd-funded – to deliver solid and ROI-friendly delivery of content.

• Platforms: Transmedia platforms include, but are not restricted to – Websites, apps, books, movies, television, comics, web series, online games, social media platforms, Alternate Reality games, guerilla marketing, ambush marketing, forums, etc.


Examples

Some of the forms of narrative that Transmedia storytelling can take, include parodies, memes, alternative endings, mashups, previews, teasers, adaptations, fan fiction, consumer stories and the likes. Some popular examples are as follows:

• Looking at some of the most epic works of fiction – Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones & the likes – it can be safe to assume that Transmedia has traditionally hit gold. Theonering.net is an example of LOTR fandom in deep collaboration with the original canon. The Harry Potter universe is unfolding to date, with the release of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them. Game of Thrones (the TV series), as well as the canon by GRR Martin, “A Song of Ice & Fire”, are two different versions of the same story, within the same worlds of Westeros & Esos – the multi-viewpoint narratives of the various characters only adding to the heightened storytelling experience.

• The Hunger Games series ran a viral Transmedia campaign with the introduction of billboards broadcasting “Capitol Couture” futuristic fashion, and converted its Tumblr profile into a fan-sourced online magazine – an excellent example of both Transmedia and customer centricity.

• The famous Sherlock Holmes series were penned by Arthur Conan Doyle, after he drew inspiration from the science and forensic practices of the day.

• The Star Wars universe is one that has been entirely built by its fans and Transmedia success. The toys for the latest installment were for unveiled by fans, for fans, in a global event just yesterday.

• Chipotle recently ran its “Scarecrow” campaign, which was an animated short about a dystopian future rules by processed foods. This led to a “Scarecrow” app, which continued the character’s animated adventure. The campaign embodied the brand sentiment of helping consumers “cultivate a better world.”

• Cosplay & Comic Con conferences can be considered an extension of the animation universe in general.

• The creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax,had partial paralysis and used to immerse himself in the world of storytelling as an escape route. The idea for the now world-famous game came about when he was inspired by a Japanese cartoon and imagined him coming to life and giving him advice. He incorporated his own interpretation of the juxtaposition of real & reel life to create the complex DnD universe as we know it today.

• The Coca Cola – Open Happiness campaign storyboard took advantage of multiple platforms to promote the brand’s core story – Live Positively. Present-day digital technologies helped Coke leverage its consumers by involving them in the unfolding of the brand’s story. The company had even created an “Open Happiness” Bible to outline the characters and the universe it plays in.


Future Applications

According to Lance Weller, CEO Connected Sparks, most of the storytelling of the future is going to be about experiences, and the ability to design them.

Thus, in the future, we can anticipate stories from all types of brands that create interactive multimedia content:

• Video tools such as 3WDOC, Stipple and Klynt will be incorporated more frequently;

• Transmedia experts and planners will orchestrate entire campaigns – content creation, scheduling, logistics and overall campaign management - using tools such as Zapier and IFTTT;

• For the gaming industry, Transmedia is expected to witness an even more massive growth with the advent of Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality, 3D printing, Wearable Technology etc. to create customized and hyperlocal experiences. This will be done with the help of tools like Aris Games and SCVNGR;

• Television shows will also witness a shift from traditional crossmedia storytelling to interactive and real-time multi-screen experiences, especially for live news and sporting events;

• For the world of cinema, ARGs will become an important part of campaigns, and proprietary platforms will be adopted to create more engagement (example TakePart);

• Indie authors & documentary filmmakers will also latch on to the trend and catalyze social movements around the original content related to their cause;

• Brands in general will also create storyboard-focused campaigns that engage with consumers on a personal level.


Why is truly impactful?

In Transmedia, creative – and not budget – is the limit. While every brand shares its story across multiple platforms today, what actually makes the technique revolutionary is the way we – the consumers – learn from these touchpoints and build the brand identity in our minds. It is a complete, 360 degrees view of the brand centered around its core brand values – whether the brand is a consumer durable, FMCG product or an entertainment proposition.


Thus, the use of narrative can be extrapolated for a variety of purposes – ranging from building a brand’s identity, to social causes that transpire movements and help implement changes in policy. Transmedia has become more of an economic imperative than ever before, with businesses now being able to create truly immersive experiences for their consumers. Brands should be built for and with their fans, and Transmedia ensures the same in a holistic and engaging manner. Stories appeal to one and all in spite of whatever medium is used to share them– after all, “The medium is the message”.


This article has been authored by Vismaya Jain from MICA


Bibliography

Ford, S. (n.d.). What Great B2B Transmedia Storytelling Looks Like. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from www.fastcompany.com: http://www.fastcompany.com/3004873/what-great-b2b-transmedia-storytelling-looks

Hansen, D. (n.d.). When Old-Fashioned Storytelling Meets 21st Century Tech. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from StreamDaily: http://streamdaily.tv/2015/06/05/innovation-when-old-fashioned-storytelling-meets-21st-century-tech/

Johnson, D. (n.d.). A History of Transmedia Entertainment | Spreadable Media. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from spreadablemedia.org: http://spreadablemedia.org/essays/johnson/

MSL Group. (n.d.). Transmedia Storytelling : Ten Frontiers for the Future of Engagement. Retrieved September 5, 2015, from Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/mslgroup/7-transmedia-storytelling-ten-frontiers-for-the-future-of-engagement

Rutledge, D. P. (n.d.). Every brand is a story but does that make it transmedia? Retrieved September 5, 2015, from www.mprcenter.org: http://mprcenter.org/blog/2015/04/every-brand-is-a-story-but-does-that-make-it-transmedia/?hvid=3vO9U



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