One of our most popular posts, Great Examples of Multiplatform Storytelling outlines an approach to telling stories across platforms, and provides concrete examples. The strong response to the post (which analytics reveal was driven largely by search) tells us two things.
First, many companies, marketers, and entrepreneurs are interested in telling multiplatform stories. As champions of all types of storytelling, we are thrilled. And we get it. We all enjoy media on various platforms and devices, so limiting stories to just one of either almost seems odd.
Secondly, audiences are curious about multiplatform stories: what they are, who’s telling them well, and what the great examples are.
Here, then, are more details, more examples, and a suggestion about a specific style of multiplatform storytelling called cross-platform marketing.
What is Multiplatform Storytelling? – A Review with Examples
The exact meaning of multiplatform storytelling is deceivingly complex. In short, it’s telling one story on multiple platforms. Simple, right? Well, it does get a bit tricky. The process is arguably most common on a large scale, as with many of our original examples. So we’ll stick with two heavy hitters to start.
Ex. 1: A Universe of One’s Own in Comics Movies
Looking at live-action comic book adaptations, Disney-Marvel’s are true multiplatform storytelling. Getting the whole story requires watching films, network TV, and several series on Netflix. The stories share a single timeline and affect one another. Marvel’s 17th film installment in the saga is the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.
Marvel’s longtime competitor, DC Comics, went another way with partner Warner Studios. Their film and television products are separate stories featuring overlapping characters. In TV alone there are two current universes! This is not multiplatform storytelling, just similar stories told on different platforms.
Ex. 2: J.K. Rowling Spreads Her Magic
How about a more literary example? In the mainstream, the Harry Potter saga has only recently become multiplatform storytelling. At first, the movies were book adaptations, repeating and even contracting the original stories. But lately, the Harry Potter narrative has expanded across multiple platforms. These include official web posts; a play in London’s West End called Harry Potter and the Cursed Child and set well after the books’ conclusion, with the script available in print; plus at least five film prequels, including 2016’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The key to multiplatform storytelling, again, is telling parts of one story in multiple places, just like the Harry Potter and Marvel franchises. It’s not telling similar or repeated stories on multiple platforms, as Harry Potter did before and DC Comics prefers to do still.
How Multiplatform Affects Marketers
Many marketers may argue that everything they do is multiplatform storytelling.
After all–speaking as a marketer, our brand stories, the understanding of our company we want the public to receive, has main characters, an origin story, and a set of values. And we tell this story through direct marketing, web content, newsletters, social media, experiential events, and more.
But it is also possible for companies to employ multiplatform storytelling in the strictest sense. That is, to tell a single narrative with a beginning, middle, and end in multiple locations. The more resources you have the easier this will be. But it’s possible to do on a shoestring. All you need is a compelling story and more than one place to tell it.
The good news? To humans, every story is compelling. It’s just how we’re wired.
Multiplatform Marketing Done Right
Certainly, multiple-installment ads on diverse platforms do exist. There is even a term for them: cross-platform marketing. When it involves narrative, we can call it cross-platform story marketing.
One of the best examples was the successful #LifeComesNext campaign by John Hancock, a US insurance company. Spanning 2014-2015, it consisted of five television commercials shot in a high-budget, naturalistic style. They presented common interactions, like being called into a superior’s office or receiving an unexpected phone call. At the moment of crisis, when the stakes are about to become clear, each commercial abruptly ended. A simple question appears on the screen: what happens next?
The approach was almost infuriatingly effective. No matter how completely viewers realize this is only a commercial or that the outcome will inevitably involve the need for sufficient insurance, we all want to see what happens. To satisfy that need, viewers were directed to a dedicated microsite, that is sadly no longer available online, where three different endings were available for each commercial.
John Hancock also continued discussion of the videos, the best ending, additional alternate endings, and offered related advice, all on social media using the campaign’s hashtag – arguably opening another platform for the narrative.
Here’s How You Can Do It, Too
As mentioned, the desire for resolution to unfinished stories is nearly impossible to ignore. You can take advantage of this in your own advertising.
Begin by imagining a narrative. Maybe it’s about how a customer was helped by your service or product. Or perhaps a completely fictional story only loosely related to your company.
Either way, chances are you can’t afford national TV airtime to plant the seed. Don’t worry, other viable options are available. These include newspaper or trade magazines where you can start a story to a targeted audience; a public guerilla marketing campaign involving posters or printouts; instructing sales people and staff, as well as yourself, to start the story in person; or, of course, you can use any social media channel, including LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even Snapchat to start your story.
A good option for part two of your cross-platform marketing story is your own website or microsite. That way, you can perhaps get visitors to sign up for a newsletter (that hopefully doesn’t suck) or even to make a purchase.
Conclusion: Go Forth and Multiplatform
But don’t limit your creativity to these suggestions, either. Use the opportunity and audience interest to experiment with new formats and approaches. Daring to be bold is a primary draw to both multiplatform storytelling and cross-platform story marketing alike.
Above all, have fun with it. Your audience will, too.
For more tips on how multiplatform marketing can generate business and grow your brand awareness, stick with us online, subscribe to our storytelling newsletter, take our storytelling e-course, or follow us on social media.
And if we can help you achieve any of your marketing goals, drop us a line.