7 Promising Trends Defining the Future of Remarkable Brand Storytelling in 2016

Harvard business review recently published an article talking about (luxury) consumers preferring inconspicuousness of brands. After 2008, consumers didn’t necessarily want to be seen with flashy brand logos. The future of remarkable brand storytelling in 2016 will be defined by this new normal. Significant changes in consumer expectations are manifested through social media, consumer generated content and immersive digital marketing experiences. Content driven, subtler approaches are sought after as opposed to direct sales pitches. We naturally get attracted to a good story. Brand storytelling is not new. As we end the year, here are new trends that are redefining the future of remarkable brand storytelling in 2016 and beyond.

Check a quick snapshot of all the remarkable brand storytelling trends for 2016 in a visual at the end of this post!

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7 Promising Trends Defining the Future of Remarkable Brand Storytelling in 2016 and Beyond

#1 Real-Time storytelling Will Continue To Grow (Get ready to record LIVE!)

Snapchat recently launched a new storytelling feature- discover. It places content stories at the heart of the app. On discover consumers can see brand storytelling containing a story for the day. This may differ based on the channel – ranging from National Geographic photographs to recipes from the Food network.

This follows Twitter which launched “moments” for consumers to check the stories gaining traction in the day. As per moment product manager Madhu Muthukumar,

Start swiping to dive right into the story, with immersive full-bleed images and autoplaying videos, Vines, and GIFs.

Currently these moments are curated with the help of media partners including Mashable, Buzzfeed, New York Times etc. And this is likely to be opened up to other partners in the future.

Real-time video storytelling has seen an increase in popularity with the growth of live feed social platforms like Periscope and Meerkat. Easy to use, share and engage- these platforms are allowing consumers to connect with brands or influencers like never before. Some brands have used the power of “behind the scenes” authentic storytelling through these platforms. Periscope has Twitter behind it and is likely to continue to harness the power of Twitter’s own consumer base for further growth. Other than these platform led initiatives, videos and real time content curation by consumers using brand hashtags is moving forward with a gusto on all social networks.

#2 Transmedia Storytelling will continue on the mobile ( Short, responsive, fun!)

Brand stories are hybrid, multi-channel and spread across various media platforms. Text, images, videos, GIFs, Infographics are all being used together to get across various perspectives in a single stories. Mobile content saw a major consumption hike to cross 50% in 2014. Basically, consumers now spend more time on mobile devices than watching TV. Global mobile data traffic grew 69% in 2014 as per estimates by Cisco. This phenomenal growth is unlikely to stop soon. Here’s what Cisco estimates for 2019:

Mobile data traffic will grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 57 percent from 2014 to 2019, reaching 24.3 exabytes per month by 2019. The average smartphone will generate 4.0 GB of traffic per month by 2019, a fivefold increase over the 2014. (source)

Brands will latch on to this mobile storytelling opportunity. This will include mobile videos leading to insta-shares over Vine and Instagram. Facebook’s video growth over mobile feeds will also go together furthering this trend.

#3 Visual storytelling will capture consumer mindshare and engage

Human attention span has shrunk – to 8.25 seconds in 2015 compared to 12 seconds in 2000. For reference, the attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. 49% web users are reading webpages with 111 words or less (taken from 59,573 page views). It is no wonder that then, themes like big data visualization and visual storytelling have been gaining ground.

Brands are trying to discover how to share data and information in a format that provides a visual and interactive mechanism to get a message across. Infographics, GIFs, short videos- specially suited to mobiles are key. Google trends shows an interesting growth scenario for the search term infographics:

Visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest, Vine and YouTube are pushing this trend.  Brands are fully utilizing this space to engage consumers. Fast food company Wendy’s,  used  Periscope’s live video feature to star comedy duo Rhett & Link. As they chatted with the Periscope audience over, 4400 people visited the Wendy’s website. This is an interesting space for brands to explore more in 2016 and beyond.

#4 Sponsored brand storytelling will grow strong

If you’ve just heard Startup Podcast from Gimlet, you’ll know that for some this is still a controversial topic. Consumers may not always realize that it’s not usual editorial content but a sophisticated brand editorial (or advert). Most media sites, Forbes, New York Times, Huffington Post have sponsored content on their sites. Brand sponsored content is seen as an alternative revenue channel by media sites and has gained considerable attention from brands. eMarketer has predicted that marketers will spend $3.2 billion towards sponsored content by 2017.

Brands have been innovative in their adoption of sponsored content. Sponsored content examples include: GE, Best Buy, National Geographic and many others.

#5 Native advertising will grow as a part of the storytelling narrative

BI Intelligence has revealed that spending on native ads will grow to $21 billion in 2018 from $4.7 billion in 2013. As defined by the iAB, native ads may be seen in various formats and allow brands an opportunity to create adverts which gel within the social content already being consumed by readers.  This can include for instance, Facebook News Feed ads or promoted tweets on Twitter, that will draw a majority of native ad revenue between 2013 and 2018.

The key reason why this is interesting for marketers is that native ads perform better than traditional display ads, especially on mobiles. Desktop native click-through rates (CTRs) averaged 0.15%, while native-mobile ads had CTRs over 1%, as per data from Polar Media Group and Celtra. Surveys show that consumers have a positive attitude toward native advertising. But ads produced need to be relevant to avoid the risk of any backlash.

Platforms including Facebook, Instagram allow for programmatic native advertising. This leverages real-time data and decision-making to ensure that the most relevant ad is placed in the user feed, creating a user experience that’s completely unique to each user based on their preferences and shared data.

Types of native ads:

  • In-feed ads- e.g. Facebook, Forbes, Yahoo
  • Paid search- e.g. Google, Bing
  • Recommendation widgets- e.g. Outbrain, Disqus, Taboola
  • Promoted listings- e.g. Etsy, Amazon, Google
  • In-Ad (IAB Standard) with Native Element Units- e.g. Appssaavy, Martini Media
  • Custom /”Can’t Be Contained” – e.g. Flipboard, Tumblr

#6 Experiential / interactive storytelling will set brands apart

Edelman’s storytelling forecasts reveal that over 75% of journalists feel the pressure to think about their story’s potential to get shared on social platforms. Storytelling is seen as an interactive technique and social media is the holy grail of engagement.

A good example of this trend surfaced as American express worked with Taylor Swift to create a highly immersive storytelling experience through the Amex Unstaged app. The description itself is highly focused on “experience” stating:

Shot with groundbreaking 360° cameras and scored with a rich audio soundtrack based on Taylor’s single ‘Blank Space’ from her new album 1989, the experience is an immersive journey with intertwined storylines, multiple rooms and dozens of hidden interactive features waiting to be unlocked and explored.

The experience allows audiences to go behind the scenes of the Blank space music video, and as per Taylor, it’s something she’s never been able to share with her fans before. For American express, it’s a natural extension to get reach into the massive fanbase that Taylor Swift attracts.

#7 Authenticity will be key in brand storytelling (specially for millennials)

Businesses that consumers perceive as ‘authentic’ create real value. This intangible value can allow consumers to overlook flaws in the business. In a study of restaurants, professor Carroll of the Stanford business school shares,

“Authenticity seems to buffer businesses against negatives. It makes their products more appealing and at the same time, can buy them some insurance.”

91% consumers rate honest communication about products and services as the most important criterion for company behavior. Trustworthiness and authenticity are 2 of the top 5 attributes listed by millennials for brand marketing. A Cohn & Wolf study reiterates this:

63% of consumers surveyed across 12 global markets would buy from a company they consider to be authentic over and above its competitors. Moreover, 6 in 10 would recommend an authentic organization to family and friends. (source)

It’s no wonder that brands need to create stories that are authentic, enhance trust and share ideas in a convincing manner.

Concluding thoughts on the future of remarkable brand storytelling

The new branding world is composed of authentic and experiential storytelling across platforms. Consumers are choosing understated labels, and seeking out niche brands that help them express and emphasize their individuality. This showcases a great opportunity for smaller brands with a story to share. The new consumer is willing to be a part of brand stories by sharing curated content or participating as an influencer. Businesses defining the future of remarkable brand storytelling in 2016 and beyond will be exquisite storytellers who will become a part of consumer experiences seamlessly, share authentically and listen with empathy.

Here’s a quick visual snapshot of the trends defining the future of remarkable brand storytelling. Which storytelling trends are you rooting for?

7 Promising Trends Defining the Future of Remarkable Brand Storytelling in 2016 Storytelling trends brandanew

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Upasna Kakroo

Upasna co-founded Brandanew in 2014 for the sheer love of storytelling and authentic connections. She has been blogging and documenting digital stories since 2003.