The art of storytelling – Day 2 at WOMMA Summit
The second day at the Womma conference was dominated by Storytelling. People like hearing stories. How do stories like Robin Hood survive for centuries? People simply love those types of stories and tell them to others.
The art therefore is for companies to tell a story. Preferably a story with the necessary ‘juicy’ elements to motivate people to tell the story to others.
It can be funny, but it works better if it comes from your heart
The day started with a duo presentation of the ‘Kitchen Sisters’. The duo is apparently quite well known here in the U.S. They host a popular radio show. To be honest: after an evening with perhaps a little too much wine, I had hoped for a presentation with more power to start the day. It was a bit like watching a radio show – and that at 8 o’clock in the morning… The message of their story was of course very pertinent: people are looking for stories. Their most important tips in this story are about visualising and defining stories. Make sure a story has a face. Later that day I listened to a great story about Ben & Jerry’s. The nice thing is that their story has the face of the two founders. Furthermore, people are always looking for a secret and something that is not actually directly related to the brand. This seemed to be an interesting conclusion. If you start thinking that way, a Facebook page can take on a much sexier role than is currently the case for most companies. Yesterday, the Sales Director of Facebook explained that the Coca Cola fan page has 12 million fan visitors per month (versus 270,000 website visitors). Sharing any number of ‘secrets’ through this page creates a good story. Stories do not require inventing, every company has them. Stories are everywhere, so say the Kitchen Sisters. Do not invent fake stories; just use the existing stories of your people. I liked their final tip the most: a story may be funny, and will work, but it will work much better if the story comes from the heart.
Ben & Jerry’s manage the story very cleverly
During the introduction to their presentation, the people of Ben & Jerry’s introduced their brand as follows: “We are not a brand, but a company with unique values that bind people together”. That was the start of a good story. Their whole philosophy is about giving people something to talk about. Only recently have they begun traditional advertising, something which I think is unnecessary. Someone asked what the ROI of their Twitter activities was. I think the pertinent question was: ‘what is the ROI of your above the line advertising?’ I fear it generates little added value since their story is already so beautiful and strong in itself.
Sampling is in the culture of their brand. Their Free Cone Day is of course iconic. It started in the 70s as a day to thank their customers. In 2010, they gave away more than 1 million ice creams! The next step is to involve social media in this story. Via their Twitter account @benjerrystruck they asked their followers who was in the mood for free ice cream. In the New York area, they then planned a route to give people their ice cream. In doing so, they deliberately looked for digital influencers. The more followers they had, the more likely they were to pay them a visit. They generally visited companies. One part of that visit was proclaiming the sender of the Tweet a hero. Everything was done to create maximum buzz. You can hear the importance of ‘location based’ tools in many stories too. Foursquare has suddenly offered a third dimension for companies to trigger consumers. According to Ben & Jerry’s, the structure of their programme is one of their factors for success. For example, they did not travel the entire country with ice cream, but began in New York and only did so one day per week. After all, they had no idea how many calls they would get. When they discovered that it was actually quite manageable, they added Boston and went out with their Truck on a daily basis. They started on Twitter and only added Facebook later on. When I heard this great story, I thought how much other brands could learn from this. Ben & Jerry’s is such a strong brand, and if the number of tweets and posts was manageable for them, how could other brands possibly complain about a lack of resources to get started with social media? This has more to do with lack of guts than a lack of resources if you ask me.
Give the influencers a story
Hotel and casino group Harrah’s presented a strong story about leading the conversation with influencers. Their problem was a wrong perception about their hotels. Most people associate Harrah’s with gambling alone. While they want to be something much broader: a romantic place that offers top-notch entertainment. To change the existing perception, they created an influencers programme. In it, they used three categories (similar to the model from yesterday’s session): social/digital influencers (e.g. Gary Vanerchuck), opinion leaders within the category (travel blogs), and finally their own customers. They invited these people to events and happenings. They gave them all possible support to facilitate the conversation. In a few months time, this programme resulted in more than 800 tweets, hundreds of photos and fifty blog posts by influential people. Together, this resulted in research showing that 85% of visitors to Las Vegas would now consider their hotels. Before this programme, this was only 17%. Impressive!
Gillette had another challenge: increase the number of shaves per week of the average man. It truly is incredible – if every man were to shave once more per week, their sales would increase by about 600 million U.S. dollars. Truly food for thought, right? They accepted the challenge with a viral video. Again by turning to influencers and giving them something to talk about.
Owned media as a steppingstone
Your own media are becoming increasingly important. If you want to tell stories to the world, it can be quite handy to have your own media. In the case of Ben & Jerry’s, the importance of their own website and mailing list was emphasised once more. If you look at what Unilever is doing with Yunome in the Benelux, creating own media is a brilliant move. Advertisers pay millions to the media to reach (half) their target audience. If at some point you have your own media, which fans will by definition be attracted to, this is an incredibly strong channel.
Today has been fun: I heard a lot about storytelling, and the link to your influencers and the role your own media plays in it. Good cases and ideas. Tomorrow is already the last day; I’m especially looking forward to the final presentation of @jowyang.
As a bonus: a quick look back at today’s most hilarious presentation. The story was about the promotion of safe sex in New York. These people created an account @NYCondom (unfortunately it no longer exists). On it, they went looking for people who send Tweets about nightlife and sex. The condom gave them some good advice like ‘don’t forget me tonight’ and entered into conversations. Hilarious!