Co-Founder at Imaginovation, overseeing the company’s global creative and strategic marketing, branding and advertising initiatives.
Storytelling has always been an integral part of branding and marketing. Marketers across the world vouch for the power of good brand storytelling. Every story that a brand tells, whether through writing, audio or video, has to be compelling — a story that completely immerses the audience.
With recent technological advancements like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and 360-degree videos, which we’ve used in some of the campaigns we’ve developed at Imaginovation, storytelling is becoming more immersive and powerful than ever.
What Is Immersive Storytelling?
Immersive storytelling can be defined as a technique that uses the latest technologies to create a compelling sense of presence. It gives the audience the feeling of “being there.” It’s a unique but impactful way of blending reality with fiction.
Immersive experiences rely entirely on technology to convey a message, entertain or educate the audience, and increase brand awareness. The technology defines how the message or the story is told and how the audience will interact with and experience it. While there is no fixed recipe for making a story immersive, there are several ingredients that can evoke the emotions and imagination of the audience, making it an immersive experience.
Immersive Storytelling In Branding
What is the best way to convince someone or spark curiosity about something? You guessed it: Just tell them a compelling story. When done effectively, it can boost a business in numerous ways. That’s what immersive stories are expected to do: They lead the customers or audience to story-living.
Here’s how immersive storytelling can be used for your branding and marketing efforts.
1. Turn Products Into An Experience
With time, the focus of marketing has shifted from the product to customers. While marketing through print media and television offers a two-dimensional, linear experience to the customers, immersive storytelling can completely transform the customer’s experience.
Use immersive techniques to give your customers a sense of presence. Customers can react to and become part of the experience, rather than observe it passively. Moreover, by using 360-degree videos, AR, VR and mixed reality (MR), you can offer self-directed experiences to your audience.
Example: National Geographic uses 360-degree videos and virtual reality for its brand narrative of adventure. It creates travel experiences by turning its readers into the subject of the story. Because it is 360-degree content, it does not rely on the reporter’s insights. The audience can develop their own firsthand experiences.
2. Build An Emotional Connection And Boost Engagement
Immersive storytelling is a fantastic way to hook your audience. Extended reality content can close the gap between the in-person experience and the screen. It allows you to build a meaningful and memorable connection between the brand and the customer. Storytelling becomes successful when you:
• Show but don’t tell.
• Uncover the human side of the brand.
• Completely involve the audience in the story.
Example: A United Nations film titled “Clouds Over Sidra” is an engaging story of a 12-year-old girl living at a refugee camp during the Syrian conflict. The apt use of VR helped the audience connect with the girl and allowed them to experience life in the camp. Based on what I’ve read, it seems the UN’s intentions were to inspire empathy and raise support for a cause.
3. Take Gamification To The Next Levels
Ever thought of bringing digital products to life? Brands can use gamified narratives in this case. However, it’s a good idea to test your thoughts with a range of people to make sure your products are used and interpreted as intended.
Games can keep customers engaged with a brand and help build brand loyalty. By adding gamification, you can incorporate fun and get your message across subtly but impactfully. Your brand can tell stories in ways that are naturally responsive to your audience.
Example: Single-malt scotch distillery Glenlivet partnered with Shazam to create an augmented reality experience for its customers to promote a limited-edition whiskey. The game opens up a virtual room with a hologram of the master distiller who greets and guides the users through a tasting. Tasters are scored on how well they can detect the whisky’s ingredients, and users can share their scores on social media. Brands like Mercedes-Benz and the Home Depot have also gamified apps.
4. Create A Virtual Reality Experience
Virtual reality can be a powerful mechanism to create “demos” and compelling stories about the products. VR is popular in the marketing domain because it helps brands create unforgettable storytelling experiences.
Make sure that you are targeting the right hardware platform for your VR experience. For 360 videos, a cardboard unit or regular VR gear can be used. However, some more interactive experiences require extra sensors or high-end headsets.
Example: When Merrell launched a new pair of hiking shoes, the company partnered with Framestore VR Studio to design a virtual reality world where customers could experience the exact scenario where the hiking shoes could be worn — mountainside, rope walkways, rockfalls, etc.
There are numerous forms of immersive stories that can be chosen by a brand, including any of the following:
• Real-world and real-time events.
• Prerecorded videos.
• Live-feed videos.
AR, VR, MR and 360-degree video technologies have opened up a realm of possibilities that many marketers likely hadn’t anticipated. The way I see it, immersive storytelling is the new marketing frontier. And when developed strategically, it has the potential to do wonders for your marketing strategy.