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4 IR – Will Bots Replace Brand Storytellers…

I remember the day I first heard what a fax machine does. It sounded like something from an episode of the Jetsons. If you’re under 30, I will continue while you Google both ‘fax machine’ and ‘Jetsons’. A posh friend with a jet-setting dad told our hushed group of primary scholars that you put a piece of paper in the machine and before you had finished pushing it through it came out of a machine on the other side of the world. It was mind-bogglingly  futuristic.

Just thirty or so years later and we’ve come a long way since the days of fax machines – think smartphones, supercomputers, Alexa, AI and IOT – and it thrills me to think what the digital transformation trajectory means for the brand storytelling world.

Stories are a traditional tool used as a warning, for inspiration, to share life lessons and to pass on heritage and history. Yet that is why they are so effective – because stories are the way we, as humans, prefer to receive information and have been since the beginning of time. Brand storytelling taps into the human need for connection through story and tells the customer who your brand is and who they believe in. The brand story is delivered to the customer at different touch-points in the customer journey and through omni-channel storytelling.

A term coined by Klaus Schwab, the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) describes the extraordinary technology following on from the 3rd Industrial Revolution that will blur the lines between, physical, digital and biological worlds. Like the fax machine and the mobile phone, we are at the beginning of an era where we have a mere glimpse into what the future could be like.

We keep talking about the 4IR as if it is coming, but, like the internet, it arrived unannounced while we were still defining it. If you’ve used Siri or Google Maps or a Facebook Bot, guess what – you’ve ushered in 4IR. Amidst talk about how jobs will be augmented or even replaced by the change in the digital landscape, brand storytelling is one of the fields that could be affected significantly by 4IR – for the better.

Here’s how…

  1. The Storytellers

There is a lot being said about how jobs and job descriptions will be changed by the move to digital. We have AI programs that can process masses more data to help us understand our customers and ourselves better, but does that mean they will do all our marketing for us? I don’t think so. The traditional marketing function which includes CMO’s, brand storytellers and creatives, will use the same marketing principles, but now become more strategic in their ability to apply the data and to personalize their message and creativity for specific customers through different channels and formats.

The team make-ups will be more varied, for example journalists and video editors and graphic designers may work together on an infographic that tells the customer a story about where you source your ingredients.

  • The Experience

The more devices there are, the more opportunities there are for you to tell your story. With IOT, for example, experiential marketing is taken to a whole new level as sensors pick up your shopping patterns in-store and sends you a text for a special on a product, together with a recipe to use it in. The concern here among customers, especially Generation X and Z could be that your brand “knows too much” as the Facebook Advertising reporting tool puts it. They tend to equate marketing with advertising – in a negative way. That is why it is important that this would not be the medium of your first interaction with the customer and that you have taken the time and other platforms to introduce your brand and values to them to build their trust.

Another example will be influencer marketing. Once again you can use AI tools that identify your target market or even a new key demographic you may have missed which can be pursued by finding a micro- or even nano-influencer who speaks where your ideal customers live online. At Idea Hive, we also seek out opportunities between nano-influencers and our customers to co-create niche content.

  • Agility

With a myriad of social media platforms, brands are presented with the blessing and the curse of real-time feedback. Like the mythical Icarus, flying too close to the flames of instant gratification can be amazing if your brand is killing it i.e. you are transparent, warm, generous, witty, helpful, socially or environmentally conscious – but catastrophically different if who you say your brand is, is not who your clients experience. For example, your customers will be desperately unhappy and tell the world faster than you can say #trending, if you portray yourself as an environmentally conscious supplier of foodstuffs, but your main suppliers are found to be polluting their immediate area due to cheap manufacturing methods.

The other side of agility points to the ability of your brand to be quick in your response. A classic example being the responses of Oreo and Tide during the 2013 Superbowl power blackout, with Oreo (Mondelez) tweeting: “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” Yes, video content for advertising on television is still slower to produce and still popular in terms of revenue, but quick thinking and clever creativity on social media channels could augment your brand personality in a viral way.

With 4IR upon us, instead of fearing change, specialist brand storytellers like ourselves can use our creativity and dedicated strategic focus to change perceptions, evoke positive emotions and create trust in brands using the new technological tools in our palette. One technology at a time.

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