Remember those Chose Your Own Adventure books? The ones where at the end of a ‘chapter’ you would have to make a decision as to what happened next. At a pivotal point in the story you would decide whether the character would hike down a dark cave or hide behind a tree. You would then turn to the page for that plot line and the story would continue. You were part of shaping the version of the story that you experienced. Brilliant! What ever happened to those?
I loved them because you felt like you were part of making the story. As a hyper young lad, soon to be a grown ENTP, this suited me just fine. Not that I didn’t like to just sit back and be entertained on occasion; being active in shaping things just feels better to me.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and the premiere of yet another show wherein young hopefuls sing cover songs to be judged by washed up musicians only this time with a new media twist. I’m talking about Rising Star. The show has a companion app that you download and as the show airs live, you use the app to give the current singer a thumbs up or a thumbs down. The singer needs to get a certain percentage of yes votes to advance to the next round. In the interest of research, my daughter and I tuned into the premiere episode with our phones in hand to get our vote on.
ABC knows what they are doing, allowing you to be a part of shaping the story, albeit in a very controlled ecosystem. They know that 86 percent of Gen-Xers and Millenials watch TV while engaging with a second screen, usually a mobile device.
The fear that the Internet has turned us into a less creative consumer zombies is just not holding true. It turns out that we like to share content, create content, tweak content and talk about content too.
A good example of this; The Most Interesting Man In The World. Started as an ad campaign for beer, its now become a meme and a part of the vocabulary of the internet. The story that Dos XX beer has been telling is living on (and changing) in a way that they could never have planned for.
The mantra from marketers in recent years has been; tell story. Its true, if you tell a compelling story you can get action from users. Which brings an important aside in the conversation, audience vs users. Simply telling a story is definitely good enough when you have an audience but we’re finding more and more that a good story, in and of itself, is not enough in the age of users. Users are much more complex and once you understand this new reality, they are much more of an asset to you and your message.
Users jump from platform to platform, channel to channel and device to device. Different users use different spaces for different reasons. Your mom uses Facebook to look at pictures of her grandkids while you may use it to keep up with friends and brag about your life. You may simply see Clash of Clans as a video game where your 10 year old son uses it much like you might use email or sms…to communicate with friends.
So if we combine story telling with the multi-switching realities of new media we come to this idea of Hypertelling. Its a phrase coined by Eric Solomon from Google’s creative department; Zoo. Remember the word ‘hyperlink’? That’s where it comes from. Its story telling in a new reality, so we get hypertelling.
Its the idea that the story you tell needs to be dynamic, not just in the story itself, but the execution of the story across various platforms, channels and substrates. There are multiple ways this plays out and I want to focus in on two of them in the next two posts (I may ad more later) so here’s a summary of these two ideas:
Hypertelling needs to be orchestrated from moment one
You can’t simply do what you normally do in your creative meetings and in you regular executions of your message, you need to consider how to tell the story and engage with users across all channels that you use and that make sense for your brand. Hypertelling fails when you repackage content and try to serve it across different channels.
You can’t control Hypertelling
The Internet never forgets right? We’ve seen McDonalds and other big brands completely blow it on this one when they expected the behavior of an audience and got the behavior of users instead. Hypertelling comes with risk and when done right requires you to venture into some very unknown places with your brand.
This is the early stage of putting words to this idea, that isn’t completely new. A few years ago I was working with the idea; appearance of spontaneity. Grasping the idea of hypertelling, I think, will help you and your team make more sense of the various channels that you’ve probably been treating as either separate silos (like I have) or you’ve just been repackaging the same content across those channels.
What are your thoughts on this idea of hypertelling?
A little while back Gary Vaynerchuk, who I greatly respect in terms of understanding culture, threw out an opportunity for pretty much anyone to schedule a phone call with him. I threw my name in the hat and forgot about it after a few weeks had passed. Then I got an email from Gary’s assistant asking me if I was ‘available tomorrow’ for a 15 minute chat with Gary. I wasn’t technically available, but Gary V was calling so I made it happen. Our team was off site for a two day retreat on a ranch somewhere deep in the heart of Texas. To my surprise the T-Mobile came through and I had connectivity.
I had pitched to Gary that I wanted to pick his brain about the relationship between creatives and ‘type A’ business minded people.
I told him my story of how throughout my career, projects and business dealings I had leveraged my ideas and creativity to make money and grow organizations for ‘type A’ people but time and time again was not content with the imbalance of reward coming my way for my efforts. I knew intrinsically that these two personality types need each other to accomplish great things but more often than not, the creative got the short end of the stick; think Tesla and Edison.
Here are some of the highlights from our brief chat:
As an idea person, artist and creative you often live inside your own mind a lot. We have to balance that with actually executing on those ideas. How you execute is different for everyone, but a big part of that is having a more ‘type a’ or driven person to pull the ideas out of you.
For the type A; you have to learn to trust the creative and learn how to build boundaries around them so they have a sandbox to play in. Make that space too constrained and you will run them off or paralyze them.
At the end of the day, you need someone to balance your strengths and fill in for your weaknesses.
This is a hard one for me having been burned by more than one cult of personality. Neither the artist or the type A can operate in their strength when trust isn’t there. If the artist doesn’t trust the type A then the best ideas never come to light. If the type A doesn’t trust the artist then micromanagement will destroy any progress.
When an artist is fully in their sweet spot they live in a reality that is literally a polar opposite from the type A and the same goes the other way. There are times when you both need to throttle back and sync up in a space and time that has a common language and substrate for you to make progress an execute. When you’re trying to lead in your strengths you are often much farther in the future than those you’re trying to lead. The artist is so in love with their ideas they can push them too hard and the type A can be so passionate about hustle that they get tunnel vision.
Gary said to me;
“The world has changed. It hasn’t changed as much as you think it has but it has changed more than they think it has.”
This came at a good time for me as I was heavily in a phase of future planning and working on strategy for our team…and I tend to live too far in the future for most people.
So there’s Ikea, minding their own business one day and someone discovers that a trace amount of horse meat is found in meatballs served at their cafe. I never knew Ikea even served food; do you have to assemble it yourself there at the cafe?
Ikea probably isn’t known for their food nor do they depend on it to have a thriving business model, after all they sell furniture. Yet a lack of transparency from one of their venders, who probably accounts for an immeasurably small line on the Ikea balance sheet, was found to have used horse meat in meatballs supplied to Ikea.
And in a flash Ikea has a PR fire to deal with.
Transparency is everything in our new, real time, communication world. Your organization simply does not have the resources or the power to control the message the way you once did in years past.
The only thing you can control about the message is how transparent you are and in that transparency you better have a good message because we can see right through you.
The old adage; sell for what the market will bear just doesn’t ring true anymore. No longer can you and your team scheme and strategize for how to game your ‘target’ into acting on your pitch. You have to have a real story that provides people with real value, because if word gets out you’re trying to slip one by, game over.