Brand storytelling engagement and Chipotle’s Scarecrow

By | April 7, 2014

Today, I came across a post entitled “How Powerful Brand Storytelling Can Supplant Commercials” at the Content Marketing Institute by Michael Weiss, ¬†from figure18. I hadn’t heard much about the term ‘brand storytelling,’ but it really resonated with me because I’ve been using the term ‘interactive storytelling’ to describe my approach of using simulations and interactivity in marketing and training–the ‘brand’ part in my description has been implicit.

In the post, Michael described the power and impact of the Scarecrow, a video ‘advertisement’ made for Chipotle that uses storytelling in a marketing or advertising capacity to transmit/promote the brand’s message. He goes on to describe “how a brand creates content so good it becomes the program or broadcast”, or as I see it, the content is crafted in an engaging way to deliver a message that speaks to potential customers.

It is pretty obvious that the most direct way to deliver a message of relevance to potential customers is through helping to show why a product or service is relevant to that customer. Training content–which centers on solving customer problems–is a natural place to explore, but as I’ve written in other posts, the twist in converting to an advertising/marketing piece is adapt it in such a way to give the potential customers the confidence that they can solve the problem, not necessarily to teach the specific skills. I think this is why case studies are a particularly effective form of content marketing, because they naturally involve telling a real-world story about a company, its products, and its services.

The article is a great read because it emphasizes first the role of discovering/revealing/evoking a good story, “to put the story before the tactic,” said Jesse Coulter of CAA Marketing, the Los Angeles agency that worked with Chipotle to create the piece. Another member of the agency, Todd Hunter, talked about the value in creating “a story people want to engage in, or create experiences they want to be a part of and naturally consume.”

The Scarecrow is a video designed to inform viewers through an interesting story, which is the right vehicle to depict the corporate philosophy or message. The viewer doesn’t do anything or really interact with the content. To deliver a product-oriented advertisement, however, I think one can follow a similar story-based approach around problems revealed in product training or support, but one that gives the viewers/users an opportunity to interact as well, somewhat shaping the course of the solution. This enables the viewers/users to ‘own’ the solution through the advertisement.


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