“Assuming that all ARG players have large blocks of time to dedicate to your game is a dangerous assumption that limits your audience.”—
Alternate Reality Games, rather than requiring an alternate life with lots of free time, should fit into daily life. Sine qua non if ARGs are ever to make it from our Storytelling lab to our Story World.
Here’s more from Michael Anderson’s call to arms to ARG developers.
Every ARG should have actionable and entertaining elements that can be enjoyed with relatively little knowledge of the game’s intricacies. And the best ARGs tend to provide these opportunities at regular intervals. In Must Love Robots, players were given the opportunity to save (or destroy) robot-kind by mixing up a suicide soda at Subway by pressing 8335 (or 5338) and posting the video on YouTube. In Chain Factor, players could uncover error message puzzles and control the fate of the world by playing the highly addictive flash game, Drop7. And in Repo Men, players were provided a steady stream of photographs and videos to parse for clues that might lead to capturing the four runners. All of these opportunities involved negligible time commitments on the part of players, with the potential for substantial rewards with regards to advancing the plot.
Not a gamer? Don’t let the G in ARG fool you. Alternate Reality Games aren’t just about play. They’re about bringing narrative to life by making stories - their discovery, shaping and telling - part of everyday life. Now in the R&D pipeline at our Storytelling lab.
We’ll let wikipedia take it from here:
An alternate reality game (ARG) is an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants’ ideas or actions.
The form is defined by intense player involvement with a story that takes place in real-time and evolves according to participants’ responses, and characters that are actively controlled by the game’s designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a computer or console video game. Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and often work together with a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities. ARGs generally use multimedia, such as telephones, email and mail but rely on the Internet as the central binding medium.
“The soul of a business is its contribution to society, of culture its contribution to purpose, of brand its contribution to meaning. Why fake, script, sloganize, message, or market any of it when you can capture the narrative as it unfolds - real stories, real people, real outcomes. Storytelling can change the world, enable communities of action, movements where organizations and stakeholders mobilize to make the world a better place. This is the future not just of business, culture, and brand - but of our human race. Movementing, not marketing.”—Ripple100 Storytelling Lab, Manila Feb 2011
Straight from The Economist Magazine’s Economist Intelligence Unit, here’s 1/2 of why we’re bringing Ripple100’s Storytelling App | Agency to Asia. You’ll see the other half of our strategy as we roll out Ripple100 Manila through Q1 2011.
While emerging Asian nations such as China, India and Indonesia have recorded impressive growth in recent years, they have not built impressive brands. And yet, as the region’s companies grow ever more ambitious and push out onto the world stage, the need for strong brands will grow significantly. Just as important, the shifting business landscape within Asia itself will also demand the use of stronger brands.
Against this backdrop Brand and Deliver, a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit, examines the current state of branding in emerging Asia. It looks at how companies are tackling the next — critical — stage of their evolution by harnessing the power of brands. And it assesses the lessons that can be learnt from pioneering firms in Japan and South Korea that have already succeeded in building global brands.
You can download the 37-page PDF here. Or scan key takeaways excerpted below:
In the past, Asia’s emerging multinationals could thrive without strong brands. In the future, they will need brands just to survive. Companies in emerging Asia have grown quickly into large businesses without using brands because they have been in the right place at the right time. This is particularly true of China. Construction companies have benefitted from urbanisation. Car companies have benefitted from rapid motorisation. Banks have benefitted from protected markets. Many others have benefitted from Western multinationals’ search for low-cost production. But this “brandless success” will not continue. Cost advantages are eroding, markets are opening and competition for customers is intensifying. Many of these competitors will be Western companies that have honed their branding skills over many years. At least one interviewee for this report estimates that Chinese companies have less than ten years in which to change their business models.
Branding isn’t only about succeeding in local markets, it’s critical to going global. Today, businesses in emerging Asia have vaulting ambition. The soaring volume of outbound M&A deals from India and China, for example, is testament to big aspirations. But Asian companies will find it difficult to succeed in “going global” without a strong brand. Chinalco and CNOOC from China were rebuffed in their attempts to buy assets in Australia and the US in large part because, in the absence of a clear identity of their own, they were viewed as merely extensions of the Chinese government. Indian Hotels Company was rejected in its attempt to associate more closely with Orient Express Hotels, in which it was the largest shareholder, because management worried that association with an Indian business would diminish the value of its own brand. Indian automakers found similar resistance when they announced plans to acquire Jaguar from Ford.
Branding strategy, as practised in the West, is not well understood in Asia. While the benefits of brands — to both customers and companies — are easy to grasp, the science of creating and managing them is far from straightforward. In emerging Asia, that science is a work in progress. According to leading branding consultants in the region, many companies regard brands as their reward for building a successful business. They often confuse branding with advertising. But a brand is more than just a name or a logo, and while marketing is an important part of branding, it is only one part. Companies need to think about quality, as well as design, style and all other aspects of a customer experience that together make up the brand. Most importantly, they need to think about what will differentiate them from the competition.
The transition to managing a branded business demands major changes in corporate thinking, organisation and staffing. Historically, companies in Asia have competed on price, trying to be the cheapest at what they do. They have operated with a trading mentality, pursuing numerous opportunities, often diverse and short-term. Many companies are run by engineers or finance professionals with little understanding of the softer aspects of business. The transition to building a brand requires changing this behaviour. For a start, it requires a longer-term, more focused approach. Just as important, brands must be managed from the very top. Too often in Asia, branding is considered something to be delegated to a junior team. Building and guarding a brand requires specific expertise — and companies will need to obtain this, wherever it may come from. LG Electronics, for example, in 2007 hired its first ever chief marketing officer and first ever c-level executive from outside South Korea.
There are many routes to going global with a brand — but targeting emerging markets first offers the best chance of success. Building a global brand almost always requires building a strong presence in a domestic market and then using that as a platform to push onto the world stage. As Asian brands make that push, they are typically focused first on getting into other emerging markets. Not only do these places offer less competition from Western brands, but Chinese and Indian firms are often considered premium in places like Nigeria and Vietnam. When emerging market brands push into Western markets, they typically position themselves as value-for-money, and over time try to push up-market into richer customer segments. That transition requires a laser-like focus on things like quality and reliability.
The experience of Japanese and South Korean firms shows that quality and safety are critical to brand success. Many lessons can be drawn from the rise of Japanese and South Korean brands. Paramount is the need for product quality and reliability. While it is often necessary for emerging multinationals to start off by competing on price as a “low-end” brand (as, indeed, many Japanese and Korean firms did), this strategy is not sustainable over the longer term. Iconic Japanese firms realised this from the outset. In the 1950s, Sony’s goal was to “become the company most known for changing the worldwide poor-quality image of Japanese products”. Its long-term mission was that in 50 years, “our brand name will be as well known as any in the world … and will signify innovation and quality … ‘Made in Japan’ will mean something fine, not something shoddy.”
To build successful brands, emerging multinationals will need to increase significantly their investments in R&D, marketing and design. This will require them to get over their traditional aversion to investment in intangible assets as opposed to more tangible investments like factories and property. Among the toughest challenges for companies trying to make the transition to branded goods is fostering innovation. Many Asian firms have relied on copying what other businesses do. But truly great brands lead the field with their own innovation.
Asian brands must recognise both the positive and negative aspects of their origin and heritage. One of the biggest challenges facing Asia’s emerging multinationals is the “country of origin effect”, whereby Asian brands are perceived as inferior because they come from an emerging market. In the case of China, the recent string of scandals involving products such as milk powder has made the problem worse. Branding experts believe this is a temporary problem. But it is one that will need to be considered carefully in devising branding strategy. This is perhaps doubly true for brands acquired abroad. The Tata brand is one of the best known in India and one of the best regarded. But although it has made headlines for its high-profile global acquisitions, Tata has wisely decided to avoid any thought of rebranding these assets. “Tata means nothing to Mrs Robinson in Bedfordshire, but Tetley means a great deal,” says R Gopalakrishnan, executive director of Tata Sons. Instead, the conglomerate has launched a more subtle campaign to win foreign friends, bringing young graduates from Europe and America’s leading universities to India to see Tata’s much admired CSR programmes at work.
The pressure to manage brands well will only intensify. Many branding experts believe the time needed to build a global brand is shortening, thanks to a more globalised world, faster communications, more pervasive media and the internet. While Japanese companies took 40 years, and South Korean companies took 25 years, Chinese and Indian companies might only need 10 to 15 years. This shortening timeframe will add further pressure on firms to manage brands competently.
Fourteen lines of advice for brand-builders in emerging Asia. Or, in a word: Storytelling. How many of these lend themselves to Story Worlds? I’d say 14 of 14.
Manage from the top. Branding is not something to be delegated to junior teams. Leading brands both reflect and influence everything that a company does.
Manage over the long term. While traditional businesses in Asia have often operated with a trading mentality, exploiting short-term opportunities, brand-building requires a longer-term commitment to a narrower set of opportunities or customers.
Understand how your business delivers value. Traditionally, many Asian firms have competed on price, aiming to win business by being the cheapest. Having a brand requires different thinking, with firms shifting from competing on price to competing on value. Companies must think more deeply about issues such as style, design, safety, service levels and reliability.
Don’t forget your staff. Brand-building is about more than external customers. For a brand to come alive, internal staff must know what the brand stands for.
Act on quality. When emerging nations embark on the path to brand-building, quality is often low. To become a well-respected brand, companies need a constant, tireless effort to raise standards. The Japanese car and electronics industries did it in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Then it was the turn of the South Koreans in the 1990s and 2000s. Brands from China, India and other nations must do the same.
Focus on innovation. World-leading brands are based on innovation. Companies will never create winning brands by copying the intellectual property of others.
Create an emotional connection. In a world where it is ever harder for companies to stay ahead of their competitors on a consistent basis, brands must build an emotional connection to customers. All the best brands do this. When rival sports shoes are all of equal quality, the difference comes from how customers perceive themselves when they wear a particular shoe.
Be brutally consistent. If a brand’s character is constantly shifting, if its look and feel are always changing, if its service levels vary, then customers become alienated. They feel the brand’s promise has been broken.
Manage the country-of-origin effect. Companies must decide how to balance the positive attributes of their home country with negative perceptions. While certain cultural characteristics can enhance a brand, other perceptions about quality may be less positive. Over time, the positive aspects of emerging Asia are likely to rise and the negative perceptions are likely to decline.
Use domestic markets to build strong brands. It is possible to build an international brand without first conquering a domestic market, but it’s far easier to go global from a strong domestic base.
Pick new markets carefully. Companies from emerging Asia have big ambitions, but it doesn’t always make sense to push a brand into wealthy Western markets first. Emerging markets in Asia, Latin America, Africa and Eastern Europe are less crowded, offer rapid growth and are likely to be less prone to country-of-origin prejudices.
Allow 30% of the brand to vary according to different tastes. While brands must be consistent, they also need to be brought to life locally. A good rule of thumb is that 70% of a brand must be consistent across the world, but 30% should vary to reflect different tastes in different markets.
Consider all the customer touch points. Brands deliver tremendous value, but they can also be damaged if mismanaged. For example, product recalls or breakdowns can damage a brand, but only if mishandled. Conversely, a finely tuned repair service can enhance a brand’s perception among customers.
Monitor brand strength continuously. It’s often argued that businesses can’t manage what they don’t measure. Companies should set up systems that enable them to measure the strength, loyalty and position of their brands relative to the market.
Our first 3 days of serial stories gave the stage to the narrative’s leading characters: students, parents, teachers. Day 4 segues the narrative into the rest of the community, the supporting cast without whom a happy ending is impossible.
It’s Day Zero of our latest Story World. Day 1 is about to break, and we are, each of us both authors and characters. Click below to be there as greatness embraces a city, and vice versa. The point of Story World is meaningful participation: outcomes are entirely ours to win or lose.
Same Story World unfolding a day later. As date and time of the historic announcement has just been made public, transmedia are on all cylinders via social media like Twitter.
Taking the transmedia touchpoints off and online, we teamed up with a group of trusted insiders to organize a meetup at The Grove New Haven, a local co-working space known for its collaborative culture. Expanding the cast of characters organically, with people who have an intrinsic stake in the narrative. Mayor DeStefano himself retweets the event:
Meanwhile at ournewhaven.org, the live stream format is now open, our counter is live and down to 19 hours and change.
With the November 2 election, we wrapped up our Story World campaign for the U.S. Senate candidacy of John Mertens. Story World wasn’t a web strategy, social or (gulp) transmedia gimmick or sidebar initiative - it was the campaign, with all the elements of narrative, characters, rites, etc.
From the start we resolved to find and tell stories as the basis for genuine engagement That’s how the campaign ran everyday to the last. As we’ve sought and sat with people from all walks of CT, they’ve told us their stories much more than we’ve told them ours. On the last day John wrote a long letter and spoke on camera recapping the stories of so many others and thanking them because their stories changed his life.
So Mertens 2010 has ended, but it has birthed a broader Story World called Potlucks for Inspiration, which we’ll resume in a few weeks looking towards 2012 and beyond.
Stories Are Golden Eggs, And Story Worlds the Golden Goose
See comment stream for ongoing notes from Poptech - a week of brilliant accidents, necessary failures, improbable breakthroughs - seen through our Storytelling lens.
We spent the past week at Poptech 2010’s world-changing people, projects and ideas road-testing latest findings from our Storytelling Lab. We know how to tell stories, they’re golden eggs. But it’s these 5 variables (so far) of Story Worlds we fuss about. They’re the molecular DNA of the the golden goose that gives our brands, business, nonprofit, political, and civic campaigns stories, stories, never-ending stories.
Click on image to read more on Jay Baer’s (@jaybaer) 5-Step Process.
As always, read through comments to see what others really think. I added this comment, love to hear yours:
You can’t know how true this storytelling flow is until you do it, and as the graphic points out, repeat it! Jay, you captured it precisely as it happens, although I’d add a second flow precipitated by storytelling.
But there’s a second flow: stories inspire involvement and advocacy, enabling community to coalesce. I really don’t think you can “build community”. You can enable communities to coalesce around brands, then you can nurture and grow from there.
Back To The Future: Distributed Editing & Post-Production for Online Video Storytelling
Podcamp Boston’s Visual Suspects session was a moshpit of online video rockstars - Matt Mamet, Steve Garfield, Joselin Mane, Skip Bensley, Robert Collins in the house yo! So I had to pop this question. It’s been bugging me for a while. Not intellectually, but operationally. I didn’t find resolution last Sunday, but online video mogul Steve Garfield chatted me up after the session and we agreed that it’s a lucrative opportunity if you can solve it. Here’s the crux:
For any given client, we might have more than 100 minutes of raw footage coming in every single week. We need to turn that raw material into 30 shorts of about 90 seconds each, as suitable for online video consumption. If average video processing time (on a good day) is 5 minutes for every minute of raw footage, you’re talking 500 minutes of post-production time for every week of serial storytelling. That’s just one client. Multiply this dis-economy over a growing client portfolio and what you have is an industrial-strength assembly line challenge. Or, given the macro market shift to both video (vs. other forms of media) and storytelling (vs. other forms of marketing), what you have is a pretty interesting engineering opportunity with, what else, but social or distributed collaboration networks at its core. Woohoo!
In other words, we want a place (ok, a platform) where we can upload 100 minutes of raw footage every week, write up a creative brief (or the equivalent thereof for video storytelling, which we can address in another post), and crowdsource the finished product of our choice from a marketplace that could include tens of thousands of film, writing, theatre students and indie artists and filmmakers from New York to New Delhi.
Crowdsourcing creative, design, even R&D work is so old Read Write Web’s Josh Catone wrote up this article back in 2008 citing at least 18 startups in the space. But none in video. Of course, that was 2008. Video, bandwidth, and storytelling weren’t where they are now.
So why, according to these sages, do brand stories work? The answer is clear: for stories to ring true, they need imperfection at their core. Without flaws there is neither struggle nor redemption, no drama, no story.
But think about imperfection not just in terms of what the stories are about, but also how they’re told and captured and spread. Ah, then we get into the beauty of social media, the rawness of video in YouTube, the happenstance of twitter. Unblike the 30-second TV commercial, you can’t script, polish and post-produce these kinds of stories.
Linda Garbe (@garbedesigns):
The storytelling movement seems to be growing explosively. Why now? What is it about this moment in human history and culture that makes storytelling so resonant with so many people right now?
Kathy Hansen (@astoriedcareer):
We are in the twilight of a society based on data. As information and intelligence becomes the domain of computers, society will place more value on the one human ability that cannot be automated: emotion. Imagination, myth, ritual — the language of emotion — will affect everything from our purchasing decisions to how we work with others. Companies will thrive on the basis of their stories and myths. Companies will need to understand that their products are less important than their stories. (Quoting Rolf Jensen, Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies, author of The Dream Society)
“Here is what Rob did. He purchased a bunch of random objects on Ebay. He then distributed the objects to his friends, asked them to write a short story about each. He then put the objects back up for sale on ebay, essentially sold $120 worth of objects for $3,612 – a 2,776% significance markup as he calls it. All based on stories.”—The Value of Stories in dollars and cents on ebay, as recounted in DoubleThink. Here, look at the stunning data!!!
I am excerpting here Marshall Ganz’s The Power of Story In Social Movements as explored in Cathryn Wellner’s Story Route (@storyroute). Ganz, of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, is widely credited with the grassroots organizing model for President Obama’s 2008 campaign. Bolds are mine, as are deletions of references. Full draft can be read here. Just wanted to share this right away, will add my own thoughts on further reflection.
Inspiring, and proof again that storytelling is science within which art can move!
A newer generation of scholars has begun to go beyond framing, recognizing that story telling may be what most distinguishes social movements from interest groups and other forms of collective action. Storytelling is central to social movements because it constructs agency, shapes identity, and motivates action.
Story telling is how we learn to exercise agency to deal with new challenges, mindful of the past, yet conscious of alternative futures. It is not about following a script, but about choosing how to handle deviations from a script. Story telling engages us in an “emplotted” account of actors proceeding in legitimate ways toward valued goals who meet unexpected trouble, to which they must respond with innovative action leading to resolution along a new pathway, toward a new goal, or go down to defeat, from which a “moral” is drawn. They teach us how to deal with the unexpected, improvising alternative futures even while maintaining continuity with our past.
Story telling is how we develop individual and collective identities that define the ends we seek and among whom we seek them. Our identity can be understood as a story we weave from the lifetime of stories in which we have participated as tellers or listeners, learning how to act in the world. When we tell our story we do identity work, reenacting who we have been and forging the persons we become. As an interaction among speakers and listeners, storytelling is culture forging activity, constructing shared understandings of how to manage the risks of uncertainty, anomaly, and unpredictability grounded in recollection of how we dealt with past challenges. Our individual identities are thus linked with those with whom we share stories - our families, communities, colleagues, faith traditions, nationalities - and with whom we enact them at our family dinners, worship services, holidays, and other cultural celebrations that institutionalize - or transform - their retelling
Story telling is how we access the emotional – or moral - resources for the motivation to act on those ends. Inherently normative, stories map positive and negative valance onto different kinds of behavior. They thus become what Charles Taylor calls our “moral sources” – sources of emotional learning we can access for the courage, love, hope we need to deal with the fear, loneliness and despair that inhibits our action. As St. Augustine taught “knowing the good” is insufficient to produce a change in behavior that requires “loving the good.” Story telling is both a way to “frame” our experience as purposive (making things “add up”) and of “regulating our emotions” (retaining confidence, keeping our anxiety under control, having a story we can believe in).
“Brand biographies that contain a disadvantage vs. an adversary yet passion to overcome the odds were chosen 71% of the time vs. products that contained no such story.”—So says a University of Chicago study cited by Brand Mechanic’s Bob Nunn (@bobnunn). In Branding Via Storytelling, Bob reminds us again that consumers identify more with brands that have an underdog background story and are more likely to purchase them.
“It’s tempting to shine the pieces of a story before we have removed the “nicks” from it. The result is smooth and polished, but not well shaped. It may hold an audience from moment to moment, but it will not achieve maximum power and clarity. At worst, both the audience and the teller will lose their sense of purpose.”—Doug Lipman, one of our great storytelling coaches in New England, on every story’s MIT - Most Important Thing.
Some scholars work with the assumption that what counts in the narrative sections of the Bible are the propositions that are to be found there. They want to analyse and dissect a story so that it can be reduced to a series of theological statements. But if this were all that God intended us to do with the long sections of narrative in the Bible, then it is a wonder that he didn’t give us an encyclopaedia or Bible dictionary rather than a long and involved story of salvation.
Sociologists and psychologists will say that beyond supplying propositions, narratives have another important function. Not only do they convey information but they also confer and confirm identity. The stories that we listen to and the stories that we tell play an important part in making us who we are as a community.
”—Andy Stirrup on The Value of Stories - in the Bible.