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A good friend of mine Ernest Barbaric wrote a fantastic piece on Content Marketing and Transmedia Storytelling. I encourage you to read it by clicking here. His thoughts inspired this post. If you like my post, please share it.

Elements of a Transmedia Story

Why is Content Marketing important?

Consumer consumption of content is no longer isolated in media silos. Consumers can read the news on an iPad. Consumers can watch a movie on their phone. Consumers can listen to radio on their TV. Every form of media can now be consumed from a screen. The screen can be a TV, laptop, smartphone or an in-car dashboard to name a few. From each of these screens, consumers can read articles, watch movies, record ideas, moments and make videos. They can play games, listen to radio and perhaps most importantly, consumers can use any screen to research every brand. In her book Media: From Chaos to Clarity, Judy Franks points out that marketers are now dealing with a new relationship between content, consumers and channels.

Google examined that new relationship in the ZMOT, study. Google determined that between 2010 and 2011, consumers have doubled the number of sources they consult prior to choosing a brand. In 2010 consumers consulted 5 sources prior to making a decision. In 2011, that number rose to over 10 sources. These results are supported by another study by McKinsey Quarterly called the Consumer Decision Journey. In this study, McKinsey declares that consumers themselves have a significant role in producing content that helps the next wave of consumers choose a brand.

In total, these studies evaluated the behavior of over 25,000 consumers from 17 different industries in over half a dozen countries. Both studies conclude that consumers are influenced by multiple touch-points along their decision journey, that traditional media is an important part of the awareness of a brand but that user generated content plays a critical role as trusted research. McKinsey and Google both confirm what the authors of The Cluetrain Manifesto prophetically claimed over 14 years ago – that markets are conversations.

The Future of Marketing

The future of marketing isn’t social media in the the way we think that Facebook or Twitter is social media. In my opinion, the future of marketing is an understanding that all media has become social in the way that word of mouth is a message shared between interested people. According to ZMOT, paying to be “in front” of consumers with a branded message is still important, but only represents one tenth of the opportunity to influence consumers at their decision making touch points. Once a branded message is shared across media by the users it’s intended for, it becomes social. In this sense, media that is social increases the likelihood of getting “in front” of a consumer.

Brands can increase the number of consumer touch points and therefore consumer trust through a content marketing strategy. Content Marketing is one way to describe the information that draws an audience towards a brand. Content worth sharing is by definition worth talking about and therefore social. Quality social content will draw attention and is more likely to become part of the cultural conversation. As conversations around a brand increases, so too does the awareness, trust, preference and eventually, sales. Thus, conversations are leading indicators to sales.

The New Tools of Marketing

Screens large and small present an opportunity for marketers. When branded content is created with the intent of transmission across screens, then the chance of that content engagement increases. If the content is desirable by the consumers it’s intended for, then the chance of it being passed on increases. If fans are encouraged to comment on or collaborate in the creation, staggering results can follow. The launch of Bing’s Jay Z’s Decoded movement is one such example (thanks to Judy Franks). Have a look below.

The New Role of Marketers

As the number of sources that consumers reference prior to their decision increases, a new breed of marketers are emerging. These new marketers are trying to get their brand embedded not only in paid media but also in earn a space in cultural conversations and directing these conversations to their owned platforms. Transmedia storytellers like Jeff Gomez, Henry Jenkins, Tim Kring have shown us that the results of marketing movements can be overwhelmingly successful through open-minded leadership, strategic fan creation and collaboration of sharable content, and an orchestrated conversation across multiple screens. In her book Media: From Chaos to Clarity, Judy Franks calls the role Integrated Marketing Consultant.

The Three Pillars of Transmedia Storytelling

From my early research, I believe the basic transmedia storytelling premise is built on three pillars.

First, consumers are media (thanks Mitch Joel). Consumers, also known as fans need only a smartphone to disrupt the traditional broadcasting model of content marketing. These tiny pocketsize screens turns every consumer into a citizen journalist capable of recording, crafting and sharing their own stories through video, photos, words or song. Much like in the old days of town criers, these citizen storytellers gather a crowd.

Second, people yearn to belong (thanks Seth Godin). Consumers who care deeply about a brand will seek out others who feel the same in order to form a community. Today’s storytellers have an advantage over the town criers of old. Modern storytellers possess amplification in the form of digital networks. These networks provide the frictionless architecture required to expedite distribution. The Like, RT and +1 buttons are the oil-like agents that reduce this friction and accelerate the spread of a story. Good stories pass through networks like a virus and, in some cases, replaces the need for cumbersome and expensive broadcast networks. Search engines easily spot these stories and social networks bring them to our attention. The stories gather like-minded people, which then forms a community based not on geography, but on common interest.

Third, communities identify themselves in each others presence (thanks again Seth). In a historic sense, members of a tribe would identify one another by their clothing, symbols, tattoos or totems. Members of a community spend a lot their time and money on the community issues they care about. In a present sense, branded communities can be identified in the same way. The clothes we wear, the music we listen to, the cars we drive, the fundraisers we attend and the causes we support are all ways that we’ve come to form our modern relationships. Increasingly, these communities are becoming branded.

I Love the Smell of Opportunity in the Morning

The opportunity for every brand lies in conversing with consumers on their terms in the platforms they are on. Early evidence stems from transmedia movements of big brands like Coke Content 2020, Old Spice’s Your Man could Smell like Me or Batman’s Why So Serious. The reason the big guys are trying to organize multiplatform conversations is the same reason that small brands should also try. Consumers on screens all around us produce more content than any brand can with the traditional marketing model. These Transmedia Storytellers are mapping the route to success for every company. I believe that this opportunity exists with smaller local brands too.

If the 80/20 rule is true than starting a conversation with your top 20% of customers is a good place to start. Why do they like you? Who are they? Where are they? What screens do they use? Could the answers to any of these questions become part of your content marketing strategy?

What do you think? Is there any small businesses who have already succeeded? What would your business need to achieve a transmedia narrative?

Please share this post if you enjoyed reading it.

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