5 QUESTIONS WITH | THE STATE OF THE STORY

Marketing & Media Leaders on the Current State of Storytelling

Marketing & Media Leaders on the Current State of Storytelling

Marketing & Media Leaders on the Current State of Storytelling

Marketing & Media Leaders on the Current State of Storytelling

African-american leader lecturing his employees in office

I think The State of the Story right now outside of brands is very interesting – I think it’s a reflection of who we are as people. People are definitely expressing themselves in stories.

I think The State of the Story right now outside of brands is very interesting – I think it’s a reflection of who we are as people. People are definitely expressing themselves in stories.

I think The State of the Story right now outside of brands is very interesting – I think it’s a reflection of who we are as people. People are definitely expressing themselves in stories.

–Kay Hsu of Instagram Creative Shop

In this climate, marketers have been challenged to navigate through enormous uncertainty and a rapidly changing landscape. Consumers are practicing social distancing, adopting new routines, shifting their priorities, and leaning heavily into the digital world. They want to hear from brands who are humane, caring, and community-focused.

The Suzy research shows that now more than ever, brands need to lead with purpose, as people are relying on them to provide an escape, community, and utility. We talked with leading thought leaders from The State of the Story to see how they keep their brands honest and set the long-term strategy when speaking with their audiences in an authentic, honest manner.

Below, you will find a sneak-peek to our conversation at The State of the Story Summit.

We interviewed The State of the Story community and thought leaders to understand the current state of the storytelling and the evergreen strategies that will serve the business no only during the business-as-usual, but also to pivot when in crisis. Kay Hsu of Instagram Creative Shop, Dara Treseder of Carbon, Amy Emmerich of Refinery29, Benish Shah of Loop & Tie, Trenton Kenagy of Greenhouse
Amy Emmerich of Refinery29 on the Power of Vulnerability

At Refinery29, you have redefined what P.O.V. stands for. You say that brands not only have to own their Point of View, they also need to embrace their Power of Vulnerability. What can embracing vulnerability do to help a brand?

“The power of vulnerability can be good for business as long as you see it through the lens of allyship. Understanding where we have a creative safe space to have conversations is key. [At Refinery29,] we don't have a strategy where we lead with ‘how are we going to make a buck?’. We lead with: ‘How are we going to connect with audiences? How are we going to help shift culture? What are we seeing the audience do, and how are we going to help amplify that?’

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Benish Shah of Loop & Tie on Brand Authenticity

What is something you are noticing large brands fail at, whether it’s delivering brand purpose, happiness, or even reaching the community that’s looking for those things?

“I think brands market to who they think we are, rather than to who we actually are. You hear brands talk about ‘authenticity’, but when you start talking about ‘authenticity’, you’re no longer being authentic – you’re selling ‘authenticity’.

Bring more people into leadership [positions, representing] diverse voices, class, gender, race, whatever, all of those things. Bring them into a room, and then listen. That's how you’re going to tell a story that is well done.”

Every brand is engaging in some type of influencer activation today. Your approach was very strategic and holistic: collaborating with both product and marketing in a seemingly organic way. Tell us about the collaboration with Chrissy Teigen and John Legend. How do you measure the effect of the story?

What’s unique about our ongoing relationship with John and Chrissy is that it’s grown over time as we’ve gotten to better understand how we can play in each other’s spaces in a way that’s natural for both parties. That’s really where the magic lies - when you get to tell real and authentic stories that resonate with your audience and can strike the delicate balance of brand and celebrity voice. What started out as shooting the first-ever music video on a Pixel phone for John Legend’s song, “A Good Night,” grew into a larger partnership that featured he and Chrissy in our “Make Google Do It” campaign, which garnered millions of views on YT, and ultimately the launch of John’s voice on the Google Assistant as our first celeb cameo. As a result of these activations, we’ve seen a positive impact on brand awareness, conversation volume, and sentiment, and an increase in brand interest outside of our typical Google fanbase on social media. 

 

"As a result of these activations, we’ve seen a positive impact on brand awareness, conversation volume, and sentiment, and an increase in brand interest outside of our typical Google fanbase on social media."

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Trenton Kenagy of Greenhouse about Community

From your perspective as a creative director at Greenhouse and a creative in the world today - what is the current state of the story?

“In the context of storytelling, brands, and community, I think that the state of the story is: how do all of these things co-exist? There’s a lot of positive things that come from brands’ participation in issues and causes; however, there’s also a lot of negative things that come out of that. I don’t know if that balance has been struck necessarily. 

For me, the key thing that it comes down to is responsibility. Ultimately, brands have a responsibility to the causes, initiatives, or the topics they want to involve themselves with. They have a responsibility to tell stories – meaning there’s a value exchange. A brand has to contribute something, not just get the benefit from it. A brand can contribute it’s platform and it’s reach to amplify voices that might not have that amplification otherwise, which is a good value exchange. However, I don’t know if it's always working out that way.”

The “supply” of quality authentic influencers is not infinite, but the demand is growing wildly, as every brand manager needs an “influencer strategy.” Your approach was obviously very unique, but what can others learn from your experience?

Authenticity should reign supreme whenever you’re working with talent. You need to ask yourself the question, why are they a credible voice for your brand specifically and what are the strongest, most mutually beneficial ways to work together? If there’s no authentic tie-in with your brand, audiences will sniff that out immediately. 

 

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Dara Treseder of Carbon about Business to Human

What is the most important concept for businesses to keep in mind as they continue to grow?

“I think as storytellers we have to be guardians of the truth. Now, we might make the truth as pretty as possible and put it in the best light. So it looks as great as possible, but it's still the truth. Right? 

And I think that stewards and guardians of the truth are really important. I repeat that to my team all the time because I think it's so important for us to always be painting an authentic vision that we truly believe is a vision that we're marching towards now. 

And I think that if you do that no matter what happens with your company (because, let's face it, start-ups are, they are high risk, high reward), you'll be able to hold your head high. I think you will feel proud of the work that you have done, if you have been truthful and authentic, and it's hard to do. But it's important to try to do that.”

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Kay Hsu of Instagram Creative Shop about Social Stories

How is The State of the Story reflected in our society?

“I think The State of the Story right now outside of brands is very interesting – I think it’s a reflection of who we are as people. People are definitely expressing themselves in stories. I just had a conversation with someone, a very deep one, about the state of the world, and he said:

‘The stories that we’re seeing are reflections of who we are so we can move forward, but it’s a better reflection [than who we actually are, as people].’

Obviously, it’s a way for people to connect, and for the world to get along and move forward.”

As you look out at your strategic objectives and Google’s business in 2020, what’s most exciting for you? What are you seeing in the larger ecosystem that you’re passionate about, and want to engage in, creatively or strategically?

I’m most excited about developing a more robust measurement framework next year so we can better prove the direct impact of our celeb partnerships on our business. It’s been challenging to create one cohesive methodology to track the impact of celeb vs non-celeb campaigns, especially since each one tends to vary and touch on different Google products we’re marketing across disparate channels (social, digital, TV, OOH, and etc.).  Also, many of our products are apps that we offer for free, so we’re not always driving retail sales, which adds another layer to measuring success. I hope that once we crack this, we’ll be able to scale our model out to other partners and develop even more exciting collaborations down the line.

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Key Takeaways

Storytelling is innate in humans; it is what connects us and allows relationships to bloom. Effectively using this medium allows for consumers and businesses to become more than that. In a time when our connections and relationships define us, it is necessary to move past the business into a space where we can really join together. 

By utilizing these five themes, businesses can thrive during a time when otherwise they may not. Overall, the importance of connecting with your consumers through your humanity and storytelling is emphasized by these thought leaders. How can you implement these ideas into your business strategy?

As you look out at your strategic objectives and Google’s business in 2020, what’s most exciting for you? What are you seeing in the larger ecosystem that you’re passionate about, and want to engage in, creatively or strategically?

I’m most excited about developing a more robust measurement framework next year so we can better prove the direct impact of our celeb partnerships on our business. It’s been challenging to create one cohesive methodology to track the impact of celeb vs non-celeb campaigns, especially since each one tends to vary and touch on different Google products we’re marketing across disparate channels (social, digital, TV, OOH, and etc.).  Also, many of our products are apps that we offer for free, so we’re not always driving retail sales, which adds another layer to measuring success. I hope that once we crack this, we’ll be able to scale our model out to other partners and develop even more exciting collaborations down the line.

 

QUICK FACTS & STATS
QUICK FACTS & STATS

78%

78%

of consumers believe it is no longer acceptable for companies to just make money, they expect companies to positively impact society as well.

Source: CONE

2/3

2/3

Nearly two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z express a preference for brands that have a POV and stand for something.

Source: Edelman

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