Storytelling in a Digital World

Brand storytelling — from conception to creation to experience — is changing at its core.

The advertising industry has forever been in the business of storytelling.

With the debut of MadMen’s final season this spring, the history of advertising agencies and their heritage as the arbiters of a story well-told is once again front and center around the water cooler.

But something really interesting is happening, and it’s happening at an accelerating pace.

The art of brand storytelling — from conception to creation to experience — is changing at its core.


1. For starters, brands are stories, and stories are content.

All kinds of content. Big and small, epic and, well, non-epic. To be a great storyteller, brands and their agency partners must embrace and master all forms of content. Easier said than done, as new content types are being invented all the time. Imagine this: Vines didn’t exist 12 months ago. What’s next?

2. Brand stories are consumed in a non-linear fashion.

With an ever-increasing array of content curation and consumption platforms and utilities, consumers are in complete control of what they view, where they view it (both device and location-dependent), and when they view it. Place and time shifting has made it increasingly challenging for brands to tell their stories.

No-one reads the brand chapter book, staring at Chapter 1 and finishing at the end.

3. Brand stories are increasingly shaped by the viewing experience.

No story, or piece of content, stands alone anymore. Every piece of content is shared, commented on, edited, re-interpreted, and more.

Net — Brands must adjust to a world in which they are storytelling in a highly dynamic, purely organic, non-linear and increasingly technology-empowered world.

So, what to do?

Well, it’s really not as hard as it seems. And more and more, a wider array of content partners, makers, distributors, and engagement agencies are helping brands shape and deliver their stories in this new world.

  • Define the clear brand purpose. Not positioning, but purpose that can stretch and apply in almost every consumer interaction scenario
  • Be clear about the business and marketing objectives. What do you want your stories to convey, of course, but what do you want your audiences to think/feel/do as a result? Being super clear about metrics of success helps shape the stories and the content that carries them
  • Identify all relevant targets audiences. Across social media spaces, we can be hyper-targeted. No longer does one size fit all — so we can tell many stories in a way that suits us
  • Define the content types and the platforms that are: relevant to the consumers you want to reach, relevant to the marketing task at hand, and appropriate to the social platform where they will be consumed
  • Measure, optimize, and measure some more to make sure your brand stories are having the intended effect
And finally, remember this simple truth of all great storytelling. If it wasn’t understood, it wasn’t well communicated.

Marc is an entrepreneur, father and founder of socialdeviant.

Dive into more of Marc’s business, culture and enterprenurial mussings at

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