Image via Huffington Post

57 minutes later, and I’m exhausted. I’m doing my best, but enough is enough. These stories are garbage. There isn’t a narrative. They all lack purpose. They’re horrible.

Last night, I spent 57 minutes watching every piece of content in my SnapChat story feed. While viewing each story, I refused to extend my finger out and tap the screen to skip to the next snap, not because I wanted to, but because I wanted to see if it was even humanly possible. Grueling is the only way to describe the experience of forcing myself to watch every piece of sub par content that, somehow, constitutes a “story” when stitched together. I asked my roommate what he thought about the current state of Snapchat Story, and he quickly replied that he had stopped watching them altogether, “…Waste of time.”

So, how do brands play on the social app that most marketers are, just now, realizing is here to stay? That’s what I am going to explore in this post through some basic visuals, a brand story example, and a small review of some brands, already on Snapchat that you can follow.

Years ago, I had the opportunity to work with Director George Mays on a series of moving image pieces (a fancy marketing term for digital videos). I distinctly remember him preaching that the only way we would keep the viewers attention is if we told a story. He broke it down very simplistically by drawing it out on a napkin. It looked something like this:

Three Act Structure

Over the course of multiple meetings, George’s basics of storytelling came to life. They were as follows:

  1. Within the first couple moments, the audience must ask themselves how the story is going to turn out.
  2. An ‘inciting incident’ must occur.
  3. The characters must be built.
  4. The audience must be given what they want but not what they expect.
  5. Stories always have outcomes.

I recently touched base with him for a refresher before writing this piece. I wanted to pick his brain and make sure I was regurgitating the storytelling process correctly. Apparently, little has changed in three years since he taught me this method.

Stories are about solving a problem, every problem has a solution. Stories explore the process of trying to attain a solution through characters, a plot line, and an outcome. The ‘inciting incident’ is the beginning of the story’s problem. Characters are built throughout the narrative and the viewers do their best to decide if each character is a protagonist (in favor of a solution) or an antagonist (prevents a solution). The final plot point is the moment when the audience realizes that every resource has been exhausted in order to try and solve the problem.

For learning sake, we’ll use an amazing commercial by Mercedes Benz as an example of how these principles come into play (1:07 long):

Mercedes-Benz 125! Years Anniversary Clip

Now, back to George’s basics of storytelling and how they apply to the Mercedes commercial:

  1. Within the first couple moments, the audience must ask themselves how this will turn out?
  • (0:01) It’s a dark night. Will something awful or malicious happen?
  • (0:05) There are dozens of classic Mercedes Benz vehicles scattered throughout a garage. Are they about to be broken into? Is theft about to occur?
  • Will a character come into play? We haven’t seen a face yet… Is there a villain?

2. An ‘inciting incident’ must occur.

  • (0:16) The eerie sound dies down and a small red light on the dashboard turns on.

3. The characters must be built.

  • (0:20) After the first couple honks, we question if the characters are inside of the cars.
  • Or wait, are the cars actually the characters?

4. The audience must be given what they want but not what they expect.

  • (0:30) After half dozen honks we smile and realize the cars are the characters.

5. Stories always have outcomes.

  • (0:37) After over a dozen honks, we realize the characters are playing out the song “Happy Birthday To You” through the use of their horns. Genius.
“Storytelling is the most easy way to put ideas into the world today.”-Robert Mckee

Consumers are becoming pickier about the content they consume. Their attention span is shorter, and they expect a higher level of quality. So, before you fire up your first brand story, think about the message you are trying to convey. Think about the demographic you are catering to, the culture they associate with, and most importantly, think real hard about the ‘story’ you are trying to tell as a brand.

If you are looking for some brand accounts to check out that might help you decipher how you want to broadcast your message on Snapchat, here’s my quick break down and opinion about three brands of which I’m an overall fan, but not necessarily a fan of on Lé Snap:

Needs Help: @Uber

Needs Help: @Uber

What story are they telling? Not defined.

Does their story work? Not yet. The most content I’ve seen is city tours from their Field Marketing Managers in their respected territories.

Room for improvement: With their recent rebrand, I’m hoping they allocate more resources to tell compelling stories on their account. Uber can create an interesting and captivating channel. Every driver I’ve ever ridden with has such an amazing life story he/she was open to sharing… If they leveraged that alone, I feel like they could flesh out some captivating and edgy content. Through Snapchat Story, Uber has a great opportunity to showcase the interconnectivity they are providing their users daily.

Great Start: @SoulCycle

Great Start: @SoulCycle

What story they are telling? A day in the life of each of their cyclists- the brands’ most valuable in house asset. The daily account “take overs” act as a great behind the scenes perspective.

Does their story work? It does, for now. The cyclists are active, well spoken, energetic, and live the lifestyle brand to the fullest. Snapchat is the perfect medium for SoulCycle to bridge the indoor experience they are selling with the outdoor lifestyle most of their customers aspire to live. When watching their Snapchat, you immediately pick up on the consistent SoulCycle lifestyle traits: the copious protein shakes, using foam rollers, the nap sessions the cyclists take between teaching classes. These make you feel even closer to the brand. These make you want to drink the kool-aid and be part of their club.

Room for improvement: What’s working is the consistency and relevancy behind each story. While they have something great going for them, I’d love to see SoulCycle add original and pre-conceived stories. From a lifestyle brand perspective, I applaud them for finding a fun, smart, and efficient way to dive headfirst into the platform, without over analyzing things. Sometimes, when you scale as fast as they have, you don’t have time to stop pedaling… Kudos to them for continuing to showcase WHY they are the lovebrand so many people are fanatic about.

You Win: @Tacobell

You Win: @Tacobell

What story they are telling? They consistently showcase how they are in touch with their consumers through their product promotions and announcements, mixture of images and videos with relevant pop cultural references, and cast of young hosts, who couldn’t fit the channel any better.

Does their story work? Yes, absolutely. Not only are they creating humorous and lively content with an actual narrative, the themes always follow the rest of their social channels. They do a great job informing their Millennial and Generation Z followers about their new products and special promotions. The footage is raw and looks authentic, compared to standard TV spots. They realize their customers are already sending snaps of the real, non-staged, $1 menu items, so they might as well accept it and do so themselves. Their cast of young personalities that manage the account gives their brand a sense of personality and trust. Kudos to Taco Bell for identifying that the platform is worthwhile- (cues geo located Quesolupa filter at every Taco Bell location).

Room for improvement: Keep doing you, Taco Bell. Word on the street is you have a whole young and dedicated team running your Snapchat channel. The tone, use of pop cultural references, and product placement are appreciated. All stories have a purpose and are well thought out. I’m excited to see how they grow their account and the leaps they take with it.

@Applemusic and @Warbyparker are also doing a great job with their Snapchat presence and storytelling. I recommend following both .

Just how brands have transitioned their audiences from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, it’s time they start strategizing about how they will convert those audiences to Snapchat. Brands need to be playing in the spaces where their consumers’ eyes and ears are located. Snapchat Story is a free and worthwhile social app that allows brands to do just that.

Tom Roche is a SF based Marketing Consultant passionate about social media, marketing, music, travel, culture, and entrepreneurship. For more information please visit:

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