There are a lot of movies about people falling in love with machines, such as Her, Ex Machina, and A.I.—but there are a lot more movies about people falling in love with other people. It's easier for customers to connect with human stories than with even the most lovable robot or talking app. In turn, a great story about a person can sell a device way better than a great story about a device ever can, and happy endings have a profound effect on how we feel. Digital storytelling may sound cold and robotic, but it should feel just as warm and fuzzy as reading a book by the fire. In Blake Snyder's classic screenwriter's book Save the Cat, the author explains that even the worst protagonist needs only to do one good deed—save the cat, as it were—for us to fall in love with him. The same is true for marketing—one good story is all you need. That's not just Hollywood magic—it's science. Product Placement Is Dead The positive chemical and emotional responses that cause us to fall for fictional characters can be harnessed to create better brand and product associations—as long as there's a real story behind them. Abruptly transitioning from a story about helping a kitten out of a tree to an advertisement for a computer hardly counts as a valuable connection. But a longer story that shows a device helping real, likeable characters in relatable pursuits can have a profound impact on customer perception. As branded content continues to blur lines in the entertainment world, sponsored miniseries, like Intel's What Lives Inside, will continue to rise in popularity. Writing off such campaigns as product placement is missing the point. Seeing the product is not what sells us on it, it's seeing likeable people using it in realistic ways that creates a connection. Long Live Branded Content Digital storytelling that leads to stronger emotional bonds between people and products is great marketing. But is simply telling stories enough? The Content Standard recently looked at how storytelling can lead to storymaking, which holds true for emotional connections, too. Teams and relationships are strengthened through laughter, which leads to more open and engaged conversations. Looking to lean on your customers to help make truly great stories together? Try making them laugh (or cry) first. Character Studies There are plenty of psychological reasons why we are willing to connect with characters over devices or products, and it is this knowledge that should change the way we all approach storytelling. Simply telling a story we want customers to believe about a device or product is not good enough. Instead, we have to carefully craft stories that connect characters to customers while organically incorporating brands. Consumer trust is fragile, and the best way to ruin a good story is to abruptly insert a commercial break. The next generation of digital storytelling will not lean on narratives to push products, it will use characters to create brand connections. Resist the temptation to make content about products; if you make it for people, the rest will follow.
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