Guest post by John Mowat
Online marketing has evolved significantly in recent years, driven in large part by the proliferation and explosive popularity of social media.
Not only are there now more options when it comes to the marketing medium itself, but there are now a huge number of platforms to choose from.
This proliferation of platforms has led to the rise of what video marketers refer to as the non-linear marketing narrative.
Where traditional linear narratives involve designing your marketing campaign around content that takes place at a specific time, for a specific and pre-determined duration with a beginning, middle and end contained within each piece of content.
Non-linear narrative marketing is more disparate, less self contained and relies on interactivity, the consumption of content over different time periods and on different platforms and devices. In short, non-linear marketing is adaptive and can change over time, depending on how users are interacting with it.
Storytelling as Marketing
The advent of non-linear forms of marketing has been driven by social media and the rise of smartphone technology and mobile internet. But that’s not to say the traditional narrative is dead.
Linear marketing is easy to develop and deploy, and can be effective at maintaining awareness if you have a strong brand, but if you want to make an impact quickly over multiple channels, then understanding non-linear video marketing is essential.
The key to non-linear marketing is the idea of interactivity and adaptability. In a recent speech Google’s global head of automotive, Meredith Guerriero, referred to this new paradigm in marketing as ‘dialogue not monologue.’
With the ability to comment, tweet, share and even make complimentary video content, marketing campaigns are having to adapt to opinion and cultural norms
at lightning pace to get traction to an increasingly switched-on audience.
Non-linear video marketing is especially effective because it combines the immediacy of moving pictures with the emotional and personal appeal of user
Instead of being a passive viewer (monologue), the viewer becomes a part of the story, helping to shape the way it evolves (dialogue). Even if they do not end up investing money in your company, they have invested time in your brand by make the effort to shape the story you are telling.
Non-linear marketing is nothing new. Online marketing guru Seth Godin talked about the idea back in 2006, but at that time consumers lacked the patience for the idea (or perhaps their internet connections were just not that up to the job).
Eight years ago marketers just didn’t have the formula to make it work, so non-linear marketing did not take off.
Today, with faster connections and the aforementioned proliferation of mobile technology and social media, we spend countless more hours online and it has become a lot easier to make fairly sophisticated video content.
In 2014 the conditions for non-linear marketing to take off are all there and brands recognise that fact and can manage to take advantage of it will be in a position
to do incredibly well.
Driving Logical Actions through Positive Emotions
If the world were a purely logical place, there would be room for just a handful of products in each niche, because the products that offered the best in each balance of price, performance and features would rise to the top quickly.
However, this is not how the world, or more specifically the market, operates. Most of us are driven partly by creativity and partly by logic.
Good marketers understand how to exploit this convergence desires by creating
emotional needs for products — needs that our rational minds then justify. This practice is called persuasion marketing and it plays out perfectly in a non-linear environment.
Let’s say you’ve put together a series of YouTube video ads. It is now entirely possible to reach out to several different kinds of consumer with targeted
advertisement and all over the same period of time.
Each consumer essentially has their own narrative, and depending on how they respond with clicks, commentary and shares, marketers can further tailor their experience.
Are they practically minded, or do they want luxury? Do they demand high performance or durability? What is more important, price or style? Ask questions in your interactive video, and play different responses depending on what the consumer clearly wants.
As much as anything, this form of interactive marketing is about marketers understanding exactly who their target audience is; their fears
and desires, their loves and hates.
Imagine a story which plays out like one of the old “Choose your own Adventure” books many of us may well remember from our youth. The user is prompted along the way to make decisions — what to wear, where to go and how to interact with
other characters they meet in their adventure.
In an interactive online environment with clicks, cookies and device identification marketers can determine for the first time, not just where a user comes from and what device they are using, but also what their motivations and their interests are.
Consumers aren’t interested in filling out surveys, but they will hand over an amazing amount of information in the name of fun.
Creating Brand Advocates
Perhaps more importantly than market information though, is the opportunity non-linear video marketing offers to create a genuine emotional connection with your target audience and therefore inspire a sense of loyalty amongst them.
Loyal followers can quickly become brand advocates and could ultimately end up
playing a powerful role in lobbying for your needs.
Non-linear advertising requires creativity, but done right it offers many benefits:
• Access to more information than consumers would usually hand out
• Increased engagement and retention of information
• Longer viewing periods
• The option to target multiple demographics with one advertisement
• Improved conversion rates
There has never been a better time to bring a more non-linear approach to your marketing campaigns.
Jon Mowat is a former BBC Documentary Filmmaker and Managing Director or Hurricane Media, a video marketing and production company based in Bristol, England.