nonlinear storytelling vine

2013 was a big year for video with the launch of Vine, which just unveiled a web version. The service has given brands new ways to connect with consumers through timely videos. But more importantly, it has challenged brands to become better storytellers. With increased brand content and the ever evolving state of social media, video has led marketers into a nonlinear way of thinking.

Previously, traditional ads had beginnings and endings, they were told on a single page or within a 30-second time slot, and often relied on a slogan or jingle to help consumers remember them. People today move quickly (and unpredictably) between devices and platforms. Attention spans are decreasing, and with likes, favorites, pins, reblogs, revines, and retweets, the old linear format doesn’t cut it anymore.

Given that consumers can discover content in so many different ways, marketers no longer know at which point a viewer will first encounter a campaign. So how do you build a campaign that makes sense and hooks viewers regardless of whether they first see the tweet, the magazine ad, or the Vine video? That’s where nonlinear storytelling comes into play.

The story is still important; a good story draws the viewer in, and that hasn’t changed. Through nonlinear storytelling, the events of a story aren’t in chronological order — it’s fragmented, much like the media landscape. What has changed is how people discover, distribute, and engage with that story. As a result, this has challenged brands to create high-quality content that can stand on its own, even if it’s part of a series.

Create More Interactive Stories

A fantastic example of nonlinear storytelling is Old Spice’s “Response” videos. The brand brilliantly tackled the new format through a series of response videos to Twitter fans. The campaign originally began with simple TV ads which then went viral on YouTube. The follow-up responses helped the total web views for all Old Spice videos reach 110 million, “surpassing the reach of traditional broadcast.”

A more recent example of this can be seen in Honda’s #WantNewCar campaign. The campaign was based around the brand responding in near real-time to unhappy car owners on Twitter with a personalized Vine video. The first day of the campaign brought 1,020 new followers and 2,292 mentions (compared to Honda’s six-month average of 242 and 166, respectively). Later, Honda followed it up with its #DriveInAuction campaign in which it used Vine to host a live auction and raise money for America’s drive-in movie theaters.

Sell a Lifestyle, Not Just a Product

Nonlinear storytelling is much more complex. Success depends on how well consumers are telling your story. For this reason, don’t make your story all about your product. Instead, highlight the lifestyle associated with it. Your story should add value to viewers’ lives and make them want to tell the story on their own.

Dove, known for its self-esteem boosting messaging, has garnered a lot of attention through its video ads. Most recently, the brand’s “Real Beauty Sketches” amassed more than 114 million views, making it the most viral ad video of all time. It was shared by men, women, and even other brands. If you’ve watched it, then you already know that not a single Dove product was visible throughout the video.

Instead, the brand focused on an emotional response. Even looking at some of Dove’s smaller Vine video campaigns, we can see that the company tends to create warm moments and would rather trigger an emotional response instead of the decision to buy. Of course, as a result, millions of people now relate Dove with the idea of feeling happy and beautiful, so that will undoubtedly play into consumers’ decisions to purchase beauty products in the future.

Video services — Vine in particular — are finding ways to make it easier for brands to create memorable and entertaining stories through nonlinear storytelling. Through the newly launched web version, which features many of the same functions as the mobile app, viewers can visit profiles and scroll through a brand’s Vine videos.

The new version also includes a web-only feature called TV Mode. Through this, viewers can click on the TV-shaped icon on your Vine profile and watch your videos in full-screen mode, in sequence. The video will appear on half of the screen, while the other half will display the video’s title and/or description. It’s a great way to encourage viewers to check out all of your Vine content.

Right now, Vine for the web is all about consumption. Currently members are unable to record or upload videos, putting the focus strictly on viewing content. With consumers’ attention on your videos, this is a great opportunity for brands to challenge themselves and create some nonlinear stories on Vine. What’s fantastic about Vine is that it’s already primed for the way people are discovering and sharing video content — all that’s missing is you.

[Image credit: Jonathan Rubio]