Storytelling and the future of content marketing

Why are brands turning to digital storytelling for their content marketing?

An illustration of purple leaves
An illustration of purple leaves

Storytelling and the future of content marketing

Why are brands turning to digital storytelling for their content marketing?

An illustration of red and purple leaves

Let’s start with an understatement: Content marketing is changing. 

As more brands invest in content, quick wins have become harder to achieve. To stick out from the crowd, the most successful brands are investing in longer content with higher production values. 

This might mean that marketing teams publish less content. But it also means that the content they do publish has a much greater impact. 

As part of this investment in higher quality content marketing, marketing teams are also looking to produce a better reading experience for their leads. Obnoxious CTAs, sidebars, and pop-ups are slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past (hooray!) — particularly for businesses that care strongly about their reputation. 

The name for these new content marketing reading experiences? Immersive digital stories.

Why are content marketers investing in immersive digital storytelling?

Immersive digital storytelling is an umbrella term for modern, immersive reading experiences built to take advantage of modern web browsers.

Immersive digital stories are typically — though not always — visual, and often include high resolution images, video, and animation effects. 

In this guide, we’ll outline 6 reasons why brands are embracing immersive digital storytelling for their content marketing, and give you some tips on how to get started.

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1

The numbers are in

An illustration of orange leaves
An illustration of yellow and orange leaves

First and foremost, brands are turning to digital storytelling because they get better results.

Let’s take the example of Honda. After GDPR hit, the team at Honda decided to migrate their content hub — a microsite for their marketing content — to a digital storytelling platform.

There were many reasons for doing so. First, they wanted to have greater flexibility when producing their content, which wasn't always possible with their previous workflow and CMS.

The team at Honda also wanted to take advantage of the impressive visual techniques made possible by modern web browsers — without needing to hire teams of developers to build bespoke web experiences each and every time. 

But, like all marketing teams, they were ultimately looking for better results. 

And that’s what they got. After transitioning to immersive digital storytelling, the Honda team saw the average site dwell time increase by 85%, with an overall increase in ROI of 31%. Read the full case study on Honda's use of digital storytelling.

2

Animate natively in the browser

A green leaf
An illustration of green leaves

However you pronounce it — the correct way or ‘jif’ — GIFs are the ultimate visual crutch of content marketers. 

Used well, GIFs can be a handy way of introducing moving images in a story, without needing to invest in video or animation. Used poorly, though, they can make your content look hurried and cheap. As much as we all love Parks and Rec, it doesn’t take a tonne of effort to cut and paste a funny Ron Swanson GIF. 

As the production values for content increase, marketers are turning to more professional — and much more effective — visual techniques. Chief among these: native animation in the browser. 

With immersive digital storytelling platforms like Shorthand, this can be achieved using a series of static images, which come to life as the reader scrolls. This simple animation technique is especially useful for showcasing your product and visualising data. 

For example, check out this immersive story from Honda, on the history of the iconic Honda Civic. 

 

Image from Honda Civic story, on tablet and phone

Image of Honda driving on timeline
Image of Honda driving on timeline

However you pronounce it — the correct way or ‘jif’ — GIFs are the ultimate visual crutch of content marketers. 

Used well, GIFs can be a handy way of introducing moving images in a story, without needing to invest in video or animation. Used poorly, though, they can make your content look hurried and cheap. As much as we all love Parks and Rec, it doesn’t take a tonne of effort to cut and paste a funny Ron Swanson GIF. 

As the production values for content increase, marketers are turning to more professional — and much more effective — visual techniques. Chief among these: native animation in the browser. 

With immersive digital storytelling platforms like Shorthand, this can be achieved using a series of static images, which come to life as the reader scrolls. This simple animation technique is especially useful for showcasing your product and visualising data. 

For example, check out this immersive story from Honda, on the history of the iconic Honda Civic. 

Image of Honda driving on timeline

 

Screenshot of Honda digital story

3

Keep the reader’s attention

Maroon and orange leaves
An illustration on a red tree

It’s one thing to get the attention of your potential leads; it’s another thing to keep it. It takes time and money to get readers to your page — especially qualified readers that might convert — so it’s critical that marketers do everything they can to keep them on-page as long as possible. 

After all, the longer a reader stays on your page, the more likely they are to take the next step you’re edging them towards — whether that’s buying your product or becoming an advocate for your brand. 

The most authentic way to achieve greater dwell time is to increase the production values for your content. If you build content that is genuinely beautiful and compelling, your readers will stick with you. 

This sounds great in the abstract — make it beautiful! — though it also sounds expensive. Building distinctive and great looking content often requires a team of web designers and developers, which is impossible to scale without blowing your budget.

The best solution for marketing teams is to invest in a platform that allows you to build premium visual effects without writing code. This means that marketers — rather than developers — will determine your publishing cadence. 

Auction house Christie’s have done an excellent job of this with their online ‘viewing rooms’ — immersive digital stories that keep the reader’s attention with animation effects and stunning high resolution images.

Screenshot from a digital story from Christie's

Screenshot from a digital story from Christie's

It’s one thing to get the attention of your potential leads; it’s another thing to keep it. It takes time and money to get readers to your page — especially qualified readers that might convert — so it’s critical that marketers do everything they can to keep them on-page as long as possible. 

After all, the longer a reader stays on your page, the more likely they are to take the next step you’re edging them towards — whether that’s buying your product or becoming an advocate for your brand. 

The most authentic way to achieve greater dwell time is to increase the production values for your content. If you build content that is genuinely beautiful and compelling, your readers will stick with you. 

This sounds great in the abstract — make it beautiful! — though it also sounds expensive. Building distinctive and great looking content often requires a team of web designers and developers, which is impossible to scale without blowing your budget.

The best solution for marketing teams is to invest in a platform that allows you to build premium visual effects without writing code. This means that marketers — rather than developers — will determine your publishing cadence. 

Auction house Christie’s have done an excellent job of this with their online ‘viewing rooms’ — immersive digital stories that keep the reader’s attention with animation effects and stunning high resolution images.

Screenshot from a digital story from Christie's

Screenshot from a digital story from Christie's

4

Publish content for all devices

An illustration of red and purple leaves
An illustration of red and purple leaves

Some of your readers will access your content at their desktop at work. Others, though, will be reading on a tablet at home, or on their phone during their breaks or commutes. It’s an old lesson, but it’s worth repeating: you need to make sure that your content is fully responsive and works on all devices. 

If you’re not publishing responsive content, your readers won’t like you. (Google won’t like you, either.)

This is one of the reasons so many marketers have turned to digital storytelling platforms like Shorthand — which automatically optimises content for all devices. 

This is a bigger deal than it sounds. Often, impressive and cutting-edge visual content on the web doesn’t work all that well on mobile screens. The good news is that digital storytelling platforms can automate most of the hard work — including handling your media assets and making it easy to QA — so you can build stories without breaking the experience for your mobile readers. 

This means you can be visually ambitious — with video and immersive scroll-based visual effects — for all your readers, not just those on larger screens.

5

A premium look and feel

An illustration of purple and orange leaves
An illustration of yellow and orange leaves

As we mentioned in our introduction, as content marketing has taken off, too many brands are publishing too much low-quality content. But the best marketing teams are tacking in the other direction and embracing quality. 

They do this by producing content that is targeted to generate sales — and not just clicks. This content is often backed with more research and higher production values than is typical for marketing content. 

In the past, visually impressive content was expensive and time-consuming to produce. Often, a developer and web designer were required, which meant that marketing teams produced less visually-rich content. More often, marketing teams would simply lower their ambitions for how their content was presented. 

Happily, this is no longer the case. With digital storytelling platforms, great looking content can be produced quickly by the marketing team itself, often without any coding required.

6

Built for content marketers

A green leaf
An illustration of green leaves

In content marketing — as with so much else on the web — the best solutions often seem to be built by and for developers. From email automation and analytics to content production and publishing, marketing teams are often faced with two bad options.

On the one hand, marketers can attempt to implement a ‘lite’ or amateur version themselves, and get worse results. On the other hand, marketers can wait for developers to implement a professional solution and then, well, wait. 

Content marketers aren’t developers, and they shouldn’t need to be to publish great looking content. A core principle of digital storytelling is that content should be primarily built by content writers and designers. This enables more premium content to be published — and, ultimately, more conversions to follow. 

An illustration of purple leaves

If you’re looking to get started with digital storytelling, Shorthand offers a free trial. This gives you an opportunity to experiment with visual techniques and get a sense of how digital storytelling can transform your content marketing. 

Sign up for a free trial.