Story Makers Will Write the Future

blog pic 1118It’s not often we get to think about the future; in fact life can be so hectic I sometimes think it a miracle I manage to get food in the fridge! So what a treat it was to be asked to attend the Spikes Asia Festival of Creativity in Singapore.

Want to escape rainy London and family responsibilities for a few days to be inspired and meet the next generation of marketers? Sign me up!

Now that I’m back, there are three things I can’t stop thinking and talking about:

1. If you are a marketer selling something today, ponder this for a moment… China’s ecommerce market alone is now bigger than that of the US, in dollar terms. By 2020 it will be bigger than that of today’s combined markets in the US, Japan, UK and Germany (McKinsey Global Institute report from March 2013).

2. To fuel your creativity, go where the “fun, danger, action and pain” is. Steven van der Kruit of Firmenich Flavors walks “towns” for a living to observe what he calls the “process of change”. 80% of all trends originate from 12 global cities, half of which are in Asia Pacific: London, Tokyo, New York, Sao Paolo, Bangkok, Berlin, Shanghai, Seoul, Los Angeles, Amsterdam, Istanbul, and Sydney. But don’t stick to centers – walk the streets of Harlem, Bushwick or Brick Lane, where grit and graffiti abound. Look closely now and you’ll gain insight on what will be mainstream in five years.

3. “Story making” will join “storytelling” as the most beloved byword in marketing communications, I predict. My biggest “a-ha!” (which has been germinating since attending the 2011 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity) is the powerful role of story makers.  This will forever change the way I think about, talk about, and do marketing. Much like storytelling, story making is socially motivated and fundamental to learning and bonding, explained Starcom’s Emma Montgomery in her riveting talk. But story making relies largely on visual media to address the TL:DR (too long, didn’t read) mentality of today. Showing rather than telling is the key to unleashing your brand or message.

Montgomery cited a Facebook study where articles with pictures were found to accelerate pick-up (no surprise as we’ve long known this to be true of newspapers, argued a friend). And how about when the audience becomes the creator (think the millions of spoof videos spawned by PSY’s Gangnam Style video, currently at 1.8 billion views!). But brands, she warned, need to consistently keep pace with culture to get it right (Think: Oreos, “Daily Twist.”). It’s not just about selling. Credibility has to be earned and brands must find their natural space. Here, listening will be an important skill behind story making campaigns. Staying culturally agile holds real social value and must be an active pursuit of story makers*.

The big lesson from Spikes for me is that, as marketers, we would do well to invest in story making skills, travel outside our comfort zones and use this input to make powerful visual stories that optimize our chances of earning attention for the brands we seek to promote.

*For inspiration, consider what story maker Julia Cameron recommends and take an Artist Date with yourself. In London, you can’t go wrong with V&A’s Elmgreen & Dragset through to 2 Jan 2014.

Photo Credit:  Slide presented by Emma Montgomery, Starcom, at the Spikes Asia Festival 2013.