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Scattered narratives

2 min, 41 sec read
13:00 PM | 6 April 2017
by Jeremy Garner
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Jeremy Garner, Creative Director, OgilvyOne

Considering I’m meant to have an average attention span of eight seconds (according to much-discussed research commissioned by Microsoft), the recent 43-page Adobe mobile technology report ‘Touching the infinite’ made for interesting reading.

Not least the point that the average user checks their smartphone 85 times a day.
‘Is that all?’ was my initial reaction.

Just think of your journey to work today. If you commute, how many of your fellow passengers had their faces glued to their phones? And, of those who didn’t and were reading, talking, thinking or looking out of the window, how many habitually checked their mobile devices every few minutes?

If not all, then most, right?

"The average user checks their smartphone 85 times a day."

Then consider that the average person can also spend around two hours on social media every day. Which sees their time divided on YouTube (40 minutes), Facebook (35 minutes), Snapchat (25 minutes) and Instagram (15 minutes) amongst others.

With their levels of digital engagement being quite sporadic, it’s as if people constantly need to scoop the carrot-stick of their attention into the mobile guacamole just to make it through the morning.

With customers having that level of snack-like attention and a predisposition towards weaving random engagement patterns, should we be reappraising the very way that brand stories are told?

Well, first and foremost a brand should aspire to communicate in a holistic way which, using multiple touchpoints, involves customers and feels inclusive.

From every campaign to each tactical message, if the story can add up to something greater than the sum of the parts and leave the customer with a feeling of what the brand is truly about, then that’s meaningful engagement.

So it shouldn’t really matter if customers deviate from a linear, to a random, path. The brand story – that is, the overall narrative that it weaves with all its communicative components – should always strive towards eliciting an emotive response, with a tone that is well-carved and a behaviour that feels true.

That way, and with a varied array of components, the ‘dots’ can be rearranged in whatever order the customer likes, and the final picture – a meaningful level of engagement on the customer’s terms – can still be consistent.

Brands like Google and Lego are good examples of this. Not because of their ubiquity, but due to their effectiveness in making you feel a certain way, whatever part of the ongoing narrative you happen to have dipped into.

In Lego’s case, this could be anything from video games or movies to physical stores. Just as you’re able to be carried by the voice of a distinctive author – say, Cormac McCarthy – without undue effort, so even unrelated chapters of the Google or Lego stories can still feel cohesive in not only tone but intent.

"The same brands will always mean different things to different people."

And this ever-fragmenting landscape of decreasing attention spans, new platforms and fiercely non-linear journeys, will provide rich narrative possibilities. If only because it will demand appropriately innovative means to tell these stories.

But then, that’s only my take on it. I’m sure there’s another 84 points of view out there to dip into.

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