What does every good story have in common? OK — aside from having a beginning, a middle and an end?
They all have that special “something” that makes the reader care.
As a marketer, you’re a digital storyteller. It’s all up to you to weave a tale that attracts your target audience and gets them to truly care about your brand’s message. When you do it right, you can avoid creating just another marketing campaign. Instead, you’ll build a genuine, long-lasting connection with your customers.
Read on to learn about 8 best-in-class digital storytelling examples and start writing your brand’s own happily ever after.
Table of Contents
- Telling a Story: The Digital Marketer’s Most Powerful Tool
- 8 Best Examples of Digital Storytelling
- FTX Super Bowl Ad – Don’t Miss Out on Crypto
- Kia’s Robo Dog
- The McDonald’s Conundrum
- Spotify and Harry Styles
- Dove and the Reverse Selfie
- Apple’s 911
- Bear 71
- The 1-Word Tweet Storm
- The Benefits of Digital Storytelling
- Putting Pen to Paper: Your Top Digital Storytelling Tips
Telling a Story: The Digital Marketer’s Most Powerful Tool
Like any good story, we’ll start from the beginning: What do we actually mean when we say “digital storytelling?”
At its most basic, the digital storytelling process involves using a mixture of content and digital media to bring a narrative to life. These campaigns combine audio, images, animated clips and more all to tell a single story.
As described by Forbes, 3 of the most widely used digital storytelling techniques include:
- Customer-generated stories: This category is basically word-of-mouth marketing to the max. Here, you give your existing customers a platform to speak about their experience with your brand in an effort to connect with and educate potential prospects.
- Data-focused campaigns: By using compelling data and statistics to demonstrate the impact of your brand, you can attract the eyes of your target audience.
- Minis: Sometimes, less is more. Short snippets of teaser information can better capture and engage the increasingly shorter attention span of the modern consumer.
Don’t feel as though your digital marketing campaign has to be constrained to just 1 of these techniques. Depending on your target market, using a combination of 2 multimedia elements or pulling from all 3 might be exactly what you need to tell your brand story. Just remember that all these elements will end up as branded content, which means they need to fully reflect your quality and values. (Hint: Branded content and content marketing aren’t the same, but they have a lot of overlap!
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8 Best Examples of Digital Storytelling
OK — we know what digital storytelling is. But what does it actually look like in practice? Let’s dive into 8 of the most unique digital marketing examples from across different industries:
1. FTX Big Game Ad – Don’t Miss Out on Crypto
“Nobody’s going to the moon. Ever. It’s too far!”
That’s just one of Larry David’s hilariously wrong predictions in the FTX ad made for America’s beloved sporting event. “I’m never wrong about this stuff — never,” he assures us, even as we just watched him bash the wheel, the lightbulb and portable music.
This digital story is FTX’s humorous response to anyone who thinks crypto won’t take off. It’s also a succinct, powerful way to remind us that stuff we take for granted today was once considered outlandish — so, FTX tells us, don’t be a doubter.
2. Kia’s Robo Dog
This Kia ad is far from the first time a brand has used puppy-dog eyes to win our affection — but this time, things are a bit more electric.
The driver of an electric vehicle is fated to fall in love with an electric dog, right? Well, that’s exactly what Kia is playing on in this narrative: love. They show us that a robot puppy is every bit as lovable as a real one, and then subtly encourage us to apply similar logic to electric cars. It’s a smart way to convince gas-powered vehicle owners that the future is friendly.
3. The McDonald’s Conundrum
If you’ve ever been to a drive-thru, you’ve probably experienced the moment captured in this McDonald’s tweet: No thoughts, head empty — just a menu with a million options.
This is a particularly strong example of simple yet smart digital storytelling. Although it’s technically just text, it becomes something much funnier — and more relatable — by stretching the “uh” to fill an entire Tweet. (That’s called “visual storytelling,” kids.) Plus, it plays off of something that occurs in drive-thrus across the world every day.
To put it simply, we all know this story — but McDonald’s was the first one to put it in front of us.
4. Spotify and Harry Styles
Spotify has positioned itself as the king of music streaming. Just take a look at social media come December — your newsfeed is likely flooded with screenshots of your friends’ yearly listening breakdowns.
In the “Only You” ad, the company plays on this narrative, comedically highlighting a listener who played Harry Styles’ song over 15 times in a row. By providing a personalized breakdown of users’ listening habits, Spotify works to connect with its audience by focusing on what sets each of us apart.
5. Dove and the Reverse Selfie
Since first launching the “Real Beauty” campaign in 2004, Dove has committed itself to tackling traditional beauty standards. With this ad, the brand reaffirms that mission.
We watch in reverse as a young woman gets ready to take a selfie. The video unwinds as she takes a glamorous photo, applying image distortion effects, filters and heavy makeup to achieve the look she wants. At the end, we’re left with a young girl staring sadly in the mirror. Dove shares a poignant message about the negative impact of social media, urging viewers to appreciate their natural beauty.
6. Apple’s 911
Unlike Mcdonald’s and FTX, Apple decided to put humor aside and take their great digital storytelling down a chilling but powerful path.
n this ad, we hear the nervous voices of people in tough situations. Luckily, all 3 were wearing Apple watches, which means they were able to place emergency calls and get help in minutes. It’s a story about the power of connectedness, but it’s also a convincing reason to go buy yourself a smart watch.
7. Bear 71
While not an advertisement, this interactive documentary by the National Film Board of Canada is perhaps the most impressive example of how you can bring different media types together to tell a good story.
The narrative is told from the perspective of a bear who is rescued from a snare and released into the wild with a tracker collar. As she tries to return to her normal life, she shares her new reality with viewers — and we find that our everyday, human activities might be more disruptive than we realize.
Video, photographs, an interactive map and other elements come together to form this immersive experience. It’s not just a fascinating story; it’s one of the best examples of how digital tools can turn into something much bigger than themselves.
8. The 1-Word Tweet Storm
Okay, this one’s happening as we write this article. You’re hearing it here first, folks.
This gives a whole new meaning to “short and sweet.” The fascinating thing about this string of Tweets is that it would be an entirely different digital story if 1 brand did it 1 time, or if a single brand was responsible for every Tweet. Instead, we’re seeing entire conversations happening through single-word posts and replies, and the result is an internet-wide narrative.
For example, let’s say you replied to NASA or Amtrak like this: “what.”
Like it or not, you just took part in the 1-word Tweet story, and now you’re interacting with brands in a fun, playful way. That’s the power of digital storytelling: You’re not always just the audience; sometimes, you’re also the narrative.
The Benefits of Digital Storytelling
In 2000, Microsoft conducted a study measuring how long people can focus on one thing for a specific amount of time. The results came in at around 12 seconds.
15 years later? It dropped to 8 seconds.
Although there hasn’t been an update on the study since, researchers estimated that the number would only continue to dwindle.
Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads every single day. If you’re a digital marketer, cutting through the noise and actually capturing your audience’s attention for that sacred 8 seconds (or fewer) is going to take a more compelling narrative than a traditional ad could contain.
In addition to capturing the attention of your target audience, digital storytelling offers your team a host of other benefits:
- Genuine messaging: Customers are inundated with aggressive advertising and other sales practices all the time. Leveraging a thoughtful brand story can help you stand out among the crowd.
- Cohesive content planning: Once you create a digital storytelling project, the hard part is done. From there, you can leverage aspects of your story across social media and other channels to get the word out there.
- Meaningful branding: Actions speak louder than words for today’s consumers. When you use a digital story to demonstrate how your company is dedicated to your mission as well as your customers, you prove that you’re in for the right reasons.
In today’s market, digital storytelling is quickly becoming the new norm. Keeping up with your customers’ expectations and your competitors’ marketing will take some extra creativity on your part.
Putting Pen to Paper: Your Top Digital Storytelling Tips
Now that we know what a good storytelling campaign looks like and why it’s so important, let’s break down what you should keep in mind as you develop your own:
- Show, don’t tell: It may be tempting to over-explain your story. However, try to lean more heavily on engaging visuals and compelling audio cues to let the audience come to their own conclusion.
- Keep it brief: Just look at the campaigns we went over today — not 1 was longer than a minute. The best digital stories don’t need more time than that to get their point across.
- Stay consistent: Don’t pull a bait-and-switch maneuver and follow an emotional personal narrative with an outright ad. Be sure that your story flows through from start to finish.
- Look for inspiration: There’s inspiration to be had just about anywhere — especially through Creative Commons licenses. This allows free use of copyrighted content, which means you can scour the Creative Commons database for videos, images and other media to use in your digital story.
Looking for some extra pointers when it comes to crafting your own one-of-a-kind digital campaign? Subscribe to the Brafton newsletter for marketing tips, industry updates and more!
Editor’s Note: Updated September 2022.
Snowfall – The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek
A Pulitzer prize winning project, 'Snow Fall' by the New York Times has practically become synonymous with digital storytelling. In the six days after Snow Fall's launch on December 20th, 2012, it had received more than 3.5 million page views and 2.9 million visitors.
- Point of View. What is the main point of the story and what is the perspective of the author?
- A Dramatic Question. ...
- Emotional Content. ...
- The Gift of Your Voice. ...
- The Power of the Soundtrack. ...
- Economy. ...
As Patrick said, before his team takes on a project, they make sure they have a firm understanding of what they call the Four P's: People, Place, Plot, and Purpose. 1. People: Who is in the story? Characters are what make us emotionally invested in a story.How do you write a digital storytelling script? ›
- Get personal. Forget everything you've been taught about using a dispassionate, authoritative, essay-like voice. ...
- Write lousy first drafts. ...
- Write short. ...
- Read your script aloud as you're fine-tuning it. ...
- Don't hold back. ...
- Look for a narrative arc for your story. ...
- Work on the pace. ...
- Trust your voice.
The design of a good digital story should encourage reading by providing plenty of clear space, as well as carefully selected fonts and type size. Additionally, design should be device-aware — optimized for touch, different viewports, and varying data download limitations.What are the different types of digital stories? ›
Here are some possible themes for a personal story:
- Remembrance or memorial stories.
- Relationship stories.
- The genesis story.
- Stories of challenge.
- Stories about a place.
- Stories of adventure, a journey or travel.
As Kelly Hungerford puts it: the 7 elements of visual storytelling are: design, personalization, usefulness, personality, storytelling, share-worthiness and real-time.What is the first step in digital storytelling? ›
- Step One: Come up with an idea and write a proposal. ...
- Step Two: Research, Explore and Learn. ...
- Step Three: Write / Script. ...
- Step Four: Storyboard / Plan. ...
- Step Five: Gather / Create Images, Audio and Video. ...
- Step Six: Put it all together. ...
- Step Seven: Share. ...
- Step Eight: Feedback and reflect.
- Observe Established Communications Pros.
- Put Yourself In Someone Else's Shoes.
- Start Using Stories In Everyday Life.
- Lower Your Chin And Speak From The Heart.
- Don't Shy Away From Conflict.
- Write For A Diverse Audience.
- Find The Story Behind The Story.
- Get fresh eyes on it. Taking a break and returning to your novel writing or short story writing later on can give you a fresh perspective on your content and story structure. ...
- Add layers. ...
- Embrace flaws. ...
- Only keep scenes that matter.
What's Your Story | How to Answer this Question on the Spot - YouTubeHow do I tell my life story? ›
- Discuss a difficult time in your life, and how you overcame it. ...
- Talk about a funny moment, that changed the way you think and feel about something. ...
- Share something you learned during your career that changed the trajectory of your gifts.
- Recognize and remove the roles you play in others' lives. If you're going to share your story, you need to write from a place of absolute truth. ...
- Don't share in real time. ...
- Create boundaries. ...
- Get out of your head. ...
- Respect the dream.
Storytelling establishes common ground and empathy
Clearly, sharing your story has the potential to help someone else feel less alone. Our stories are powerful because they evoke compassion even among strangers. We also create opportunities to understand others better and to cultivate empathy towards them.
You can tell digital stories in many ways, for example: through text on a website or social media tool, through narration and images in a video, or through narration in a podcast.What is the importance of digital storytelling? ›
Digital storytelling persuades the brain and the heart.
Digital stories can teach students the value of emotional rhetoric, allowing them to explore new ways of acting or thinking differently. These stories can elicit emotional responses in students and encourage them to pursue topics that they're passionate about.
Google Classroom - How can I use Digital Storytelling with my classes?What is the meaning of digital storytelling? ›
Digital Storytelling uses multimedia tools to bring narratives to life. Digital Stories can be used to explain a concept, to reflect on a personal experience, to retell a historical event, or to make an argument. Digital stories are typically videos that combine audio, images, and video clips to tell a story.What is digital story telling tools? ›
Digital storytelling is the practice of using digital tools such as timelines, audio, videos and images to create non-traditional forms of scholarship. We are no longer required to rely only on text to explain concepts in our writing. Traditional online articles are now becoming interactive storytelling experiences.What is the beauty of digital storytelling? ›
Digital storytelling aims to pull viewers into a story rather than the traditional approach to marketing, which pushes branded messages onto viewers. Rather than talking at customers, digital storytelling speaks to consumers in a way that resonates - through human emotion.