How to Create Multiple Narratives in Non Linear Video Marketing

Weaving a single marketing campaign across a multitude of video platforms means delivering a compelling non-linear narrative.

The ubiquity of laptops, smartphones, and tablets has changed how we all consume media. For advertisers and marketers it's now essential to utilize a whole range of video-hosting platforms to get your brand message across. Creating joined up video marketing campaigns across multiple platforms is now par for the course for marketers as they try to reach diverse communities that consume content on different platforms and at different times of the day.

From television to YouTube and Vimeo to micro-movie making services like Vine and Instagram, weaving a single marketing campaign across a multitude of video platforms means delivering a compelling non-linear narrative.

Non-Linear Marketing

A comprehensive non-linear campaign may include a range of video work: a long ad for TV; a shorter version for YouTube, and a six-second Vine video. All the ads will take viewpoints on the same story but will deviate in their focus, with one or more of the online products taking on a more humorous tone or a behind-the-scenes context. In this strategy a company that is switched on to social trends and its community's activity can gain huge traction by tweaking their output depending on how previous content, and indeed that of its rivals, has been received by consumers.

The habit of TV watchers browsing a 'second screen,' as a smartphone or tablet, while watching a TV show has grown steadily since the latter half of the previous decade. Nielsen found in 2013 that just less than half of all tablet and smartphone owners used their device as a second screen while watching TV on a daily basis. Of those that do omni-screen in this way, tablets seem to slightly outdo smartphones in terms of activity. Of the activities, 76 percent of tablet owners and 63 percent of smartphone owners looked up information in general, with 68 percent, and 55 percent surfing the web and 53 percent and 52percent visiting social networking sites. Twenty percent of tablet owners said they used it to shop for products that were being advertised on television at the time.

This activity has obviously opened up huge opportunities for advertisers looking to connect with viewers watching their ads on television by directing them to more content online and extending their brand exposure. Unlike television advertising, non-linear marketing of this kind has evolved as a direct result of the phenomenon of omni-screening. Although omni-screening in turn has been driven largely by technology, the democratising effect of social media as well as a proliferation of platforms has meant digital content marketers have had to construct their marketing strategies around already established architectures and norms, instead of imposing a degree of control from above. It's no mystery why the best non-linear marketing is interactive, enabling users to not only participate in the story by submitting their own content, but to even control the outcome.

Minutes and Moments

One of the driving concepts in non-linear brand marketing is the differentiation between what I call minutes and moments. These are the alternative paradigms of long-play platforms such as television and YouTube and the short or micro-movie making platforms that have recently emerged online, such as Instagram and Vine. These new platforms are as different in nature as micro-blogging (in other words tweeting) is to blogging and so it's important to differentiate and plan your content accordingly.

In order to communicate a narrative across a range of platforms in a non-linear fashion, there should be a clear distinguishing message, theme, or style adopted across your entire campaigns. Your campaign should then alternate between logical triggers that persuade a consumer of the advantages of owning your product and emotional triggers that endear consumers to your brand. In longer form content these triggers can be utilized together, but in short form content they should exist as individual moments.

Short Form Content

Short-form video platforms are great at targeting a snapshot to consumers while omni-screening or flicking through bite-size content during periods of 'down time' (ie on the commute to / from work, waiting for a friend to turn up in a caf? The short time spans of videos on Instagram and Vine (the former has a maximum playtime of 15 seconds per video, while the latter is fixed at six seconds of looping footage) may seem prohibitive, but they are perfectly suited to these moments. The trick is that each of these elements should simultaneously exist as part of a wider narrative while being able to serve as a standalone video that doesn't leave the viewer confused as to its purpose.

It's of course unwise to attempt to cram several points into such a short time span and it's best to think of platforms like Vine as teasers to something bigger. Clever animation and visual comedy work well with Vine and with some imagination, the platform's looping feature can be used to craft content that seemingly has no beginning or end as your movie cleverly ends up where it begins. Using sound and more than one background can help to give a short video a better sense of narrative. Behind-the-scenes videos and 'sneak peaks' also work well as they add a playful human edge to your brand.

Long Form Content

With your longer play video it's better to stick to more traditional narratives with distinctive beginnings, middles and ends and incorporating both logical and emotional elements. Tying all this content together effectively is the secret to non-linear brand marketing and there has been much innovation on this front in the past couple of years since the emergence of Vine.

One method is to either reward or involve your viewers in some way. If they've seen your Vine content and are watching your big budget YouTube ad then perhaps a subtle reference to something in your Vines might reward potential brand advocates (be sure not to alienate your audience that hasn't seen your Vine content in this way). Alternatively your long-form content might encourage viewers in some way to engage with your Vine content or better still to submit their own Vines based upon a theme.

Spreading the Message

Getting your content in front of the right people is the other half of the battle. Fortunately there are plenty of tools available that can help you disseminate your content across platforms in a steady, structured and measurable way, allowing you to share videos, copy photos between platforms at a prearranged time and date. Two of the best are Buffer, which allows you to organize your posts into a queue, and IFTTT (If That Then This) which can connect platforms so that an action in one triggers a function in another. Check out Kevan Lee's brilliant guide to the best IFTTT 'recipes' out there on Buffer's blog.