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February 2011

Brand Storytelling and Social Media: Why McDonald's is lovin' it

In a world all a-Twitter with information, it seems that social media is the last place to find a good story. An increasing number of companies realize the importance of social media to their overall marketing and communications strategy, but how many realize the value of storytelling to incite and maintain conversations about the brand?

Key executives from some of the most influential brands in the world gathered in Chicago last August to discuss ways to leverage social media campaigns to inspire employees, increase brand awareness and motivate consumers to talk about their experiences.

Rather than relay a brand message through traditional means such as a Twitter channel or Facebook page, companies were encouraged to use story as a way of strengthening their message to make it more emotional and engaging.

Joe Curry, Global Web Communications Manager for McDonald's, described how social media was used to inspire employees and the public about the company's commitment to its staff members. McDonald's launched the "Voice of McDonald's" campaign to identify and reward the most talented singers among the company's 1.6 million restaurant employees. The contest involved YouTube, Facebook and Twitter and told the story of the inspiring talent within their "McFamily."

Curry loved the concept of using storytelling in social media and offered this advice:

  • Social media campaigns are stories with a beginning, middle and end. The narrative can be fun, but your messages may be lost without a sense of story. The complete picture needs to make sense and have some sort of resolution or conclusion
  • Each corporate team can be responsible for a "chapter", but in the end the voices must come together to tell a complete story

Marshall McLuhan once said that the "medium is the message." If this is true, then in today's world of social media the medium and the message are necessarily intertwined. Social media and technology provide the vehicles in which to deliver the brand message, yet the ability of this technology to engage and motivate the consumer and/or public through effective use of brand story ensures the message is not lost in today's info-centric world.