Interactive Storytelling

Nostalgic Over Heinz

Heinz is one of the world’s most iconic and memorable brands. To this day, I refuse to buy any other ketchup than Heinz ketchup. The topic of brand loyalty has long intrigued both manufacturers as well as advertisers and academics. What makes a brand so good – that consumers will go out of their way to buy it every time – regardless of price or the wide array of other options on the grocery shelf?

Iconic global brands have several qualities, but perhaps the most dominant is their ability to invoke some sort of emotional connection in the consumer. By consuming a product represented by a global brand, we are often transported to a different place and time. A time when things were simpler and less rushed. A time when we were perhaps surrounded by family gathered around the television set watching the Flintstones or Walt Disney.

Take Heinz spaghetti. To some, it might be just another option to soup on a cold winter’s day. But to me, the idea of eating Heinz spaghetti has a far deeper connection and meaning. Having grown up with 3 brothers, I remember us all eating Heinz spaghetti on (usually wobbly) TV trays  watching our old black and white TV on those long and cold winter days. On some days we might have come home for a quick lunch from school. My grandmother would open up a couple of cans, then serve them to us sprinkled with Kraft grated parmesan cheese.  I still remember shaking those large green containers with the red lids. I also remember watching the spaghetti boil as the odour of tomato sauce filled our house.

We loved Heinz spaghetti, and I still eat it today when I want to feel nostalgic. That’s one reason comfort foods exist. When it comes to brands, it’s not so much what they ARE – but what they DO to us that represents their true quality and value. A brand is a promise of quality, and I know that whether it’s today or 10 years from now, Heinz will still offer me the same quality product I experienced when I was 10.

Perhaps most importantly, it will offer me the same brand STORY I experienced when I was 10. Brands offer context, and whenever I eat Heinz spaghetti I’m transported back to childhood. It represents comfort food and reminds me of a time when we were all together as a family.

To me, it’s not just another can of convenience food. It’s a promise that what I experience when I eat it will contain good memories and will make me feel good about the purchase. That’s what iconic brands do – and will always continue to do. It’s what makes them unique.

Are there any other brands you can think of that offer you a similar story? Are all brand decisions based on price, or do you sometimes buy something just because it reminds you of another place and time?




Why Objects Matter

Stories are all around us. They're part of our DNA. From our earliest childhood, most of us can remember the sound of Mom or Dad reading stories to us. Stories of superheroes, folktale legends or just simply stories about some pretty wild and wacky characters entertained us for hours on end. The best childhood stories were able to draw you into a plot and world quite different from your own. Worlds where the good guys often won and imaginations ran free.

As we grew up, stories took on a whole new meaning. The books we read and films we watched reflected our "coming of age." As we struggled to find our place in the world, we hoped that stories would help us find meaning in our somewhat confused and chaotic lives. Sometimes we relied on heroes to provide a path through darkness to light. At other times, stories were just a means of escape, a way to temporarily leave the present world to experience a new one in print, on stage or on screen.

While enlightened companies are waking up to the fact that stories can help their brands better connect to consumers, stories can also be of great personal significance when they're a reflection of the objects we own. These objects, artifacts or "Narrative Assets," tell the story of our lives and as a group, can even reflect the story of an entire culture or nation.

Every object, or artifact has a story. Not only does it have a particular meaning for the owner, but it can also have broader implications as well. People are naturally curious beings. Just look at the popularity of museums, art and photography exhibits, antique fairs, movies and social media. We all like to share stories about what's important to us in our lives. Artifacts are one way to help us understand our place in the world.

By relating a story to an object, we're able to connect with others on an emotional level who may or may not have gone through a similar experience. Humans are naturally curious beings and are drawn to objects. What does an object represent? Who owned it? What's it made of? How old is it? and "What's its story?"

Artifacts taken from the site of world changing events can be an important source of reflection. For example, artifacts gathered from Ground Zero were placed in a museum honouring the heroes of that dark day in our history. Artifacts can represent stories that invoke either good or bad memories, but their significance to an individual or to society in general is equally important in that they serve as connecting points to our own community - or to the world in general.

Perhaps more than anything, objects and artifacts have the amazing ability to transcend time and space. When an object is passed on to another generation, that generation bears the weight and responsibility of keeping its memories alive. It's as if the original owner passes his or her story down to future generations through a particular object of great personal importance.

This blog will attempt to find meaning in otherwise everyday objects. In some cases, they may have little significance to the reader - but by adding a story the purpose of the object and its emotional relevance will become clear and generate a life of its own. So whether you're a company looking for innovative ways to showcase your brand, or an individual curious to hear or share some really cool stories, I invite you to take and share in this journey through the fascinating world of "Narrative Assets." Feel free to post your own stories and pictures along the way. I hope you enjoy the adventure.

(Image from



HBO Takes Storytelling To A New Dimension

In a world where much of storytelling is one-dimensional, HBO has succeeded in combining technology, art and cinema to create new ways of experiencing story.

They've created a multi-dimensional story where it's up to the viewer to put the pieces together to envision the full picture. Within each "cube", there are different elements of a story happening at the same time. By zooming out, viewers are able to see other elements of the story each with their own unique perspective.

Each story "snippet" is in effect its own mini-drama, and the visual and sound quality is excellent.

By designing a story with multiple layers, HBO has succeeded in engaging viewers by:

1) Allowing them to get involved in deciding where the story is going next - this adds an element of "discovery" that can't help but keep viewers enthralled

2) Producing a motion-picture perfect visual and sound quality that draws them into the story's overall plot - this quality engages emotions and makes viewers feel as if they're part of the story

3) Providing a way of relating the story to the HBO brand - as their tagline says, the story promises to be "more than you imagined."

HBO's approach to story is just the beginning of what's to come as the concept of storytelling evolves to include more complex forms of new media. It makes me wonder what's next...multi-dimensional storytelling on our mobile phones...motion pictures that allow us to be part of the plot..I bet that somewhere in the world the future of storytelling is taking shape in ways that we can only imagine.

Where do you think the future of storytelling is headed?

Is Game Engine Technology The New Face Of Digital Storytelling In Advertising?


According to an article in Advertising Age, game engine technology will be the new face of digital storytelling. The same technology that is used to drive gaming systems can be used to design interactive advertisements that enable the user to become part of the story behind the ad.

In the article, Loni Peristere, co-founder of special effects studio Zoic, explains the concept of "open source storytelling" where the merging of video games and storytelling will bring interactivity to a whole new level.

The ability of gaming system technology to put narrative into real time space offers exciting possibilities for advertisers. Imagine an ad where the user is able to interact with the story and drive it to where he/she wants it to go? The same immersive experience offered to gamers can now be used to engage consumers in a way that allows them to interact with a product and/or service.

According to Peristere, animation and visual effects are "going to go away and it will become a storytelling business." The best visual effects artists are storytellers, and to Peristere the whole industry is really going back to the art and business of storytelling. Seems as if this change can also benefit advertisers who are looking for new and innovative ways to create buzz in an already overcrowded environment.

What do you think of using game engine technology to drive real-time narrative in advertising? Will this kind of interactive storytelling lead to increased sales for advertisers? Or is this just a trend that will eventually die out?


Kodak Makes Me A Super Hero!

It's official. I'm now a super hero thanks to a new viral marketing campaign by Kodak.


Created by San Francisco based agency EVB, the "Make Me Super" campaign lets you download an image of yourself and superimpose it into the face and body of a superhero. A video is created, and all of a sudden you're the star of the show.

It's incredibly amusing, and the music is pretty catchy too. If you wish, you're able to purchase your superhero image emblazoned on a mug or mousepad. The campaign is fun, memorable, personalized, and you're able to pass the video on to friends. The tagline at the bottom of the custom edit page says "Kodak Gallery make something", so you get the feeling that it's OK to do something funny (or silly, depending on your perspective of life), if it's a way of expressing your creativity.

I wish more ad campaigns were this fun. Kodak has a history of hiring agencies that use intriguing and interactive techniques. Years ago, OgilvyInteractive incorporated the principles of digital storytelling into the design of a multiple award-winning campaign called "The Adventures of John." It appeared in the form of a stick man comic strip which showed up as banner ad teasers on media sites such as 24/7 Network, Engage Network, and

The interactive story eventually brought the audience to a Kodak product page that contained the message "It's not the same without pictures."

Do you think interactive storytelling works in the adspace? If so, what is it about this technique that grabs your attention..if not, why not? What was your impression of the "Make Me Super" campaign?