Sequential storytelling in marketing communication

I wrote about Twitter threads and one writer’s use of threads to tell a highly engaging story entirely on Twitter, yesterday.

The crux is that a thread offers sequence and continuity to communication. It makes the audience want to know if there’s more of such content that they can consume, after taking in just one part of the overall sequence.

For example, this post is a continuation of yesterday’s post – they both belong to the same sequence 🙂

This is not very different from stumbling on to one episode of a series (say, Black Mirror) and wanting to binge on more like that. Or, stumbling on a song by one artist and wanting to hear more of that artist (which may not work that well, incidentally. One artist that it did work for me was Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas).

There’s a case to be made for brands to leverage this power of sequencing. To be sure, brands have been using certain levers around which they create sequences. Vodafone’s Zoozoos is one example. Cadbury 5-Star’s Ramesh-Suresh series is another. Both are by Ogilvy, incidentally.

More recently, Ogilvy has created a series of sorts for Cadbury Perk, featuring Anurag Kashyap in the opening film and Ananya Panday’s video cut-out in the rest, with a ‘to be continued’ added at the last shot of each video. It is utterly corny, but that’s a different story.

FBB is trying Instagram stories-based sequence for Pujo, while Flipkart’s series hinges around using kids as adults.

In the US, the brand of shaving cream, called Burma Shave, was known for sequential road signs.

But, in Burma Shave’s effort, each individual part of the sequence did not tell a story; only together do they make any sense. This is a basic blunder in sequential storytelling in mass media since each episode has to convey something satisfying on its own.

The Academy Award-nominated film from 2017, ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ uses sequential billboards as a powerful plot point.

This sequential story-telling has been tried outdoors in digital signboards too. Here’s a great example, by 7UP.

In India, Adidas tried a sequential billboard campaign for its Nite Jogger, via Mixed Route Juice, a Delhi based digital marketing agency, and Metrodoodle (aka Samar Khan). The idea here was to offer a GIF effect in a series of 20 billboards where each extends the movement of the visual progressively.

I do wonder about the danger of (making car drivers watch) watching 20 billboards continuously. You may not want to, but if it entices you like this, it may not be all that safe, I feel.