Storytelling 101: HP Flow

This is a new, on-going series that will analyze the good and bad of storytelling in today’s digital world, using examples of big-brands as they switch their strategies from telling to engaging.

HP recently released a video for one of its new printers. Normally, that wouldn’t be a really big deal but the method by which they communicated about the printer exemplifies a number of storytelling best practices. First, the video (well, a picture that links to the video because there is no way to share it; that’s a digital presence failure):

In this video, Santa’s COO suffers from the challenges of organizing (and staying organized) during their “peak” season. Papers flying, chaos reigning, the COO has made his own wishlist and it includes this cool new printer (with cloud-based content management). The video runs just under 2 minutes.

How does it exemplify good storytelling?

  • Focus is on the character and his problem, not the product. The narrative is all about the COO’s crazy life and how he needs something to help him solve the clutter. Sure, the product comes into play but it only talks about the features that relate to solving the COO’s issues. Because of that, you connect emotionally with him.
  • There is a narrative arc. This is a story. It sets the scene in the first 10 or 15 seconds, there is a rising action (as things get more hectic), a climax (with the introduction of the printer), falling action (when the printer has resolved the chaos), and denouement  (when he kicks his feet up on the desk).
  • Rich media. This story is a video. That, by nature, makes it more compelling than just words on a page.
  • Emotional. The entire story is charged with emotion because the COO has a common problem many of us face: being overwhelmed. There is an easy emotional connection that can be made between him and the viewer. “Wow, that looks like my desk” or “Wow, that feels like my life.”

Okay, that was the good part. But what about the rest? Where does it fail?

  • No engagement. There is NO social media integration anywhere on the page or the player. You can’t share it and you can’t discuss it. This is less of a failure on the story itself than on the story’s place in HP’s digital presence.
  • Not multi-channel. The story is just in the video. I can’t find anywhere else that provides the continuation of this story (even on the product page; in fact, the product page is just feature list garbage, it’s not a story at all). That’s bad. That means if someone doesn’t happen on the page with the video, the story doesn’t get told.

So, HP made a valiant effort with their Santa Clause COO story. Now if they could just take the creative juice that came up with this video and apply it to the entire product story, we might have something compelling.

For now? Grade is a B-. Slightly better than average (for digital marketing) but some critical failures.

- Jason Thibeault, Sr. Director, Marketing Strategy. You can connect with Jason on Twitter @_jasonthibeault.

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