Digital customer dialogue of the future – Part 4

In our blog series “Digital customer dialogue of the future,” we take a look at the digital future. Part 4 deals with the scenario "differentiation through brain power." In her commentary, Andrea Bleicher, founder of Panda & Penguin, examines the questions why storytelling requires companies to have courage and whether machines can be creative.

Andrea Bleicher and Sabina Sturzenegger, founders of Panda & Pinguin

Differentiation through brain power – How storytelling can save the digital marketing of the future

Digitization is not only changing the world but at the same time, it is also altering the importance of brands and the way companies communicate. Do automation and robotization mean that human input will lose its relevance? Or, can we only exist among the flood of data and messages when we develop and implement truly original ideas? Also, can a machine be creative?

"The real problem is not whether machines think but whether men do."

B.F. Skinner

The article titled “Decoding Digital Marketing” published by the Swiss think tank W.I.R.E. on behalf of BSI in the spring of 2019 addresses precisely these questions. “As the authors explain, it presents "scenarios of future human-machine interactions.” One of the conclusions the futurologists drew is this: Thinking does help. W.I.R.E. calls it "differentiation through brain power." While marketing is becoming data-driven and automated, differentiation occurs through human, and not artificial intelligence. Human intelligence engenders independent strategies, extraordinary content and – above all – stories that stand out from the crowd of algorithm-based outputs. Simply put: Everyone can do the ordinary. Even a robot.

“Everyone can do the ordinary. Even a robot.”

Andrea Bleicher

The future, however, belongs to the great story. W.I.R.E. recommends that we “further enhance our storytelling expertise.” While that is a noble goal, to achieve it, however, requires a step that demands a lot. Because first, we have to say good-bye to an outdated marketing concept: sugarcoating.

Everyone lived happily in Middle-earth – but a good story needs difficulty, resistance, and even failure.

Sugarcoating comes with several disadvantages.

  1. Customers are too clever or Google-adept to believe it.
  2. Whitewashing is not sustainable.
  3. Whitewashing is the natural enemy of intelligent content.

A story will never work with a narrative idea like this one: At the beginning, everything was good. Then, it remained good. And in the end, it was still good. The only thing you would create with this is absolute boredom. A hero or heroine does need to overcome adversity. Without difficulty, resistance, and even failure, the “Lord of the Rings” would look like this: All lived happily in Middle-earth. The end. J.R.R. Tolkien could have saved himself a lot of writing, but no one would love his characters and fantastic worlds.

What is true in fiction is also critical in real life. Efforts, setbacks, and weaknesses are the hallmark of interesting biographies. Eddie the Eagle did not go down in sports history because he was the best ski jumper, but because he was an outstanding ski jumper.

“Storytelling for companies and brands takes courage.”

Andrea Bleicher

A great story needs a narrative arc that provides excitement, which, in turn, arouses emotions. This is how you can differentiate yourself from the crowd and ensure that your audience remembers you.
Successful storytelling for companies and brands takes courage – the courage to be authentic; the courage to apply journalistic techniques; the courage to be different. Otherwise, you will get lost among the ordinary.

About the author

Andrea Bleicher, a co-founder of Panda & Penguin, the agency for storytelling, has 20 years of experience in journalism: as a sheet designer and editor-in-chief of the SonntagsZeitung newspaper in Zurich, as the head of the news department at Blick Group, and as a sheet designer and reporter for the free commuter papers 20 Minuten and Metropol. She is a graduate of the Sulzberger Executive Leadership Program at Columbia University in New York and the Ringier School of Journalism.

All articles of this blog series "The digital customer dialog of the future"

Andrea Bleicher