Introduction to Storytelling Marketing StrategyThe following is an excerpt from The Evangelists: Insights from Leaders of the Nation’s Most Beloved Brands. Written by Roselin Manawis, this chapter is titled “Steering The Marketing Ship with Storytelling.” In it, Joey Ong, the Founder of Dojo, is interviewed about how the organization executes its strategy in storytelling as means for marketing.
Engaged your customers with the the right stories
In Dojo, they don’t just advertise, they tell stories.
Led by Managing Director, Joey Ong, Dojo focuses more on the storytelling aspect of marketing. Ong and his team work as one unit not only to promote their clients’ brands and products to make a profit, but also to bridge them to their customers.
Before anything else though, what exactly does Ong do?
To be a Managing Director can equate to one being a “ship captain,” but for Ong, it’s more than that.
“I’m not not just keeping the ship together, I’m also keeping everyone’s sanity intact,” Ong said. His job mainly involves managing their relationships with their clients and head and approve all creative endeavors. As a team leader, he checks up on his team members as well, making sure they’re doing good both at work and out of it, especially during community quarantine in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic when the line between work and relaxation begins to blur.
Prior to the pandemic, Ong used to rely on seeing people physically; he was used to seeing his clients’ and coworkers’ reactions to know if a campaign is successful or not. Amidst the pandemic, although they have video calls, Ong found that it’s not quite the same. It’s true that hosting online calls are one of the most effective ways to hold meetings in today’s quarantine, but Ong finds it affecting his process of storytelling.
“The most fun part about telling a story is when you see the little reactions from people, but quarantine makes that hard, so I had to adjust,” Ong said. “Now we have to think, how do we make storytelling still feel organic in this now very digital world?”
To make things feel organic as Ong said, his team starts their creative process with an insight. “I believe in human insight, meaning it should be something relatable to you, because I think everyone is a consumer,” he said. For Ong, nothing can beat relatability in storytelling, thus making that his priority.
After an insight, they look for inspiration; unfortunately, quarantine has Ong and his team mostly confined to their homes, making inspiration a challenge to come by. Having difficulties with getting inspiration also makes it more difficult for them to work. Part of his job as his team’s leader is keeping people inspired, and so for inspiration during quarantine, he said he turns to what they see online as well.
Regardless of the quarantine situation, however, Ong finds all their campaigns challenging. The advertising and marketing industries are not for the faint of heart; people like Ong can spend hours or days thinking of ideas, but if the client rejects it, they have to take it and move on. Rejections hurt, Ong admitted, but he is thankful to have a great team to support him, and which he supports back.
“We can’t be too involved or too attached to an idea because it’s our work,” he said. “If you’re a writer, you’re gonna be writing one book in a year and that’s okay because you can get so involved in it, but we’re not those kinds of writers. We write maybe an average of 20 to 30 stories a month for our brand, so if you get too attached to one, then you won’t be able to move on and be productive.”
Aside from their content planning and operations, Ong shared that their clients’ needs and behavior have also changed with quarantine. Some clients have also gotten more desperate and direct with their requests, as they too are feeling the effects of the pandemic.
Ong has also realized that as clients change their business strategies in reaction to COVID-19, ad agencies must also evolve alongside them. Dojo, along with many other advertising agencies, have begun shifting to more digital channels for their campaigns. Slowly, advertisements online increased as people began to veer away from traditional means like billboards and TV commercials.
Going digital has it’s pros and cons, but at the end of the day, Ong believes it comes down to knowing what to put out there, what stories to tell, and how to tell them. Traditional media had people feeling limited with their campaigns, as before, only a certain amount of commercials can be aired per day. Now, with platforms like YouTube and other streaming sites dominating people’s attention, the internet provides more space for people to advertise. The seemingly unlimited potential for advertisements could be great for marketers, but for the average consumer, these can come off as clutter.
“I think clients and anyone getting into the digital world now really have to understand the importance of storytelling,” Ong shared. Storytelling can help lessen the clutter in the audiences’ eyes, which makes them all the more important. “That’s one of the reasons we call ourselves the Dojo storytellers because we feel that good stories are worth sharing. And we believe in keeping the story simple, because the more complex ones, it’s very hard to follow, especially for a campaign.”
To get more insights from other marketing leaders like Joey Ong, please check out the full book, available for purchase here.
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