We are constantly evolving, and consequently, our world is changing; technology is advancing, tastes are developing and quality of life is improving. With so much innovation and creativity happening around us, this is an exciting time to be alive.
Studying fashion communication and promotion, I am fascinated by the diverse ways that brands launch marketing campaigns to address their consumers. I am not an expert on marketing or trend forecasting, but attending the insightful LS:N Global autumn/winter 2012 trend briefing presentation yesterday has given me a sense of how and why aspects of the commercial world are changing and how brand innovators are currently adapting their marketing strategies to find increasingly inventive ways of engaging customers.
I found each of the areas that the editor of LS:N covered in the briefing of great interest, but it was an introduction to the concept of faction marketing which really captured my imagination. An amalgamation of fact and fiction, I learnt that faction marketing is emerging as a powerful way of relating fictional stories to real-life products in order to connect brands with consumers on a more emotional level. I’m talking about the creation of storylines which blur the boundary between fantasy and reality to tap into the imagination of the consumer to establish a positive association with a brand or product.
Who thinks up these factional storylines? Marvelists; the name given to the combined role of a marketer and a novelist.
Of course, the notion of storytelling itself isn’t original; stories have been told since the start of human civilization, stories are how we learn. But this is the point. People are storytellers and consumers respond to fiction and stories. People want to connect with stories, find out what happens at the end, and even be a part of it themselves. What’s notable is the way that fictional storylines are starting to be used as marketing tools, as narrative hooks to reel in consumers. It’s about striking a factual-fictional balance; the brand or product is real, therefore fact must be at the centre of the campaign. But as fact can be made more exciting with fiction, fiction can become more meaningful with fact.
Fashion brands such as Calvin Klein and Nike have taken a factional marketing approach in recent campaigns and demonstrated that the involving nature of a fictional storyline can be much more emotive and more memorable than other types of marketing. Take Calvin Klein’s interactive digital campaign for its new men’s fragrance and the short film to promote Lady Gaga’s womenswear Eau de Parfum ‘Fame’. We are accustomed to generic fragrance adverts, yet both of these factional marketing campaigns stand out by portraying dark, mysterious stories which entice the consumer, temporarily immersing them in the fictional fantasy of the story whilst connecting to them to the factual product.
|Calvin Klein 'Encounter' Advertising Image|
|Still from Lady Gaga 'Fame' Promotional Film|
Fashion magazines are renowned for creating narratives within their editorial photo shoot sequences, and films and novels remain a major source of consumer entertainment, so it makes sense that brands are using the well-established appeal of fictional storylines and blurring this with fact to produce influential marketing campaigns. Perhaps it’s a comfort thing; a reminder of childhood, or a form of escapism from current austerity, but by constructing fictional stories around genuine products and brands, companies are cleverly tending to our inherent human need for stories whilst fuelling our aspirations and desire for consumption. Manipulative? Yes. But highly effective.
Despite revolutionary changes in the way that we shop, work and live, basic human instincts remain fundamentally unchanged. What is changing significantly is the way we interact with the world; our expectations of the brands we buy into and the products and services they provide. As consumer expectations continue to increase, brands continue to seek more innovative ways to engage them. In the words of Robert McKee, ‘Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.’ Acknowledging the emergence of faction marketing as an example of this, I’m inclined to agree.