Storytelling vs. Story Starting: A Tale of Five Million Dollars

Every :30 second Super Bowl commercial you watch this Sunday came with a price tag of five million dollars. The same amount that GoPro will grant in cash prizes this year to its fandom of content creators in the GoPro Awards. The former represents the behemoth of traditional advertising, and the latter is arguably the future.  Super Bowl Ads tell :30 to :60 stories that make an immediate impression and the GoPro Awards start stories that last a lifetime.  One is an expense and the other is an investment.

As a marketer which one do you prefer?

Image Courtesy:

Let’s start by looking at the benefits of Super Bowl ads:

  • They reach an average of 114.4 MM people (CNN/Money Feb. 2015).
  • People actually watch them.  Imagine that!?!
  • There is a viral effect, particularly for the good ones, which are talked about for several days before and after the game.
  • Ads on the Super Bowl provide a nice ego boost to the marketing and C Level Suite executives.  Sorry, almost left this one out but it’s so true.

What are the drawbacks?

  • The ad is “one and done.” On Monday morning, the money has been spent and the ad has run. It is void of any CRM play, i.e., an email, a pixel, or a Facebook ID to keep in touch with the target audience.
  • Many of the Super Bowl viewers are not in the target market for a high percentage of the advertisers. For example, Maserati ran its first TV ad during the 2014 Super Bowl. How many people can afford a Maserati?
  • Marketers are entering the most competitive, most highly produced ad environment known to man, creating risk that ads will fall short of expectations and end up toward the bottom of the rankings.

Now let’s look at the GoProAwards. To begin with, what are they?

The GoPro Awards is a contest that embodies the very essence of GoPro’s mission, which is to empower consumers to capture and share life’s most memorable experiences. The GoPro awards serve to aggregate the world’s best User Generated GoPro Content, and will award five million dollars to the best content in multiple categories ranging from Extreme POV to Family. With the creation of these Awards, GoPro is walking the talk and investing in the people – the heroes – who buy and use their products. Go Pro has created a StoryStarting Campaign where it has developed an idea that seeds stories and places its brand in the center.


Image Courtesy: GoPro

What are the Benefits?

  • GoPro puts its customers and itself in the center of the conversation between friends, family, and people interested in similar lines of content.
  • This program creates a new community of people that can connect and discuss how they use their GoPro products.
  • The content is largely self-sustaining because it is crowdsourced and will have a tremendous level of depth and growth.
  • The site satisfies the ultimate rule for Growth Hacking by developing a marketing program that inspires and incentivizes consumers to use and promote a product in the way it was intended.
  • By developing its own destination site, GoPro now has created the beginnings of a massive CRM database of e-mails, cookies, product usage, and behavioral patterns.
  • The site is anything but one and done.  It is an ongoing, breathing marketing asset that should increase significantly in value.  Think YouTube for GoPro videos.
  • The GoPro Awards is built into GoPro’s site, allowing visitors to simply point, click, explore and, of course, buy GoPro products.

What are the drawbacks?

  • The website requires ongoing maintenance.
  • The traffic builds over time and is not all at once.
  • Five million dollars is a lot of money. The difference is that GoPro is giving the money to its customers rather than to a TV Network.

Which do I think is better?

Having worked in TV for 5 years and now in digital for 20, I have an appreciation for the value of both; however, it must be quite obvious that I prefer the story starting aspects of the GoPro Awards, and the potential it represents for the industry as a whole.

GoPro has answered the most important question in marketing today:

What type of experience can we build that inspires our customers to use our products more and become advocates for our brand?

Today’s best marketing strategies answer this question and create experiences that move their customers and drive culture.  The brand becomes an integral part of the customer’s experience as opposed to simply being the sponsor.

Spending money to lease a spot in a piece of content – radio, print or TV – will never be as powerful as being the originator of an experience that allows your customers to thrive and carry your story further.

Next Up: In my next blog learn how any brand can be a story starter.

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