Transmedia Storytelling Explained

The story of traditional branding and marketing, set against the backdrop of this nerve racking, yet exciting paradigm shift, makes yet another exciting plot twist. “360 storytelling”, “Multi-platform storytelling”, or Transmedia storytelling, as it was coined many years ago by the great MIT/USC professor Henry Jenkins, is moving away from the fringe and into the limelight. While the nomenclature continues to evolve, the idea remains consistent: Great Story + Strategic Distribution = Loyal Participants.

Some of us have been reared on this type of storytelling, while others are realizing its power through sheer necessity. Right now there is more content being produced and distributed every single minute, from every part of the globe, and across multiple platforms, than at any time in history.  How does a brand or entertainment property reach out and retain peoples’ attention and create loyalty?

In traditional branding, (1) determining the customers’ journey and (2) identifying the number of touch points where your brand will intersect with peoples’ lives, were important first steps in successfully managing a brand’s message. We’ve moved beyond the need for a great idea and unrelenting brand messaging and into a new era where:

  • a compelling story is the only way to guide customers through this new crowded landscape and

  • a strategic and relevant distribution strategy is the only way to encourage engagement and ultimately create loyal participants.

When people watch their favorite TV shows, it’s very common for them to be engaged with another activity – they’re online or using their mobile phone to supplement their involvement with the story. This is yet another reason why it’s so crucial to have a strong narrative that holds on all organic platforms. There are simply too many entry and exit points for the audience these days to approach things any other way. Rest assured, this type of storytelling is here to stay. Coupled with emerging social media and mobile technologies, Transmedia storytelling techniques will become the spine of every successful branding campaign in the very near future.

Transmedia Storytelling Is Gaining Popularity

The born digital generation is accelerating the popularity of this storytelling trend in marketing because this demographic expects their branding and entertainment to be completely:

(1) on demand

(2) on their terms

(3) authentic


Transmedia has been popular in filmmaking and TV for awhile and it is quickly gaining popularity in other forms of branding and media. “The Lord of the Rings” franchise and MTV’s “Valemont”, are prime examples of large scale Transmedia projects. For example, the “Valemont” fan can watch the show and, to get their complete “Valemont” fix, can use their mobile phones or log onto the website for extra pieces of story and content. This evolution in storytelling creates the need to carry a narrative across multiple platforms and technologies, and sets the stage for an engaged group of people to interact, share clues and ultimately become communities of loyal participants.

If your story lives with them, they live your story. Later this week In Part II, we’ll take a deeper look behind the technology that is bringing this new paradigm to life and make some predictions about the future of Transmedia storytelling in marketing and entertainment.

Photo by: Sabellachan