The Power Of Transmedia Storytelling
Storytelling can take many forms, from traditional cinema and television programming to mobile apps and video games. With more mediums to tell a story, brands and media giants are finding that niche audiences exist within each medium, thus expanding their already large reach to even broader shores.
Telling a story across multiple media platforms is known as Transmedia or Transmedia Storytelling. In this blog, Hollywood Branded explains how Transmedia Storytelling works as a marketing tactic, and how it’s been employed by media giants today.
What Is Transmedia Storytelling?
Transmedia storytelling uses multiple media platforms to tell a narrative across time. Think of it as a puzzle, whether you’re reading a comic book series, playing video games, using mobile apps, or watching films and television; each function as their very own standalone experience. When you plug each piece together, you are integrated into a much larger picture and thus understand the particular universe as it was meant to be understood and consumed.
In order to accurately employ Transmedia tactics, it’s important to know and understand the four primary devices used by today’s consumers: smartphones, tablets, computers, and TVs (most notably, Smart TVs). The importance of knowing and recognizing these various devices helps to outline which type of content is created for each medium, as well as the level of accessibility applied to each variation in content. Mobile applications that allow for deeper and more meaningful engagement work very well for consumers who want to look for more behind the scenes content and bonus material that isn’t showcased in the original film or show. Video games appeal to avid fans who want to interact and engage within the specific universe, while also learning more about the story. Many video game adaptations expand on the given story, while also keeping much about the original story intact, so as to provide extra information that is specific to the game but still encompasses canon story material. The most prominent examples of companies that utilize Transmedia storytelling are DC, and Disney’s Marvel and Star Wars cinematic universes, which will be discussed below.
What’s The Most Important Part Of Transmedia Storytelling?
The answer really depends on the story being told, and the storytellers behind it. A quick answer is that there are three things to always keep in mind when employing a Transmedia campaign.
The first is the platform that is currently being used to execute and tell new aspects of the story. As mentioned previously, you must know and understand the medium and platform that you want to use to tell your story.
The second item is the proper utilization of the medium that’s being used. If you are choosing an app that provides additional content to consumers, then the format and interface have to work in a manner that is congruent with the story being told, but also the demographic utilizing it.
Lastly, and arguably the most important item is telling the story on these various mediums without burning out the initial story. Taking your initial story and spreading it across multiple platforms can appeal to more people and niche audiences because then you’re working with a much broader audience, and with a larger net, you’re bound to catch more fish.
The DC Cinematic Universe
The DC Universe is a massive entertainment source globally, with comics, video games, movies, animated and live-action television series. Having started with comics (as many do), the DC Cinematic Universe tells the story of multiple generations of superheroes both on and beyond Earth. After developing their film franchise, they began creating television series that appealed to their vast fandom. Whether it’s a live-action Teen Titans or animated Young Justice, the DCU has explored and successfully employed a Transmedia storytelling approach by making its content accessible on phones, tablets, computers, theaters and even developed an app where they had consolidated all of their content into one space.
As a subsidiary of Warner Bros, all DC content can now also be found in the new HBO Max application that is also available on smartphones, tablets, Smart TVs, and computers (you see the trend?). Because of the immense sea of content, the DCU has up their sleeve and printed on comics, they do not have to worry about burning out the story, because this story has too many versions, characters, and generations within it to ever die out.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
Comparatively, there’s the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) which like the DCU, has a portfolio of films, television series, video-games, and apps. Following the end of Marvel’s phase 3 and the introduction of phase 4, Marvel is coming out strong with its take on Transmedia storytelling. With series like WandaVision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, Hawkeye and so many more adding to the depth and overall understanding of the MCU overarching story, we are seeing a surge of exceptionally engaging content that is only further satiating the needs of consumers who are actively looking for more Marvel content.
With this new introduction or original series that directly correlates to the story at large, it’s no surprise that Disney is having such success with their new series on Disney+. With the series finale of WandaVision having aired this month, Marvel has truly executed an exemplar form of Transmedia Storytelling that not only ties into the existing MCU with deep connections and plots, but the strategic weaving in of their X-Men universe as well.
The Star Wars Cinematic Universe
Likely one of the longest-lasting and multigenerational cinematic universes to date, the Star Wars Cinematic Universe has expanded their existing universe of Star Wars Trilogies as well. From the creation of the Star Wars the Clone Wars series and movie to its spinoff, Rebels, and even the new live-action Mandalorian series, the Star Wars universe is ever-expanding. Like all of the other examples listed previously, you must consume all of the content they create in order to truly understand the story and each of its various intersections; however, in terms of Star Wars specifically, you REALLY need to consume it all to claim the title of a true fan of the series. Lucky for many of the true fans that do exist out there, according to Esquire Disney+ has also stated that in addition to a third season to their smash hit, The Mandalorian, you can expect 9 new original spinoff series including The Clone Wars’ “The Bad Batch” and an Obi-Wan Kenobi series.
Canon vs. Fandom
Throughout this blog, I’m sure you noticed the terms “canon” and “Fandom;” they represent two essential factors of Transmedia Storytelling. As stated in article by State of Digital, when a story is canon, it presents official content from the studio, production, and storytellers. The content spews from a deep marketing strategy with almost every kind of marketing professional collaborating in its production, where profit is its main objective. This is the original content that is released and a set part of the storyline, whether seen on screen, or in a video game.
When the Fandom is discussed, it’s either pertaining to the vast fan base (or fandom) or the content that often stems from them. This user-generated content (UGC) often uses indie channels or social media to produce and share content. These channels are prone to crowdsourced spin-offs where the primary purpose is pleasure and engagement in the respective universe. These often lead to fanfictions that are made by members of the elite and expansive fandom.
One way that each of the universes has allowed the fandoms to become more engaged is in the creation of multiplatform video games. These are games that are accessible on smartphones, tablets, computers, and coming consoles. In addition to being a true trailblazer of Transmedia Storytelling, Star Wars also has the most video game formats available, according to SyFy Wire they lead with about 140 Star Wars video game titles on various platforms to date. Marvel’s Avengers video game is a semi-canon video game available on gaming consoles, however their other games do not pertain to overall story, but still utilize the characters. DC is not left out of this circle, and also has video games available for fans to play, such as the cross-platform online game, DC Universe Online, or their successful Injustice Series on PlayStation and Xbox. Games such as this allow for fans to actively play against one another and engage with the universe by battling it out with their favorite characters. If they’re curious as to who is “stronger,” they can pick up a controller and take it to the screen to find out.
Transmedia As A Marketing Tactic
Now you not only know what Transmedia Storytelling is, but you’ve seen some pretty large examples of how it is done. With more content out there on different platforms, there are more and more ways that marketing teams can get creative with how to launch a campaign for the product. From video game conventions to Comic-Con panels, the manner in which one can market their Transmedia projects is practically limitless.
For newer content that lacks the expansive fandom that each of these giants has, one way that you can also begin Transmedia Storytelling is with strategic partnerships. There are a number of strategic partnerships that you can employ, one is video game integrations. If you feel that you lack the story capability to build a whole video game around your new world, there are partnerships in place where you can simply integrate existing characters into a different and successful world or game. An example of this can best be seen with the introduction of Star Wars’ The Mandalorian and Marvel’s Thanos in the Fortnite avatar selection menu. Another potential partnership is the Lego franchise. Lego video games are extremely popular because everyone is enamored by their games, and they are all fairly simplistic enough to have a versatile target demographic.
Lastly, when exploring new routes for the story that differs from its initial approach, one thing to think about is the casting of high-profile talent. Most studios will pay premiums for stars because celebrities and other high-profile attachments will help to generate buzz and bring in traffic among fans and other communities, which in turn will draw in large audiences. Another thought is entering into a co-production with another studio, this will help you in the sense that you will not be taking on all of the risks but sharing them. It will also not only be cheaper for you, but you just might get a higher quality product at the end of the day.
If you’d like to read more on some successful marketing strategies, check out some of our other blogs!
- Why Sponsorship Marketing Is Vital To Powerful Brand Marketing
- How Entertainment Marketing Is Different Than Advertising... or PR
- Top Brand Marketing Partnerships in Disney's Aladdin
- A Timeline Of Marvel's Top Brand Marketing Partnerships
- 5 Successful Non Traditional Marketing Tactics: Barstool Sports Case Study