In the current content marketing landscape, marketers are trying to gain the consumer's attention on a daily basis. They publish a load of content for them to read, watch, listen, download or experience. But the only content that is really engaging, is the content which we are (emotionally) involved with. In this content overload consumers still determine when, where and how they want to consume content. Enter immersive content.
Gaining, and at the same time retaining, the attention has become one of the biggest challenges in marketing. Because attention is key when you want to inform, help, inspire, convince and even convert a target group. Brands and organizations win with their content marketing strategy if they are able to retain attention and thereby increase the enthusiasm of their target group. And ultimately can influence behavior during their content experience. Whatever form is used, the content must be stimulating, valuable and relevant at every stage of the funnel or customer journey. Earlier this year, the NOS won the Grand SpinAward with their interactive stories about depression and telephone addiction. This media form reflects a new trend: immersive storytelling, where you become part of the content through active participation.
Enter immersive content
Immersive content allows to offer different 'content experiences', in contrast to static content. Thanks to the application of interactive elements, you turn a passive reader into an active participant. You involve them in an activity: you let them make choices, provide answers and let them discover scenarios with new information. This way, they effectively contribute to the meaning and value of the content itself. And with technologies such as Augmented and Virtual Reality, this promises interesting applications for the future. But this form of interactive content is certainly not new and has been used effectively in various forms for several years.
"With interactive elements you turn a passive reader into an active participant"
In 2014, the BBC published an interactive infographic in which the size of our own solar system is displayed in an animated scroll page. A well-known and more recent example is Netflix’s 'Black Mirror: Bandersnatch' where viewers can direct the story themselves by making small and large decisions for the main character. An entertaining gimmick, with a worldwide success. This interactive structure will generate, compared to linear video, endless possibilities for online marketing, creativity and storytelling to grab and retain the attention.
'The Boat' is a visual immersive story, where you experience the full story by scrolling, clicking and listening. 'The Hungry Games' campaign by Snickers is a good example of gamification focused on a mobile-first perspective: interactive, short and entertaining. Or who would have expected one of the largest and best-viewed live concerts in the world (10 million participants!) would took place during a game? My personal favourites are the digital magazines from Food Inspiration. They share inspiring stories, interviews or trends in a well-designed responsive magazine. For the reader, this is interspersed with a mix of tasteful videos and food photography that will make your mouth water. A magazine that you want to read until the last letter.
What do these examples all have in common? They grab the attention. And because the focus is set on its content and interaction, one can experience ‘escapism or a flight experience' from reality (Brand Experience Model, Pine & Gilmore, 1999). The content or brand experience ensures that the user is completely absorbed in the user experience. And this user experience translates into impact with relevant data and insightful statistics such as: clicks, shares, scroll depth, click-through rates, conversions, visitor duration and so on.
The war on attention
So how can immersive content win the war on attention? Static web content often offers a one-sided and passive experience, no matter how interesting or amusing it is. Making the shift to a digital dialogue between the sender and the receiver will create a better relationship with insights and data to help the visitor. It is the essential difference between watching customers walk through the store or start an actual conversation with them. The data and input will create more extensive customer profiles, better lead scores and the nurturing of prospects in their customer journey. Also, the application of immersive content is often reusable or evergreen, which results in repeating visitors and multiple exposures.
"The greater the received attention, the greater the chance to improve the relationship with the target group"
Research has shown that the impact of content experience allows marketers to use their metrics effectively and look further than just clicks, conversions and views. Metrics such as Return On Attention and Cost Per Attention Minute will calculate the value of the received attention. Because the greater the attention, the greater the chance to improve the relationship with the target group. And a better relationship ultimately will pay off in positive results of the content marketing objectives.
But the war on attention is not over yet. And we are probably only experiencing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the application of immersive content. It takes and requires time, knowledge, different skills and/or tools to develop this type of content. But the trend definitely has my full attention and I am curious what your thoughts are on the matter.
This article was previously published on Marketingfacts, the Dutch knowledge platform for online marketing professionals.