9 foot tall demons, a girl tortured by her stepmother, a country bumpkin who becomes the court astrologer because of saying the right word at the right time in front of the right person- Burhi Aair Xadhu (Assamese for Gandma’s Tales) was full of such stories.
And as a kid, I devoured these folktales. Once I was shut up in a room reading for so long that my family was just this close to calling the police. True story.
Like me, most of the members of the human race loves stories.It probably goes back to Hor the caveman who gathered the members of his tribe around a campfire to tell them how he saw spirits setting fire to a tree while beating a very loud drum.
And just like the tribe then, and the audiences of the movies and readers of the books now we all are hooked by stories. Therefore it’s not surprising that marketers have always, in one form or the other,used stories to sell their stuff-case studies can be thought of as one example.
Of late storytelling is now being used by the smaller guys too. Smart folks like Johnny Truant, James Chartrand and Jonathan Fields (these are not affiliate links) keep talking about how a good story is vital in expanding a brand’s influence and engaging with their customers. Even my tagline roughly says the same thing.
Storytelling and the big boys
However it’s rare to see big MNCs use classic storytelling techniques to sell their products. Rarer still is when the MNC is in the B2B space. But Citrix has done that, and in a very slick way too.
Along with other enterprise tech solutions, Citrix sell virtualization -a method of using the same piece of underlying hardware to run multiple operating systems and applications. To the outside observer it seems as if instead of one server there are several servers, with different OSs and applications running at the same time.
The benefits are obvious here- huge savings on server resources,money,energy and time. However the topic is not very sexy,except for those IT wonks in huge corporations. Even for them it’s work,not fun and games.
So what could Citrix do to communicate their virtualization offerings in such as way as to stand out from the competition?
Why, fall back on the oldest marketing trick in the book,of course.
Citrix is using stories to sell virtualization. They created characters with personalities- a strategic minded CIO, a petty self serving divisional head, a douchebag-ish sales guy with an over developed killer instinct, a long suffering IT director and a cynical finance head. They gave them names and faces. They also used individual interviews to flesh out the characters.
When you see these interviews and read their bios you can probably identify these characters with yourself or your colleagues.And your interest peaks.
Soap opera or case study-you pick
So if I am an IT guy needing to know more about virtualization whitepapers would probably be a necessary yet boring part of my reading material. But watching people get jealous, shift loyalties,conspire,bitch and backstab over virtualization and yet learning something new- that would be fun and grab my attention at the same time.
It would grab my attention like Apple grabbing the attention of fanbois with a “revolutionary” new Mac App Store(when that same system has been around for ages in Linux distros in the form of package managers.)
Citrix upped the ante by inserting typical business scenarios involving virtualization into storylines. They ran several episodes, in which sometimes natural disasters threaten key infrastructure and sometimes emotions run high around the conference table when resources are allocated and allegiances between key actors change rapidly.
Sign me up for that drama anytime.
Of course since the ultimate aim of the initiative is to sell virtualization there are links to traditional B2B marketing resources like case studies, webinars and white papers. But make no mistake, the focus is on the soap opera.
Any improvements? You betcha
I don’t have any sources inside Citrix marketing to find out whether this campaign achieved its goals. But after viewing an episode if I were a prospect I would be more likely to download their resources and maybe get sold.
In absence of this strategy those whitepapers would just look like the thousands of whitepapers churned out by other companies.So lesser uptake, no unique value and way lower hits and eyeballs.
But Citrix, you could have done more. Follow my advice and I guarantee you even more engagement. And in case you take this advice I would like to be paid in Google or Apple stock as my consultant fees(hat tip to Chuck Lorre for that stock idea)
So here’s what you do,Citrix marketing.
Have a section where viewers can send their suggestions about new storylines.Since these people would be the ones getting their hands down and dirty in the virtualization trench you would get authentic topics. Get them to vote on the three ideas out of that pool for inclusion in the next episode and ask your scriptwriters to weave storylines keeping these ideas at the core.
This would be a win win win for everyone- Citrix gets more community participation, the show gets more real life issues to feature and the audience feels a sense of ownership. Because of currently available social media sharing buttons and the new voting functionality you just added these episodes would have a decent shot at becoming viral in the virtualization niche.
Do you know of similar storytelling initiatives by big B2B corporations? It’s open house in the comments section.
Image courtsey kodomut