3 Easy Steps to Create your Storytelling for Mobile Marketing

Telling your brand story in a smartphone

By Antonio Nunez*

People are rapidly shifting their online time to their phones. In the US, the increase in mobile’ share of online sessions has increased by 20 percent last year. Therefore “Mobile first” is the hottest mantra for marketers nowadays.

Some marketers say that trying to tell your brand story on a smartphone is mission impossible. But ignoring storytelling is ignoring human nature.

The Master-story (or overarching franchise story) and the Micro-stories (episodes that are relevant in vital micro-moments or contexts along the mobile customer’s journey) can help marketers rethink their mobile storytelling strategy.


No room for flashy messaging or design in tiny screens. No patience for distractions from the purpose of the search. No time to elongate a micro-moment. Some marketers think that storytelling on phones is a bad idea that can scare away potential customers. Phone users just want no-frills information, instantly, they say. For the anti-mobile storytelling marketers, storytelling is the enemy of brand utility, being mobile marketing the quintessential Mecca of brand utility.

But ignoring storytelling in mobile marketing is ignoring how humans learn, make sense of information or even think spatially. The more hurried, stressed, in need of fast learning or spatial orientation, the more the human brain needs storytelling to make sense of reality. Marketers cannot afford not to use storytelling on smartphones. Even no-frills, UI based apps like Über or Lyft will need, sooner or later, to turn to storytelling as a differentiation tool.

Even when we have yet to master the storytelling art in mobile devices, and that includes even the video game and TV shows industries, marketers can plan their storytelling by thinking in the Master-story and the different Micro-episodes.


You need a franchise story that mirrors your marketing funnel and customer journey. Thanks to phones, customer's journeys are more hyper-fragmented than ever. It´s not about long sessions on a desktop anymore. People check their phones, on average, 150 times a day in 1 minute and 10-second sessions. Storytelling can help to create continuity along this micro-fractured customer journey.

Think of a Master story that can be expandable and relevant through the entire marketing funnel using the following tenets:

- Ultra-Simple argument: Your Master Story should be told in a sentence or two, using the Want-But structure. I.e: Hero wants to live a healthier lifestyle but it’s not easy given her way of life, Hero wants to decorate a house but has little money, etc. There will be plenty of opportunities to enrich your story later, through the different critical Micro Episodes (Choosing the most adequate diet for you, how to cook healthy, combining paint colors, finding the nearest Wall-Mart, etc.).

- A non-linear structure. Your episodes, mirroring the customer’s journey, cannot be aligned under the Aristotelian ¨setup-conflict-resolution¨. Consumers don´t follow traditional linear journey models like AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) anymore. It´s not about creating a sequential experience based on causality (cause-effect), but more like a “choose-your-own-story” book or the novel Hopscotch. Each user will enter your story using a different door and different navigation sequence. Do not create a time-lined corridor but an asynchronous, always-on, spider web story.

- A Brand archetype: Archetypes develop brand personality instantly and are a phenomenal ¨look and feel¨ guideline when creating mobile user experiences. A journey to the nearest BP gas station using Google Maps, Spotify or Wallet should not be the same experience under the Warrior Archetype than under the Sage archetype.

- Different conflicts: When experiencing the mobile journey, your user will encounter different challenges or conflicts in crucial micro-moments: They will need to Know, to Go, to Do or to… Smoke (more on this later). Think about the Master conflict first (lifestyle, no money, etc.) and you will be able to connect and develop secondary micro-conflicts later (shopping, cooking, dieting, exercising, counting calories, etc.).

- A word cloud and key metaphors: keywords that will help to write the story with consistency, metaphors will help users learn intuitively how to navigate new realities or acquire new abilities.

- Sonic and Visual branding: these will help to identify the story beyond a color code.

- A Life Truth: What message, connected to higher-order values, do you want to convey through the different mobile touchpoints? This will ensure that the mobile experience is connected to your brand and company values.


Once you have a robust story franchise for branding and continuity purposes, it´s time to think in the different micro-episodes. Episodes must embody the crucial micro-moments that happen anytime and anywhere your brand needs to show up. They should be able to engage users with relevance during a real-time search.

-Think Instant: Episodes must be ultra-short micro-stories. Remember 1 minute and 10 seconds is all you’ve got.

-Think of the user´s intent: The biggest mobile marketing challenge today is to understand users’ behavior and context, even when geolocalization is enabled in their devices. Because cookies are not possible yet, and apps are walled gardens, the traditional navigation analysis and remarketing are difficult to implement. You can always think about users’ consumption triggers and barriers during the customer’s journey for inspiration. Who or what is stopping our heroes from achieving what they want? What are the key obstacles, traps or challenges that our hero will encounter? Who are the allies and enemies along the road? Which are the Magic Objects that can empower our hero in each milestone?

-Think in Contribution: How each specific micro-episode along the customer’s journey will contribute to the Master story and to your branding? Will it help to make your Master story more sensual, more aspirational, more visual or spreadable? How will it help to balance the overall user experience?

-Participation level: How social or private the episode must be? How passive or active you want the consumer to be? Maybe your users want to share that they just bought a vintage piece but not where they bought it.


-The Discovery Story: This type of episode needs to embody micro-moments where users are exploring, looking for inspiration or education on their phones. Imagine a context in which they have a vague idea of what they want or need, but they don´t know the available alternatives or possible solutions. They are looking for ideas, inspiration, tips, and advice, not your brand. Don´t push your brand yet, they are not ready to buy; at this point, it would only scare them away. The Discovery stories are specially indicated to recruit new customers. It´s about anticipating needs. Think in a horizontal “drillable” story, where users are offered an array of solutions and they get to choose which one to dig into deeper.

-The Action Story: In this kind of episode the users already know what they are looking for but don´t know the practicalities. They need to implement their decision, make them real. These are the How-to stories and the Instructional stories where the action is described in step-by-step detail. Think about do´s and don’ts and watch out for.

-The Road Story: The users already made their decision and now they want to know how to get to a place, find the nearest store or what milestones and landmarks to expect along the road. Think about how they will feel each step of the way, it´s not about creating a rational check-list. They want to make the most of every milestone along the journey.

-The Cigarette Story: People use phones like smokers use cigarettes. If they have a moment left, their phones are there to fill that time gap. They could be at the bus stop or metro, in-between meetings, or in a Starbuck’s line. During these micro-moments people want to be entertained, interact socially or game. The Cigarette stories are perfect to retain customers when they are stuck in a step of your marketing funnel, meditating, consulting with others or procrastinating. You don´t want to lose potential customers that already entered your marketing funnel because they get bored or forget you.

Designing stories for smartphones might not be an easy task. However; it will definitely be a mission worth undertaking as Storytelling can become Brand Utility’s best ally.

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*About the author:

Antonio Nunez is an author, speaker and brand strategist specialized in Storytelling. For ideas and tips on storytelling and communication, you can join his free newsletter at antonionunez.com or follow his Twitter @AntonNunez

Communication Strategy Consultant, Author, and Storytelling Teacher at Domestika.com. More at antonionunez.com

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