Is the ‘New New’ the New Black in Ecommerce Content Marketing?

29 April, 2014

The New New Thumbnail

Custom Publisher Complex and US footwear giant Converse have teamed up to introduce their new ‘Cons’ range.

It’s not a TV ad. It’s not a magazine spread. Forget about billboards, display ads, social media contests, viral videos… Not for Cons.

Converse has created one big online storytelling episode in the format known within the publishing industry as a ‘Snow Fall’.

The New New

The moniker was born after this Pulitzer Prize winning piece of innovation from the New York Times turned digital storytelling on its head. If you haven’t seen it, prepared to be dazzled by a visual explosion of multimedia glory.

Complex has moved the ‘Snow Fall’ multimedia narrative from the experimental online laboratories of news and entertainment publishing to the folks like us trying to sell things.

The self-proclaimed ‘most influential content provider in the world next to Twitter’ are no strangers to this format. Complex recently rocked out a rip roaring long form interview with K-Pop icon G-Dragon that no doubt inspired the Converse content marketing extravaganza.


Why should we care?

Converse are trying to relate their product to a shared belief to engage their potential customers.

The band who star in this story (Phony PPL) aren’t talking about shoes. They’re passionate about creating a new street culture. Converse shares this same belief, so it makes sense to advertise to readers who care about street culture and love the band.

In this instance, the link between the Cons and the story seems a little awkward. The shoes dangle around in the background, relying on you to love the product, not necessarily what they stand for.

Invasive Advertising

Brands need to view this format as a storytelling weapon rather than a native advertising vehicle, or as Contently explains it in their seminal State of Content Marketing 2014 ebook:

“Soon enough, smart brands start to think like storytellers instead of trying to shove an old-school-advertising round peg into a new-school-media hole”

Complex is shoving hard. Converse is like the stubborn middle aged male trying to assemble a piece of flat pack furniture without a manual. Their heart’s in the right place, but sometimes it’s best to step back and ask “Why”?

We need to learn from their brazen first time efforts.

If a brand wants to tell a story differently and take the reader on an online journey, the ‘Snow Fall’ just may be the new new. Digiday’s Josh Sternberg is warning us to batten down the hatches for “The Avalanche of Native Ad Snow Falls”.

Whether it’s an online how-to manual, a pseudo digital magazine or an all-in-one product demo and review, the format is an engaging way to communicate with potential customers. If it hasn’t already, the Snow Fall will have forward thinking content marketing pro’s swooning for more.

(When executed effectively) The format passes the content marketing checklist drafted up by the industry’s thought leaders:

  • Highly visual
  • Tells a story
  • Responsive across tablet, mobile and desktop
  • Irresistibly sharable across social media channels
  • Perfect for generating organic backlinks without SEO ninja spaminess
  • Can act as an all-in-one must read authority source for a given topic
  • Ability to add and edit consistent, series-based content over time
  • It’s unique (until the avalanche!)

Ecommerce stores often lack the link to pull browsers from interest to purchase. Luke Summerfield lays some detail down in this post from the content marketing maestro’s at Marketing Profs. So much content is focussed on getting potential customers to the online store, then selling them stuff.

Your Buyer's Life Cycle

The Snow Fall is able to tell an integrated story that genuinely combines awareness-level content with a seamless call to action to shop the store. If brands can find a way to do this without the need to dangle a bunch of shoes in their customer’s face, we may have found an answer to help us plug the ‘Consideration’ content gap between the Awareness and Decision phase of the buyer’s journey.

Rather than separating stages of the buyer journey, innovative ecommerce companies like Danish outdoor clothing pioneer Norrona are already blazing a new trail across the storytelling landscape. Norrona attempt to infuse product related content within breathtaking long form stories.

This example regales the snow sports reader with a tale about a visit to Japan to ‘ride as much powder as possible’. The content is a mixture of beautiful imagery, high quality video and quality brand journalism.

Instead of cobbling together these forms of multimedia, why not create a cinematic online experience. Take the reader on a virtual journey through the Japanese powder. Oh, and it’s called a ‘snow fall’. Too good to be true…

Want some more snow fall inspiration? It’s not all natural disasters, androgynous Asian pop stars and unwieldy sneaker advertising.

ESPN regaled us with The Long, Strange Trip of Dock Ellis, bionic Darth-Vaderesque superband Daft Punk pumped up their new album with Pitchfork and The Australian chapter of The Guardian extended on the New York Times’ effort with a shocking recount on Tasmania’s 2013 bushfires.

Espn Snow Fall

Will the Snow Fall format be a flash in the pan, confined to band promos and natural disaster reporting?

If a brand tells the right story, the Snow Fall might just be the new black in ecommerce content marketing.

By James Dillon
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