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Brands crack into interactive narrative marketing with Snapchat Stories

Coca-Cola, Taco Bell and Victoria?s Secret are some of the first brands to test out Snapchat Stories as the social messaging application steps up its marketing potential. However, with a tender young demographic and limited control, the tactic is not well-suited for every marketer right now.

For select brands, Snapchat Stories is a novel way to connect with audiences on a one-to-one basis that is hard to find elsewhere. As more marketers look to scout out tech-savvy millennials who are highly engaged with messaging apps, Snapchat added video and text message chatting last week, which could potentially give brands some additional tools for in-application marketing.

?There are plenty of positives of using Snapchat Stories as a marketing tool,? said James Kirkham, global head of social and mobile at Leo Burnett, Chicago.

"We retain the disposable, quick view, ephemeral nature of the content, which I personally believe is still so compelling,? he said. ?But the intriguing build is the way we can now incorporate narrative too, so stories can unfold more easily than the quick hit on-off episode.?

Stepping up mobile engagement
Standard Snapchat photos disappear in seven seconds, which has given Snapchat an air of free expression since nothing remains for long. With the Stories feature, Snaps last a full 24 hours and allow users to essentially build a `story? of the day?s events. 

?It allows for longer engagement,? said Esha Shah, manager of mobile strategy and innovation at Fetch, San Francisco. ?They can view it more than once, since the story doesn?t go away you can keep adding to the story.

?So if brand marketers think through what they want to post, it can be a pretty engaging way to talk to the consumer.? 

Taco Bell used Snapchat Stories to feature a guy who was hungry, showing him later in the day still seeking food and at the end Taco Bell unveiled a new food product ? giving the man some sustenance (see story).

Since then, Taco Bell has debuted a couple of other interesting Snapchat Stories. One features a teenager who follows a line of hot sauce packets to be asked to prom. The video lets consumers pick which direction that they want to go and ultimately lets the user choose between saying ?yes? or ?duh? to prom.

Coca-Cola is using Snapchat to show off some of the snackable games as part of a bigger marketing strategy in year two of its ?Ahh effect? campaign (see story). 

For example, a Snapchat Story sent on Friday morning showed a zoomed-in picture and consumers have 20 seconds to decide if it is a picture of a cat or not. Previously, this content was only available on the campaign?s microsite.

GrubHub has also used Story to present a `day in the life? at the company's office.

?We?ll likely see sophisticated versions where the narrative juxtaposition is really well thought out, where one `Story? bleeds into the next,? Leo Burnett?s Mr. Kirkham said.

Additionally, there is great opportunity to weave Snapchat stories in and around other narratives and also add commentary around the big game or live concert.

?People should see the 24-hour parameters as an exciting virtue, not a constraint,? Mr. Kirkham said. ?It is very much in the territory of flash mobs, flash sales, product announcements, live surprise appearances and all incredibly contemporary as a result.?  

Getting started
To be successful brands must first build a user base. Fetch?s Ms. Shah recommends distributing content that is attractive to the target market.

Offering an incentive, whether monetary or simply titillating information to pique interest, is a good way to win friend requests.

One piece of content should tee up the next and create with a smile on your face, Mr. Kirkham said.

?Do think about the consumer and how they are going to view the story and the narrative arc. Ask yourself is this compelling, exciting, bold? Is this something you can talk about?? 

While Snapchat may seem to be a low-budget production, a lot of planning goes into Snapchat Story, stressed Leslie Hall, president and co-founder of Iced Media, which has designed campaigns for both Wet Seal and DirectTV. ?Because of the real-time nature, you almost have to have the whole playbook clearly outlined in advance of the operation.?

In its most recent campaign for Wet Seal, it tapped young model Raven Elyse, to bring awareness to Wet Seal?s annual national model search. Raven took over the Wet Seal account and snapped and shared over a four-day period. Snaps included makeup applications, a catwalk appearance and more. She also wore Wet Seal fashions and referenced the model competition often. 

For client DirectTV, Hall and her team did a behind the scenes campaign of Celebrity Beach Bowl, a flag football game played Super Bowl weekend. While DirectTV was broadcasting the event, viewers were able to get a more intimate view of goings on with Snapchat Story.

In turn, people snapped back and turned it into a conversation. Prior to the actual event, there was a two week build up using Snapchat, with teasers of celebrities and guests who might be there.

?Advertisers are a little bit worried,? cautioned Guillaume Lelait, vice president of North America at Fetch. ?You don?t have access to a lot of data, in terms of user targeting. So you have to give thought to 'is it good for the brand???