To unpack the title of the session: we look at how we tell stories on other platforms and what they are. Do stories need to be books first? Or can they come from other platforms? Then comes the consolidation into a brand.
Platforms can bring stories to life.
Jeff Norton (Author, writer-producer and founder of Awesome) has spent his life at the intersection of book and screen. He turns books into shows and movies. He’s an author too, writing under his own name and in collaborations. He looks at how to partner with people to take it to the next level and create an emotional journey for users.
Guy Gadney of To Play For mentions Artificial Intelligence, noting that stories can use that platform to bring stories to life. You can read a bit more on Guy’s approach to transmedia on a previous session recap. What is platform? It’s something that becomes easier to branch out on the earlier you decide how you’d like to use it for your brand and story.
Joshua Davidson is the Managing Director of Night Zookeeper, a storytelling platform for kids. “It’s a grand narrative on the importance of imagination.” Children get to feel that their ideas are as important as the creators of the app, as their creations live side by side.
What, to them, are some good examples of books as brands, and others in general? Guy talks about the campaign for one Batman film from back in the day, where it ran for months beforehand and was really seeded in people’s consciousness. It grew to newspaper coverage, and had stories that weaved together across media. He’s a firm believer that a campaign is something to be built with longevity and not a simple start and end point.
Where are the seeds today? He says Supersaurs, the dinosaur planted outside London Book Fair by Bonnier, stands out. Your first view of the brand is a massive dinosaur, but it puts it out there in the very early stages.
In the realm of education, there are very few popular books in that sense, though there are some excellent platforms. The sheer extent of educational technology is growing – Class Dojo uses interactivity and video, a bit like a tamagotchi. How students behave influences the story on the screen. It’s ultimately a story, but it’s building a brand. Same goes for GoNoodle, to help kids stay fit. The characters within are starting to tell stories, but it just works in building up a brand. Joshua says to start with a mission and the story becomes a mere component of what you do.
For Jeff, he’s for the classics. The Noddys and Peter Rabbits – the text hasn’t changed in 100 years, but all of these iterations of characters have come out over the years. They’ve been reinvented in different media, using new models on classics. He also says, “I see you DC and raise you Marvel.” What they are doing to extend the universe that started in their comic books is pure magic.
The Potter power couple.
A thread of thought becomes a story, and then there’s a great leap to physicality. Ideas come from the ether and are plucked and adapted to what works best for them. Just because a story is good on one platform doesn’t mean it will automatically work on another; if something’s funny on one, it doesn’t necessarily transfer either. The media needs to match the message, and content usually has to be rewritten to work in new areas.
It’s like the power couple of Potters: Beatrix and Harry. Both were merchandised in the authors’ lifetimes – they were a brand platform from the word go, and understanding that power is key.