LinkedIn’s Marketing Genie: What Not to Do in Storytelling

10Dec, 2017

Earlier this year, LinkedIn released an experimental take on content marketing: a story in the style of a children’s picture book. The Marketing Genie: A CMO’s Odyssey could have been a humorous and engaging take on storytelling for marketers–one that educated customers about LinkedIn’s products and built a campaign around their experiences. But ultimately the story falls flat.

While storytelling is absolutely essential to good marketing and branding, it only works if it’s done right. Unfortunately for them, LinkedIn’s Marketing Genie offers a handy guide in common pitfalls and missed opportunities. On a brighter note, you can learn a lot from what they did wrong.

Don’t Let Your Pictures and Text Compete with Each Other

Long story short, pictures always win. The Marketing Genie has adorable illustrations, but the content is thin and repetitive. From a design standpoint, the white space isn’t used wisely, so a reader’s eyes have trouble focusing on the text. From a content writing standpoint, the book doesn’t flesh out a good argument for why a reader should stay invested in the text. So they don’t.

How can you apply this lesson to your own brand storytelling? The easiest answer is to be aware of the way that readers will experience your content. Are your brand colors loud? Does your content include photos that are engaging to the point of distraction? Great. Just leave plenty of white space (or other solid, soothing color of your choice), so they can focus on what you’re saying.

And make sure that what you’re saying is relevant and engaging to your customers. Don’t waste money on a big campaign rollout and then waste precious reader attention span and online real estate with words that don’t matter.

Don’t Lose the Plot

The LinkedIn Marketing Genie (a big cat in business casual) makes its first appearance on page 20 of a 30-page book. It’s easy to get caught up in fun asides, anecdotes and (worst of all) inside jokes, but good storytelling stays on point. In a tale about a Marketing Genie, the genie shouldn’t just show up in the closing act.

When you’re storytelling about your brand, take customers on a smart, strategic journey to your desired goal.

Keep them invested, and don’t hide your product from them through fluff or unnecessary detours. In other words, get to the point, and don’t bury the lede.

Don’t Get Carried Away

Many marketers were English majors and are still lovers of literature. So storytelling can be a slippery slope. We see that in The Marketing Genie as the author goes through a series of painful jokes with references to the hero’s journey in Greek mythology and even a very random nod to writer Joseph Campbell.

As tempting as it may be to wax poetic with your storytelling, you should dial it back if your content starts feeling too heavy handed or sentimental.

Keep your storytelling sharp, targeted, and focused on your customer–just like your brand should be.

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