What Choose-Your-Own Adventure Books Can Teach Us About Interactive Video

 

Back the late 60s – early 70s, Edward Packard was spending his evenings doing what parents do – telling his two daughters bedtime stories. All of them featured a character named Pete, having all sorts of adventures on a desert island.

As time went on, the inevitable happened. As one tends to do when they are forced to make up stories with the same character, in the same location, over and over again, Edward Packard ran out of ideas.

Apparently, telling bedtime stories is not the same as reading a book to your kids – you can’t repeat the same one 1,000 times over! Who knew, right?

Stuck between his creative block and the necessity to keep spinning the yarn, Packard did the only thing that makes sense – he asked his daughters, “What would Pete do?”

And he kept asking them. Together, the three of them came up with more unique, interesting stories about Pete on the desert island than Packard could have ever managed by himself.

And then he had the idea to turn them into a book. But not just any book – a special kind of book, where readers could shape their own narrative, just like his daughters did.

In 1975, Packard’s first book was published, and it was called “The Adventures of You on Sugar Cane Island.” And the rest, as they say, is history.

Wait… What does this have to do with interactive video?

We’re glad you asked. In many ways, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were the beginning of interactive storytelling in all media: literature, gaming, marketing, you name it.

At the very least, they were the first form of it that really caught on, and introduced the groundbreaking concept that many marketers today take for granted… When you give the customers power over their experience, you will dramatically increase engagement and conversions.

If you want to learn more about interactivity in marketing – especially interactive video – you can learn a lot of lessons from “Choose Your Own Adventure” books. And in today’s post, we will explore the most valuable takeaways from that remarkable cultural phenomenon.

Hopefully, these will give you some insight into how to make your own marketing experiences more interactive – and maybe even try your hand at interactive video!

Let’s dive right in…

choose-your-own-adventure-books

Lesson #1. Innovative marketing is about timing

“Choose Your Own Adventure” was one of the most popular children’s series, ever. It sold more than a quarter billion copies from 1979 to 1998. But Edward Packard had no way to know what massive success those books would have.

He just had the idea and invested heavily in its execution. Packard came up with the first draft of his debut book back in 1970 – but couldn’t find a publisher until 1976. And even after that, it took three more years for the books to become the hit they are known as today.

What this means for you:

Right now, interactive video is going mainstream. You have every opportunity to make a lasting impact on your target market – due to the combination of novelty and familiarity of your marketing experience.

Unlike, say, virtual reality or other groundbreaking technologies – that are still in their infancy – interactive video is at the perfect point for you to capitalize on it! To quote the late great Victor Hugo, interactive video is “an idea whose time has come.”

Lesson #2. Participation and co-creation are insanely powerful

Even though they were invented as bedtime stories for girls, “Choose Your Own Adventure” books were usually made with young boys in mind. Just crack one open and look at illustrations.

But it didn’t matter – girls got into those stories with just as much enthusiasm, which helped make them so amazingly popular.

You might say, “So what? That doesn’t prove anything – there just wasn’t enough entertainment catering to girls back then.” You have a point there.

However, we believe that it was more than that. The ability to participate in the stories was the X factor that created that irresistible appeal across genders and demographics. And as a marketer, you can create the same appeal in your messages…

What this means for you:

Not unlike a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book, interactive video lets you take your potential customers on a journey with you, taking part in the experience and helping to co-create something unique.

When that happens, you don’t have to engage in precise demographic or psychographic targeting to make the viewers care. The narrative will do that – just by pulling them in, and deeply involving them in the process.

If you want to learn more on how user participation influences engagement and brand loyalty, read up on “the IKEA effect.” The short version is, when customers help to create something, they value it more, and perceive it as more meaningful.

Lesson #3. Plan for repeated exposure

“Choose Your Own Adventure” books aren’t meant to be read once and forgotten afterwards. To get the best experience, readers had to go through them again and again – discovering secret endings, creating unique combinations of story events, and otherwise having fun.

Those books could feature as many as 44 different endings, and unprecedented variety that created to a completely new experience of unpredictability, dynamics, and audience agency. You can’t really have those when you read an ordinary book – or watching an ordinary video.

What this means for you:

Like all marketing messages, interactive video is more effective when viewed more than once. The difference is, you can make it interesting enough for your potential customer to make them come back to it on their own, and repeat the experience without overstaying your welcome.

That’s why, to get the most bang for your buck out of an interactive video, you should not only assume that your customer will experience it more than once… but plan for it instead.

The more you can do to keep their experience fun and engaging, the better. That way, you can make sure that your marketing message stays with them… and also shift the focus away from, “Hey, you’re being sold to!” and onto, “Hey, you’re discovering something new and awesome!”

Lesson #4. Experiment! New medium = new rules

From Day One, Edward Packard realized that “Choose Your Own Adventure” books didn’t play by the same rules as ordinary children’s literature. So he broke those rules!

As the series went on, both he and his partner R. A. Montgomery experimented with the format in ways that would make any “reputable” book publisher have a heart attack…

They would introduce trick endings, endless page loops, offbeat storylines, and do everything they could to make the experience of “Choose Your Own Adventure” books unforgettable.

And guess what – interactive video doesn’t have to play by the rules, either!

What this means for you:

More than in any other medium, with interactive video you have the opportunity to be contrarian and do what you want. Sure, everyone and their marketing mother will tell you that customers just need a smooth, surprise-free ride from the start of your message to your offer…

But they would be wrong. Customers always say that they want brands to “get to the point” and quit wasting their time… but they also say things like, “Advertising doesn’t work on me!” (spoilers: it totally does).

The more memorable and engaging you can make your interactive video experience, the more likely your potential customers are to come back to you.

Sometimes that means throwing out the playbook and creating something unexpected: like collaborating with an animation studio to create art that shows off your service. Or creating a tough recruitment test to disqualify people who are a poor fit.

Just like “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, interactive video is a whole new medium. Which means that you get to break the rules and make up your own – even more so than usual!

As an entrepreneur, you want to be constantly on the lookout for valuable insights that can make your marketing more engaging, so you can convert more customers and make more sales.

Even though they are not around anymore, children’s books of interactive fiction can teach you a surprising amount about crafting memorable experiences that elevate your relationships with customers to a whole new level.

We hope you enjoyed today’s post, and will apply these tips to your business in 2017, with great results. Enjoy!

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