Storytelling in chat apps

People can’t look away from their smartphone’s messaging apps, opening the door to a whole new style of storytelling for brands.

One weekend not too long ago, I received a series of messages on my phone from the friends and family of a 25-year-old woman in Brixton who had gone missing . 

Thankfully, this was not a real-life missing person case but instead a deeply engrossing fictional murder mystery story: ‘Last Seen Online’ by unrd

The concept was really simple – Last Seen Online presented me with a WhatsApp-esque app interface that belonged to Amy Morris, the missing Brixtonian. It presented me with her old message threads to read through and get a sense of her identity.

Then, over the course of seven days, I received messages that included texts, videos, and voicenotes, as though you had Amy’s phone. Each one of these added further intrigue and insight into the story, providing me with clues as to where and how Amy went missing.

Because the Last Seen Online experience almost exactly replicates what it’s like to receive and read messages to your smartphone – and because I was getting new message notifications from fictional characters getting mixed in with my own real-life contacts – I very quickly and easily became immersed in the world of the story.

Other ‘fiction by text message’ apps have hit the headlines. ‘Hooked’, for example, had 1.8 million downloads in its first year, becoming the top-grossing book app for iOS in the US.

Amy's message feed

An opportunity for brands?

The competition for buyers’ attention has never been more fierce. If you want to stand out, you’ve got to find ways to be more interesting than everyone else in your market. 

Story-telling apps offer a creative way to genuinely immerse audiences into the world of your brand and make it enjoyable at the same time. 

Imagine, for example, following the story in real time of a manufacturing company CEO watching their company go out of action as the result of a major power outage – told entirely through emails, instant messages, and news alerts (we did that one).

Or how about an onboarding experience that gives new hires a taste of the company culture by simulating the back and forth between departments and managers through voice notes and slack channels?

Storytelling like this is worlds away from the dry PDFs and lifeless PowerPoint presentations that drain people’s attention batteries faster than a webinar about proper document formatting. 

If you’d like to talk about interesting ways you could enchant your audiences, get in touch. I’m sure there are plenty of stories we could tell together…