Researching the unusual through storyliving

This is not the type of content that I usually write about but when I was searching “storyliving” and all its different applications, I found that it could be an interesting tool for trend research and I wanted to look more into it. I hope you find it interesting and useful for your research!

Trend forecasters need to spot the unusual in a situation in order to find a future trend and get ahead. One way to do this is through storyliving, a narrative technique that engages with consumers’ feelings on a deeper level by making them participants of the story. It’s used as a marketing strategy but it can also be used in research when there’s no other access to it.

Finding the unusual

During quarantine, I read Essentialism, a book written by Greg McKeown that encourages you to focus on the essential and teaches you to prioritize the most important. One of the first steps, in order to become an essentialist, is to explore all your options. When you explore all your options, you find what is essential.

So how do you look at all your options and spot the key information, the unusual?

McKeown shared a very useful tip from Mariam Semaan, journalist and design strategist, that helps in capturing the real story from all the noise. She says that understanding the context of the topic is key, getting an image of the bigger picture as well as how it interrelates to the different areas. That is, exploring all the information out there and finding out what is missing, the unusual piece missing in our puzzle.

She suggests using role-playing which brings a different perspective to any situation or problem. Getting different points of view and motives will help us to see the bigger picture and identify what is missing. Therefore, this is where immersive research or storyliving can be of great help.

So in essence, what Semaan wants to convey is that in order to discern the most important information from all the noise, we must look at the whole picture from different points of view and find what is missing. This will give us access to hidden themes that are not directly stated and will be relevant in our research.

What is the difference between storytelling and storyliving?

You have probably heard about storytelling, especially in marketing. Storytelling’s main purpose is to sell a product through a story. However, it has been proven that consumers find a better connection with storyliving than with storytelling because they become participants of the story itself and appeal to their feelings in a more active way. They feel part of the story and feel connected to the brand.

Storyliving has also become a key element in the entertainment industry especially when it comes to VR or video games. Users feel part of the experience by making their own choices and creating their own world rather than playing according to what the game tells you to do. An example of this type of game is Minecraft, where users create their own worlds without limitations.

It’s no surprise that fashion brands decided to join the gaming industry to implement “storyliving” as their strategy. Consumers will be connected to the brand even when they don’t consume it in a direct way.

Apart from the entertainment industry, storyliving has also a big future within journalism. Google has even published a study on how journalists can leverage from VR to make immersive news stories.

There’s no doubt that storytelling is also a great tool to define a user’s journey through stories and deliver more engaging presentations. But how can we use storyliving in other areas such as research?

Can we apply storyliving in research?

On the one hand, we have storytelling as a powerful tool in user research. We create stories with the data obtained in order to understand a problem or situation. On the other hand, as I previously explained, storyliving focuses on living a story, being part of it. It can be similar to role-playing. As we get involved in an environment and acting as a specific user, we obtain insights about a particular problem. However, with storyliving you create a specific situation as if it was the real one, where you put your users in an invented situation in order to see them interact with it and their behavior.

We get to know our buyer persona through data gathering techniques such as surveys and interviews. Storyliving is another way to obtain this data. It’s an immersive experience where you find about their needs and feelings in order to find a solution to their problems.

VR as a tool for research

VR is a widely used tool in storyliving. When the user wears the glasses, he is inmediately transported to a new environment where he makes his own decisions. When people experiment and are exposed to this new reality through VR, they get certain reactions which then are analyzed in order to obtain key points in our research.

In fact, VR has been used in research for a long time, especially when it comes to analyzing user experience or tracking hotspots but also to test and explore a certain situation that you can’t have direct access to especially in scientific industries.

User research can be done through different methods and using immersive experiences can be very beneficial in certain studies. In immersive experiences, users are fully present and engaging in the situation. This gives us the ultimate information and reactions closer to reality.

By exposing people in a certain environment and analyzing their behavior, we get more information to find the gaps rather than just working on the answer’s given from a survey that could be less accurate.

Advantages of using storyliving

These are some of the advantages of using storyliving in research:

  • Understand the situation better by participating in it.
  • Collect more realistic data
  • Give them a different approach to solve problems in a creative way.

Now that you know how you can use storyliving in your research, would you consider it in your next project?