Transmedia storytelling, which can also be referred to as multiplatform storytelling, cross-media storytelling or transmedia narrative was a concept crafted up by Henry Jenkins, a professor at the University of Southern California (Jenkins, 2007). Jenkins describes transmedia storytelling as:
“ A process where integral elements of a fiction get dispersed systematically across multiple delivery channels for the purpose of creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience.“ (Jenkins, 2007)
In simpler terms transmedia storytelling is the process of where a story is expanded and told through the use of several different media channels. In each of these media platforms the stories are unique and make a new contribution to the main story as a whole. It is also through this process that the stories engage consumer’s attention and expand on their knowledge of the story. In today’s society, this expansion of information is particularly important, as consumers are rapidly becoming hunters and gathers of information, which is facilitated through the use of the Internet (Binkley, 2012).
Most discussion of Transmedia storytelling has been focused on the entertainment industry (Blinkley, 2012). When explaining transmedia story telling, Jenkins particularly looks at the major franchises within the entertainment industry such as The Matrix and Star Wars, however, in my mind the most significant example of transmedia storytelling that I have seen, and personally experience, is the Harry Potter franchise (Jenkins, 2007).
Harry potter is a great example of transmedia story telling which all started back in 1997 when J.K. Rowling released the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Usagi, 2011). Back then Harry potter was just a book about the life of an 11 year old wizard, however, fast forward 15 year later, and it is so much more. Harry potter has now grown into a major franchise containing 7 books, 8 feature films, various website and blog, Pottermore, games, a theme park, music, merchandise and so much more.
Each new media platform has created an expansion of the Harry Potter universe that fans can explore. Though the use of these media platforms, particular websites and related books, Harry Potter fans are able to gain further understanding and knowledge of the Wizarding World and the character within it (Usagi, 2011). They are also able to interact with other fans, where they can gain further information that they may not have found themselves (Jenkins, 2007). With the addition of toys, fan fiction and the theme park consumers are now able to share and create their own stories (Jenkins, 2007). The Harry Potter universe has taken over many platforms, which provides many entry points for new target markets. For example young children may be introduced to Harry Potter through the use of Lego and toys while the people of an older generation may have been introduced to Harry Potter through the novels and movies (Jenkins, 2007). Even though Harry Potter is now over and there are no new books or films people are still creating new content and finding new ways to expand their experience and create new memories with the franchise.
As you can see it is with the aid of transmedia storytelling that Harry Potter has become the phenomenon it is today. Therefore, with the success of Harry Potter and many more franchises, that utilize transmedia storytelling, it is no surprise that many people are considering transmedia storytelling to be the future of marketing (Binkley, 2012). As a marketing student myself, I believe that transmedia storytelling is going to continue to play a very important part of marketing in the future for a few key reasons. Firstly it provides consumers with multiple entry points, therefore, can potentially gain more customers and awareness (Moller, 2012). Its also allows consumers to gather information on a media platform they are confortable with and then share this information with others (Moller, 2012). It also helps get consumers more actively involved and engaged in the brand, aiding in establish consumer relationships (Moller, 2012). However, with all this being said, transmedia storytelling will not be in the future for all brands and products as it takes a special set of characters and a truly amazing story to connection and gain interest amongst consumers in the way that Harry Potter has (Jenkins, 2011).
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Wharton. (2012), Transmedia Storytelling, Fan Culture and the future of Marketing, http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article.cfm?articleid=3039