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CES: How Silicon Valley Is ‘Democratizing’ Storytelling

As more digital devices that debut at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas get into the hands of customers, those products are turning more people into storytellers.

“Silicon Valley has democratized storytelling,” said Sam Olstein, global director of innovation at General Electric, during a CES panel on fostering creativity. “Anyone with a phone can build and tell a story. All of a sudden now, there are so many unique personalities who are embracing technology and their own voice.”

Camera maker GoPro, in particular, was cited as a “classic example” of a tool that has leveled the playing field for storytellers.

“It’s one of the coolest tools to make anybody a content creator,” Olstein said, and a potentially powerful entertainment network as it creates a distribution pipeline for its videos online, through videogame consoles, on airlines and through smart TVs.

With a marketing campaign built around the slogan “Everywhere you want to be,” “You can’t imagine a better use of a product than GoPro,” said Chris Curtain, global head of new platform marketing transformation and chief digital officer for Visa. “You can immediately see what millions of American consumers are doing with GoPro that we can tag” with the slogan.

Curtin noted that when GoPro owners attach the small cameras to their helmets, bodies, bikes or other devices, “They want to have some dynamic thing occur,” he said. “Now you’ve turned the person into a producer, director, star” of the video that’s being created. “I don’t think there’s a line between creativity and technology in that regard. It’s all one thing.”

Curtin said GoPro’s success goes back to the “Endless Summer” surfing films. “It provides a first-person view of an experience you wish you could live vicariously through,” he said.

All of the new content that’s hitting digital platforms will provide marketers with an opportunity to grow closer to their target consumer.

In that regard, technology and creativity don’t have to be at odds, Curtin said. “In order for you to be creative, you have to understand the ways in which technology can bring creativity to life,” he said. “When coming up with new campaigns, “It’s hard to distinguish the technology part of the conversation and what’s the creative part of the technology.”

Olstein agreed, saying, “The technology part used to be about problem solving. But the cost of creating things has become so low, people are making things just for the sake of making things.”

Pinterest, Snapchat and Vine were cited as examples of platforms that have encouraged more consumers to create content.

“We use them for marketing, not advertising,” Curtin said of Visa. “These are just different platforms for us to convey what Visa is.”

And that can prove difficult given the minimal length of the videos that appear on those platforms.

“The shorter the form factor, the more interesting it gets,” Curtin said. “It puts pressure on you to get the essentials down right, and well, and distill what exactly is Visa and what it stands for and what its role is. The creativity comes from what is the most theatrical thing you can come up with and how do you fit it into a 60, 30, or six-second video. That’s the way you should think.”

How consumers use those platforms has enabled companies such as GE to figure out new ways to speak to their audience.

“The ways we’re able to embrace data and the cloud is the path forward for us,” Olstein said. “If we don’t do that, we’ll fall back into that 100-year-old perception of what GE stands for.”

The same can be said for Pinterest.

“It’s a tremendous guage of intent,” said Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer. “Pinterest is half shopping, acquiring stuff without acquiring it. It’s different than learning about stuff that people click on, but a strong indicator of what people’s purchase intent is and what their interests are.”

The panel, moderated by RE/CODE co-executive editor Kara Swisher, was part of CES’ new C-Space, focused on marketing and technology, hosted inside the Aria hotel’s convention center.

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