So What’s the Big Deal about Transmedia?

March 24, 2010 Content Marketing 3 comments

Transmedia in a diagram (courtesy of Seize the Media)

Crossing various media platforms (or Transmedia, a term which is well expounded by Kevin Lim) isn’t something new in the world of marketing communications. We have always done that in our ever desperate bid to attract eyeballs, visitors, and revenue in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Witness how quickly the emergence of communication technologies like the printing press, telephone, radio, television, websites, mobile phone, huge electronic billboards, bus stop shelters, and building facades are used for advertising purposes.
The latest territories in the entire marketing game are linked to social media, be they Facebook fan pages, Twitter updates, Youtube viral videos, Flickr photos, RSS feeds, tags on Delicious, and a whole bunch of other 2.0-ish tools.

Let’s also not forget events, Events, and EVENTS. Every marketer worth his or her salt needs to organise an activity to gather potential customers, believers and fans. These can come in all shapes and sizes – from an intimate cocktail party for 20 to a massive festival attracting hundreds of thousands over a week.

What else is new? Oh I forgot that we all love to play.

In fact, gaming in the form of contests, competitions, tournaments, and lucky draws have always been a mainstay of marketing. We thrive on challenges – especially fun ones – and the more attractive the bounty, the more likely we will rise to the occasion. Be it scratching a silver coloured patch on a card, or battling evil “aliens” on Facebook.

So what’s so great about transmedia then? Haven’t we always been doing them?

In fact, there is a term in marketing called Integrated Marketing Communications (or IMC) which is a “holistic approach to marketing communications” that tries to ensure consistency in message and design across every single touchpoint – online, offline, real life events and all.

The difference between Transmedia and IMC I suppose is in the telling of the story I suppose.

As cited on Wikipedia:

Transmedia Storyteller Jeff Gomez defines it as “the art of conveying messages themes or storylines to mass audiences through the artful and well planned use of multiple media platforms… With transmedia, each part of story is unique and plays to the strengths of the medium. The result is a new kind of narrative where story flows across each platform forming a rich narrative tapestry that manifests in an array of products and multiple revenue streams. The audience is both validated and celebrated for participating in the story world through the medium of their choice.”

Jeff Gomez (courtesy of O’Reilly Conferences)

Therein lies the difference I suppose.

Unlike IMC, Transmedia campaigns or initiatives looks at engaging and drawing one’s audiences/customers/guests through a central storyline or narrative which is tailored to the idiosyncrasies of different media platforms, both online or offline. In other words, it looks at how a tale can be best told – and continued – through different media, without ever losing the plot.

Great examples of transmedia storytelling include the well known Blair Witch Project, the Dark Knight, Audi’s wonderful The Art of the Heist (also labelled an Alternate Reality Game), and Coke’s Happiness Factory.

Get Serious:Transmedia Branding from experience freak on Vimeo.

The devil I suppose is in the details. How does one curate, choreograph and weave a compelling tale involving gaming elements, audience engagement, and an irresistible plot while trying to sell a product or service? It would be great if we can create an example of this here in Singapore.

Your views are most welcome of course!

By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.


  1. Enjoyed your thoughts on transmedia. You’re on the ball… unlike traditional cross-media approaches, the broad backstory and how it’s adapted specifically for each medium is crucial.

    While most of what we’ve experienced are extensions of contemporary entertainment (e.g. movies, video games), some are realizing critical discourse and activism can happen as well, even for traditional brands.

    The Harry Potter Alliance is a strong example of the real-world impact from fans of an entertainment title, as explained here:

    The trick is to figure out the story behind a brand, to deconstruct it, make relevant and reassembled to appropriate audiences, then let everyone grow the experience organically. In essence, we want fans, but we have to give them something worth chewing on, then mutual reward and respect materializes.

  2. ‘ve always wanted to do integrated marketing, or should I say… make integrated marketing come true. But reading your post, I saw a larger potential in transmedia. It is more engaging, captures a longer length of interest and goes back to the basics of storytelling. The curative process will be a challenge though, as consumers may not always be receiving information from the starting point of the roadmap.

    Looking forward to reading more of your insights on transmedia.

Join The Discussion

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>