The art and science of decentralized storytelling

I am super thrilled with our first Immersify ad. Not just because it’s pretty cool, but because of how we used the Immersify platform to get it done. It took us just three days to go from a rough idea to this video.

This is a story of how you can do this and way more.

We use the term influencer marketing to explain what Immersify is, but that phrase is imperfect and limiting. Immersify is in reality a smart platform that enables decentralized storytelling.

Decentralized what? Isn’t that blockchain-speak from late 2017? Are we doing an initial coin offering, a few years after the hype train passed by? No :)

To understand why decentralized storytelling is such a huge deal, we need a detour into history to see how technology and psychology have played crucial roles in the evolution of advertising

1920–2000: One message, few mediums

In the early days of mass-advertising, the so-called golden age, you had one message and a few mediums — your message was broadcast via TV, radio, and magazines to millions


2000–2020: One message, millions of mediums

The next phase was ushered in with digital marketing. The mediums mushroomed to millions, and then billions. You now have roughly, 1.5 billion websites in the world where you can show your ads. We transitioned to one message, many millions of mediums

This new scale could only be handled and enabled with new technology. You now have sophisticated platforms that help you do what was earlier done manually. Find ad slots, bid for them, and show your ad all in near real-time. But you still had one message, one storyteller putting together the narrative — the creative agency or marketing team.


2020–2042*: Millions of messages, millions of mediums

Now, we are well into the age where both the message and the mediums are in millions. With the rise of social platforms, billions of people. You now have people who can take your story, your message and cast in their words and voice, and spread it to millions of others.

We call them influencers. But in doing so, we operate in the old way of coming up with one centralized message or story, and asking a handful of people to share one centrally crafted message with their audiences. But the whole point of social, peer-to-peer media is that we have multitudes of fascinating identities, interests, quirks, personalities. And that’s what we are paying attention to when we spending umpteen hours on Instagram, TikTok, and whatever storytelling platform comes next.

This is a phase shift that needs a new way of thinking and operating. It is now possible to have tens of thousands of storytellers spread your message, your story in their own unique way. How do you, as a marketeer, take advantage of this?

Each phase needs new technology tools to unleash its full potential. What does this one need?

(*why 2042?)

Immersify discovery dashboard snapshot

You need to be able to discover the right story-tellers from among tens of millions of candidates.

You need to be able to communicate, negotiate, and finalize contracts at scale — with tens of thousands or more.

You need to be able to quantify how on-message or off-message their communication is.

You need to be able to measure how well they have engaged with the audience.

We enable all these with Immersify.

Some of the above, like discovery, are now possible thanks to advances in Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the last couple of years.

How we use AI is best kept for another detailed post, but here’s a short summary of how AI helps.

We humans are fantastic at looking at someone’s profile on Instagram or TikTok or Youtube and figuring out what that person might be like. Are they sophisticated, sincere? Do they post a lot about vegan food or trekking or yoga? You might even be able to tell what their audience is like by looking at their followers’ profiles. But we aren’t great at doing this very quickly, and at scale. How could we possibly classify ten million profiles. This is exactly the kind of thing the latest and greatest AI algorithms and models (deep neural nets; see other work we have done with them) do amazingly well. We use these to do essentially what smart humans are able to do, judge and label, and do this tens of millions times a day.

So that’s the technology part of the story. Where does psychology come in?

By some counts we “see” 4000 ads a day. The see is fenced into scare quotes because we are completely blind to most of these. People call it banner blindness,ad clutter, and whatnot. The reason is rather simple. Our attention is finite. Our brains actively tune out and supress what they consider irrelevant. And now, people use tech like ad-blockers to actively suppress ads in their browsers.

“Do not show me any more ads!”

This is where having multiple authentic humans do the storytelling for you helps. Every single one of us is just wired to pay attention to people and narrative *— in other words, stories and storytellers.

With decentralized storytelling, you improve your chances of having your message take a shape form and voice that actually registers with your audience.

And when you put the tech and the psych together, you tap into the power of decentralized storytelling : Relevant storytellers telling resonant stories.

PS: If you want to learn more, please email me

- * people and narrative; a rare non-stuffy academic journal article that delivers on its message — well conceived narratives make people pay attention

Founder @ Giffie; PhD, Computational Neuroscience, Boston U; BTech, IIT Madras; Co-Author: A Billion Wicked Thoughts (2011), Journey of the Mind (Feb, 2022)