Extending Story with The Craftsman Agency: Q&A with CEO Gina Michnowicz

Jordan P. Kelley, Content Director, Brand Storytelling

The thing people love most about a story is the way it makes them feel. Anticipation and excitement build around the prospect of engaging with a great story. Today's technology and consumer behavior enable storytellers to build that anticipation in a myriad of ways. However, ample opportunity doesn't ensure ample success. A generation of savvy consumers easily repelled by an over-saturation of money-grab marketing has to be approached with finesse - the kind of finesse foundational to the work at companies like The Craftsman Agency. Utilizing bold storytelling that crosses physical and digital boundaries, work coming from The Craftsman Agency exemplifies the efficacy of story extension. Brand Storytelling caught up with CEO and Executive Creative Director Gina Michnowicz to learn more about the art and craft of story extension, especially when working to extend story with brands:

Tell us more about the origins of The Craftsman Agency.

The Craftsman Agency was born from the idea that marketing and advertising had shifted too far into performance marketing and data, losing sight of what matters. It should be all about experiences—about connecting at a human level and telling a story in a powerful way, a way that evokes emotion. We saw that immersive, bold storytelling and awe-inspiring craftsmanship were truly resonating with audiences, and we found that aligned with our strengths. It also aligns with what imaginative brands—our clients—want.

How do you define story extension?

Story extension is taking key messages and positioning from a brand story and then expanding on them, supporting them through different mediums and channels in a memorable way. When it involves the customer journey, it’s a bit like a “choose your own adventure” story because it’s based on where the customers are at that moment. It also doesn’t have to be from the brand’s perspective. Story extensions can also be from the POV of a customer or influencer, for example. We work closely with our clients to connect the dots as the story unfurls. Social extensions for experiential are key to garnering the most reach.

What does great experiential and social story extension look like to you?

For us, there are key experiences in a campaign or program. These experiences can vary from digital to in-person. A piece of content can be a central element too. When you’re consistently marketing with your customer in mind, your brand comes across so much stronger. It also sends the message that customers can count on your brand. This seems like table stakes, but many brands are inconsistent. This inconsistency can allow competitors to take market share over time.

Experiential is about creating a space for customers to engage with your brand in a meaningful way. The experience should reinforce the key messages with the specific target audience and be relevant to them. We aim to build something unique for each client that gives a payoff for the audience and entices them to share on social. As an example, we did this for Booz Allen Hamilton at SXSW a few years ago, where we had three activations that spotlighted the advanced technical capabilities of the firm, connected immediately with the attendees they wanted to reach, and were perfect to share on social: a custom T-shirt printing activation, a Beat Saber gamer’s den, and a recharge room.

The cross-pollination for the brand and customers lifts the experiential activation and reinforces the story. The user’s perspective is an important story extension because the customer’s voice is critical. It is critical to listen and continually evolve how you engage with your audience. Another way to extend stories and engage with a new audience is by leveraging influencers.

To maximize reach, we also recommend integrating marketing tactics. Strategies should consider all mediums and optimize social media engagement opportunities. The most effective integrated campaign strategies create a seamless storyline and user experience for the consumer.