We are thrilled to introduce the current endeavors of Bernadette Butler. Alongside Sean Braacx, Bernadette co-founded StoryTap, a company that helps enterprise brands give their customers a voice by sharing personalized video stories with like-minded audiences to increase brand engagement and conversions. The company has “reimagined enterprise marketing to put storytelling first.” We see it as creating a satisfying and compelling twist on traditional marketing by bringing in the human element. It is an intriguing idea and we wanted to learn more from Bernadette.
Bernadette already had more than 15 years of marketing experience under her belt before starting StoryTap. The idea for the company all started with a tiny spark inspired out of a bit of mild frustration, or at least perplexity. While working in a marketing role at a company, Bernadette had what she jokingly called a “crazy” idea. While dealing with an ample quarterly spend budget, Bernadette began brainstorming a bit out of the box, and she started to ponder possibilities: “Imagine if I could get my customers to record a video story. Wouldn’t that be incredible? We could actually supplement our media buy or our production costs with real people and video.”
It sounds like a home run, right? Unfortunately for Bernadette, the way-before-its-time idea was met with crickets. It simply wasn’t being done, largely because it wasn’t as simple as it seemed at first glance. Bernadette soon found it is really an art form, one which she and StoryTap have now cultivated and honed to near perfection. More on that later.
When she was first broaching the subject of incorporating video into marketing, Bernadette recalled wondering why it just wasn’t happening. “The dots weren’t being connected,” she explained. So, rather than sit back and simply stay in the status quo, Bernadette got out her camcorder and tried to create something herself. This is when reality hit: This was hard work! “I realized that it is actually quite difficult to tell a story on video that sustains in a couple of minutes and started to map out some hypothesis.” And the rest is history, or rather, her story.
After closing a small round of funding and then hiring a few folks, StoryTap officially stepped onto the scene. Although StoryTap’s headquarters are located in Vancouver and Toronto, the storytelling team knows no bounds when it comes to inspiring audiences across the globe with its platform that puts the power of authentic storytelling into the hands of consumers.
Bernadette summarized StoryTap’s value in terms of ROI best when she shared: “We really plant the seed with the marketing team, and the marketing team then runs with it. We’re ultimately a subscription-based platform, but we’ve invented this notion of story-led video automation, [where] it’s just a matter of educating the brand team or the agency to show them the potential, and then we’re away to the races.”
Speaking of potential has us thinking of all the possibilities such a platform opens up. Bernadette explains that there are many different ways brands can use real consumers to tell their stories, bringing to the table near-endless storylines. This is a major innovation in marketing, where brands can leverage people and employees to be their biggest advocates.
Yet another appeal of StoryTap’s approach is the authenticity factor, which Bernadette describes, and which is lacking in the majority of brand marketing: “These massive brands are investing in studios to produce video. They are trying to run faster. It’s just that when you’re dealing with actors and scripts and these high production aesthetic must-haves, it doesn’t tick the box of authenticity, and you cannot scale that. They have to look at other options.” Luckily, when these big brands reach this point and are forced to reckon with the reality that they need help, StoryTap has them covered.
We wanted to know a bit more about how StoryTap “taps” into the essence of each brand and spins it into a unique and engaging video story without losing the authenticity of the tale. “Part of the sweet spot of our tech is that we do direct these stories, but they’re lightly directed because the consumer is telling their own story,” Bernadette explained.
“It is a hundred percent theirs, and then they feel great about it, which is part of the magic of our tech. And then, they give the brand the video rights to use their video. So, it’s a real delicate balance of visual direction and audio direction, and yet that customer—who’s not a marketer, actor, or anyone sophisticated with video—doesn’t feel like they’ve had to learn something new with video tech. They just grabbed their phone, and they’re just spilling from their heart. But it’s on point.” It sounds like a perfect recipe and one that we can now understand after hearing more about the ingredients that make it such a masterpiece.
Bernadette then discussed money, in particular, fundraising. Even the thought of fundraising itself can be daunting and a scary prospect for most. This includes simply accepting funds as well. For this reason, making the endeavor as easy as possible for yourself by setting your fundraising project up for success is paramount. This is why, according to Bernadette, it’s so important to ensure your goals—and even your plan for achieving them—directly align with your VC before accepting any funds.
After likening investors to marriage partners, because it is that big of a commitment and partnership, Bernadette explains: “When you bring on investors, you’re together on this journey, [so] we really wanted investors that aligned to our values.” She added, with the inclusion of a nice little shoutout to our team for being extra amazing to work with among said collaborators: “We [also] liked that we could be friends with and have dinner with them and liked their brains, and man, we hit it out of the park!”
When asked about the future of marketing, and StoryTap in particular, Bernadette says it looks bright: “It’s incredible, and I think it’s going to really shape how marketers think about their ideal customer profiles, their segmentation’s, their sentiment, their creative ideas for their larger campaigns because it’s out of the mouth of their customers.”