An Unprecedented Rise in Visual Storytelling
“Stories are the key to every relationship you have—with every colleague, every customer, every prospect. Great stories take time and care, but they’re not rocket science. They’re an essential part of being human, and the greatest tool that we have.” – Joe Lazauskas
Stories are the beating heart of content marketing. They can transform the way we forge relationships with our audiences and can ultimately make them care more about us.
[bctt tweet=”Visual #contentmarketing is surging in popularity, making it more difficult to get noticed. Read on for some visual storytelling tips and learn how to get a competitive edge.” username=”relevance”]
Every person, family, business, and marketing team has its own narrative and sharing those narratives with the people who invest time in us can boost empathy and in turn, boost sales.
If someone tells you that they don’t care for or engage with stories, they’re lying. All of us consume stories. Whether it’s a gripping new novel by ‘Gone Girl’ writer Gillian Flynn, a binge-worthy new Netflix docuseries akin to ‘Making a Murderer,’ or your whiskey-breathed grandfather’s tenth retelling of his famous fishing story at your bi-annual family reunion, we’re all privy to the stories of our peers.
While that last one may not be as enjoyable as the former two, we are all regular watchers, listeners, and readers of stories.
Because of the ultra competitive, dog-eat-dog, content marketing world we currently live in, content creators and promoters across the globe have started looking at storytelling as a valuable marketing tool.
Now in 2018, the practice of using videos, gifs, and other visuals to tell branded stories has become essential for business survival.
Visual storytelling is where it’s currently at and while written stories can still be incredibly effective, a short documentary, an 8 second Snapchat video, a creative vlog, a meme, or a particularly compelling photograph can have a stronger impact on audiences in a shorter amount of time.
As video clips continue to invade our social media feeds, consumers have started becoming attuned to seeing, and expecting visual content everywhere.
The Science Behind Stories
While we can always analyze market statistics and study trends to see why visual content has become so ingrained in our daily internet experiences, the real secret as to why consumers favor video over text in media and marketing has to do with the brain.
According to an infographic created by iScribblers and published by Ann Handley’s MarketingProfs,
“Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text. 20% is all that people remember from reading text without visuals,” and “It takes 150 ms to process an image and another 150 ms to attach any meaning to it.” In layman’s terms, it takes less than a second for the brain to fully process a visual.”
The science clearly backs why visual marketing/storytelling is so wildly successful but there’s a difference between knowing something works and how to actually make it work.
The following is by no means an exhaustive guide on how to create and carry out a visual marketing plan (we’d be here for quite a while) and getting really good at visual marketing is very much trial and error.
However, with a plethora of visual marketing tools at your disposal, the practice is easier than it’s ever been and there are quite a few tips and tricks out there that can help your campaigns stand out from the rest.
I’ve listed some of my own tips here and hopefully, they can help you tread the visual storytelling waters with strength and fearlessness.
Five Visual Marketing Considerations
1) Stay Away from Stock
Stock photos are insanely addictive. If you have to whip up a social media campaign before meeting a tight deadline, you’ll probably be compelled to take the easy way out and slap a stock photo on it.
Some paid stock sites like Getty Images and Shutterstock have some really high quality images and you can even find some hidden gems on free sites like Canva or Unsplash.
However, consumers respond better to original images instead of stock images and you should never rely on it completely for your visual marketing campaigns.
According to data presented by iScribblers,
“A real person’s photo generated 35% better results than a stock photo.”
If you have to use stock, try and stay away from images that include people. Real photos taken of real people capture more attention than stock photos and your audience will enjoy looking at images of the people they actually want to do business instead of strangers.
You can also go the extra mile and take some of your own photos either on the clock or off. You may even have some photos you’ve already taken that can be used in a campaign. You can also screenshot images, which may come in handy in a how-to promotional guide.
Don’t be afraid to show off the people you work with (with their permission of course) and the office space you work in. Consumers like to be able to relate with a business and if they see that a business is built on the backs of actual, working people,they’ll be more inclined to buy.
If you do use stock in your campaigns, try and spruce up the images by applying different filters. You can also customize stock photos by adding small amounts of text such as a quote or statistic or you can include the image in an original photo collage.
Originality is key so put in the extra effort to add a personalized flair to stock.
2) Know Your Brand
If you’re a marketer working for a straight laced law firm, it might not be the best idea to use gifs or memes in your marketing campaigns. And, if you’re working for an edgy clothing company targeted towards millennials, then you should probably steer clear of infographics and ‘boring’ visual content.
What I’m trying to get at here is it’s important to know your brand’s voice and create visuals that align with your brand’s message.
Continuing on with the law firm/clothing company example, a Youtube or LinkedIn docuseries spotlighting client success stories or the experiences of lawyers could be a winning campaign for a law firm.
In the case of the clothing company, a Instagram campaign where you feature photos of customers wearing the company’s clothes could elevate your strategy.
3) Know Your Audience
“How do you tell a good story if you don’t know who the people are that will respond? Fundamentally, once you know the audience, it comes down to understanding what makes them tick and producing quality content you think will catch their attention. After marketers figure out a system for producing quality, then you can pour gas on the fire.” – Allen Gannett
When it comes to visual campaigns, if you don’t have a full understanding of who you’re marketing to, things could get disastrous.
Let’s say you’re working for an emerging Youtube channel focusing on kids’ content. It’s pretty obvious that the bulk of your audience base will be kids. If you’re sharing memes, gifs, or visual ads on social media, it’s important to be cautious of tone and language.
You don’t want to underestimate their intelligence but you also don’t want to overestimate it. You also don’t want parents to get concerned.
On the flipside, if you’re on the marketing team for an emerging vertical optimization creative agency, most of your audience will probably be business professionals looking for creative work.
They’ll be responsive to examples of your work in your campaigns with facts and statistics that show why your company is a good fit. They’ll also appreciate honest video testimonials, a great way to connect with your audience while also getting personal.
4) Be Cautious of Social Trends, Movements, and Current Events
Staying relevant is incredibly important in today’s society. Most of us find our news and entertainment online and society has evolved right alongside the web. Social movements are even being born online and politicians are making social media a core part of their election strategies.
As a marketer, you can always hop on to social trends and make them a part of your visual campaigns. However, it’s important to understand your audience base and know how they might respond to your participation in current events or movements.
Most of us remember Pepsi’s 2017 campaign disaster featuring Kendall Jenner that many called a blatant capitalization of the Black Lives Matter movement. The campaign resulted in international backlash and was made fun of on Saturday Night Live.
If you decide to piggyback off of trends, make sure your audience will understand and appreciate the context and remember to BE RESPECTFUL.
5) Engage, Engage, Engage
Publishing a visual campaign isn’t a one and done affair. You need to be proactively engaging with your audience on every platform your content appears.
Stay present in the comments section, respond to people, facilitate discussions about your content, do whatever it takes to stay involved in the conversation.
Your audience will appreciate hearing from you and they may be encouraged to follow through on whatever your campaign is pitching or selling.
Netflix is one of the best companies out there when it comes to social media engagement. They’re not afraid to be a little sassy, funny, and honest and you shouldn’t be either.
Visual marketing isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and there’s a ton of resources out there than can help you get a visual campaign off the ground. While you’re off planning and strategizing your next million dollar idea, keep the above five tips in mind and remember that being transparent, creative, and consistent can lead you on the way to visual greatness.
Do you have any lesser-known visual marketing tips that have helped your campaign strategy? Let us know in the comments!