5 Tips for Powerful Visual Storytelling

Depositphotos_63467467_s-2015Visual storytelling is a form of human communication we can trace back to ancient times, predating written language. Humans use storytelling to relate to one another, and visuals help us tell stories quickly and effectively, conveying meaning and emotion in the blink of an eye.

In marketing, effective visual storytelling works to make your company, products, and services more attractive and relatable, establishing brand recognition, affinity, and strong emotional bonds.

In the world of online marketing, we’ve seen visual storytelling become increasingly more important within the past few years. Blog readers have come to expect a featured image to accompany each post, your Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds are filled with images where text once prevailed, Instagram and Pinterest visuals attract more viewers, and video platforms compete for our attention.

Now, more than ever, it’s time to pay attention to visual storytelling in your branding and marketing. As visual storytelling has become more prominent, consumers have become more sophisticated and discerning; so it’s increasingly challenging to cut through the clutter and stand out, but it’s well worth the effort.

Here are 5 tips for powerful visual storytelling to enhance your brand:

Have a story to tell

Having a brand story to tell is an essential, but often-overlooked step. What’s the concept or big idea that you want to convey about your product or service, and how will a story help communicate that idea? Consider the characters, plot, and narrative. Is it a hero’s journey, a story of overcoming a challenge, a rags to riches tale, or something else? Through what kind of storyline are you looking to create connection and engagement with your target audience? Think carefully about exactly what emotion and meaning you want your imagery to conjure into being. Stock images and promotional captions are not going to cut it. Instead, tap into something timeless and deeper to relate with your audience.

Use familiar symbolism

Now that you know what you want to say, consider how an image or series of images help to symbolize meaning. Use pictures and graphic representations that are relevant to your ideal customer. Think about the context, aim to elicit a notion of familiarity, and stir up positive associations. Use metaphor, cultural references, nostalgia, and even controversy that rings true–you want them to see themselves in your story. As with all brand-building and marketing initiatives, the better you know your target audience personas, the better you will be at this–recognizing and selecting visuals that will resonate with them is the key.

Be genuine

Customers relate better with what they perceive to be real, stipped down, and authentic–humans prefer imperfect and unpredictable to overly polished and produced. Show them what you stand for and reveal your brand personality. Your visual storytelling will be more likely to rouse emotion if it provides a glimpse behind the scenes or below the surface–a slice of life that either looks like their life or a life to which they aspire. But this doesn’t mean to abandon branding or ignore quality. You don’t want to share low-quality purposeless photos haphazardly in the name of authenticity. Think purposefully about the types of imagery that will tell consumers who you are and why it matters.

Elicit the senses

Whether sharing video or still images, you can use visuals to create a visceral experience. One look at fresh cut grass or cookies baking in the oven, and we can almost smell it. When we see the closeup texture of a fuzzy sweater or wood grain, we can feel it. We can taste a fresh juicy peach, and we can hear waves crashing on the beach. Capture a candid moment, joy, or relaxation, and we can sense it. Bright colors invoke excitement and cool colors bring calm. A cityscape creates a different experience than a wooded trail; a modern kitchen with clean lines sets a different mood than a country kitchen with lots of kitsch. Based on the visuals you select, viewers can feel stunned, intrigued, anxious, or something else–what’s most important is that they experience something through your visual storytelling.

Consider context

Think carefully about how to best craft your visual storytelling. Will you be telling a story with a standalone single image? If so, what kind of image will tell the story most succinctly and powerfully–a photograph, infographic, graph, a drawing, or a map? Will you use a series of images–all at once or over time? If so, what will be the throughline or element that ties the story together? Will the images stand on their own or require accompanying text? Where will the images appear and on what platform or device, competing against or complementary to what other content?

Visual content captures attention faster than verbal communication, and the brain processes visual information more quickly. Stories hold attention better than dry facts and features, and narrative establishes a deeper emotional connection. So visual storytelling is a powerful way to enhance intimacy, become more endearing and interesting, deepen trust, and inspire action.

Need help with your brand’s visual storytelling? Give the team at Solamar a shout.

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