Marketers are turning to visual storytelling to boost content marketing efforts in order to better engage and build strong relationships with prospective buyers.

visual storytelling

One of the biggest trends shaping the evolution of content marketing is visual storytelling. The pandemic, the rise of ecommerce, the growing impact of video and the increasing use of emerging technologies, such as virtual reality, are behind this latest evolution of storytelling – a tried and true tool that helps brands stand out.

Consider the impact of video alone. Well before video-sharing app TikTok became the world’s fastest growing social network, YouTube was building on the power of video to capture the attention of young audiences. YouTube’s user base – and reach – is massive, growing and diverse. According to the latest research from Pew Research Centre, YouTube is the most popular social media platform in the U.S.

Not surprisingly, 86 per cent of businesses already use video as a marketing tool, and 92 per cent of marketers have made it an important part of their marketing strategy. Some 88 per cent of marketers report video provides a positive return on investment.

The challenges of the last two years have led businesses to combine visual content and storytelling to communicate with and educate their customers. Visual storytelling is fast becoming a powerful brand-building and engagement strategy for one key reason: the target audience drives the story.

How to use visual storytelling in your content marketing plan

  1. Keep the customer front and centre
  2. Leverage data
  3. Choose the right digital media to tell your story
  4. Craft a clear, simple, compelling message
  5. Measure the impact of your visual stories

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What is visual storytelling in content marketing?

Visual storytelling is more than just video or images. It is a strategy. Specifically, it is a strategy that allows B2C and B2B marketers to best leverage all forms of visual content to communicate a brand narrative from the perspective of the target audience. This is key. The purpose of visual storytelling in content marketing is to depict what a brand’s target audience wants, needs and expects. When done well, visual storytelling – just like all storytelling – connects with its audience on an emotional level, and provides relevant information they can use and a better understanding of why they might want to engage with the brand telling the story. The visual narratives capture and demonstrate the brand’s unique voice and persona.

Visual storytelling uses a wide range of media, such as:

  • videos;
  • GIFs;
  • images;
  • illustrations;
  • graphics;
  • motion graphics; and
  • memes.

Benefits of visual storytelling

  • Improved brand perception: High-quality visual content combined with a compelling narrative can highlight the best qualities of a product/brand and inspire consumers to buy.
  • Deeper engagement: In visual storytelling the protagonist is representative of the target audience. The narrative is designed to showcase both a problem they are trying to solve and the solution they need.
  • A more emotional connection: Visual stories are effective ways to help your target audience see how your brand/product can help them reach their goals. By showing and not telling, these campaigns engender a positive sentiment (satisfaction, confidence) about the value that will come from buying your product.
  • Increased sharing: People are twice as likely to share visual content with their friends as they are to share any other type of content, including social media posts, blog posts/articles and product pages. This is the direct result of their emotional impact and self-explanatory nature. (An image, meme or video can be worth more than a thousand words.) When people share visual brand stories, brands expand their reach and increase their opportunities to drive sales.
  • A lasting impression: Roughly 65 per cent of people are visual learners. This means a message is more likely to resonate and be retained if it’s visual.

Four key components of visual storytelling

A well-crafted visual story should:

  1. Engage quickly: Content creators have eight seconds to capture their target audience’s attention and encourage them to move through to the end of the story.
  2. Educate: The narrative should provide information the target audience wants and can use.
  3. Connect: The structure and media used in the story should create moments where consumers can interact with the content. This will help them feel more invested in the experience.
  4. Inspire: Include a call to action. This will help ensure your target audience takes the action you want them to take.

Techniques to incorporate visual storytelling in content marketing

Keep the customer front and centre

Understand your audience, their pain points, interests and how they like to consume information. Now connect this understanding with who you are as a brand, the value you bring and how you can help potential customers. Craft an interesting story and create visual content that positions your customer as the hero and tells your brand story through their eyes. Make sure you reflect the diversity of your target audience in your visual storytelling. People identify with others who either look like them or are facing similar challenges.

Leverage data

Digital marketing best practices are always changing and adapting to keep pace with emerging technologies and consumer trends. Use data to create the type of content you know is most likely to resonate with your target audience. Create a feedback loop with your target audience to better understand their needs and how you can meet them through your visual storytelling strategy.

Choose the right digital media to tell your story

The message will determine the medium. For example, infographics are an effective way to highlight data and statistics, while short animations can help explain complex processes. Take the time to determine the best way to share the narrative. When appropriate, add text and audio to provide necessary context. Be sure each of the media you employ is optimized for the web and works in harmony to enhance the story. Slow loading times will turn your audience away.

Experiment with size. When using images to tell a story, make the objects you want to highlight bigger to draw viewers’ attention.

Craft a clear, simple, compelling message

Understand what you need to say and how you need to say it to ensure your audience is focusing on what you need them to see and take away. Visual elements that are too detailed or complex can distract from the message. At the same time, attention spans are getting shorter and it’s important to make sure you capture people’s interest in the first few seconds.

Ninety per cent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.

Measure the impact of your visual stories

Determine relevant key performance metrics such as social shares, backlinks and website visits. This will help you understand what’s working and what’s not, so you can create visual stories that resonate with your target audience.

Ninety-two percent of consumers want brands to make their ads feel like stories.

Visual storytelling creates an emotional connection with your target audience, driving higher engagement with your brand. It’s a critical strategy that is helping to increase the impact of content marketing by showing – not telling – people who you are as a brand. 

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