The power of storytelling in images is undeniable. In fact, research proves that half the human brain is active in processing visual information. Images are the most efficient way for humans to understand the world.
One only needs to look back in history to see this dynamic at work. From 40,000-year-old indigenous art to the lofty ceilings and porticos of the world’s most iconic churches, visual storytelling has always been the most persuasive way to express ideas and narratives to a mass audience.
For marketers in the digital age, visual storytelling is critical. Images are more easily remembered than conventional book learning, and if your images and message are clear and potent, you will be able to entice your audience to read on for a full understanding of your product’s message.
Text alone no longer has the effect required, because the speed of the internet and the growing impatience of the audience mean that although they are hungry for information, people respond to short, sharp bursts of ideas that are easy to understand.
No imagery. No engagement.
Technology has opened the door to an avalanche of opportunities for creating compelling images to express your core message, whether it be with photographs, infographics, memes, interactive visuals, cartoons or video with special effects and animation. This list is limited only by the imagination.
A static map like the one pictured below adds little to the visual experience.
Embed and make it interactive (as below). Now you can see how much you can enliven your visuals with the latest technology.
Advances in DIY software for creating visual content are astonishing. Both video and interactive software can be easily embedded on web pages, and the response data shows that interactive or moving visuals are much more powerful than static images.
We have seen some of this with ‘slideshow’ advertisements on Facebook, but there is more.
Move your mouse over the taco pictured above. Much more than a static image, here the ingredients of a taco are deconstructed so you can learn more with a few easy clicks.
Video animation software is becoming even easier to manage, and the new wave in online marketing will see more animated clips created with whiteboard animation software. It’s so simple, it is possible to DIY the whole project. Use the template images on the website menu or you can add professionally written scripting, voice over, your own music, drawings, and photos or video.
The real question is how to create images that truly work?
Marketing communications channels are changing daily, but the fundamental rules of advertising continue to apply — words and imagery in synergy are the most powerful combination of all.
This means telegraphing the entire story in a picture and no more than six words. Getting the market’s attention and telling your story in a visual way leads to consumers wanting to know more and read on to find the rational side of your proposition.
Many ads in traditional media like newspapers now use minimal text instead of long copy, because messages need to be communicated in a fraction of a second. Even news reporting has become shorter and punchier. It seems no one has time to read anymore, unless their interest is truly sparked.
If your visuals resonate, especially in the world of social media, viewers can be compelled to share, and your message will have the potential to reach millions of people. You cannot share visual ideas with all these people by tearing out a page from a newspaper or magazine and handing it around, but in the online world successful mass-market selling is just a click away.
How selling works
The art of salesmanship is a complex blend of appealing to the customer’s raw emotion and rational thought.
As an example, if someone buys a Mercedes Benz, they will verbalise many valid reasons for the purchase. The truth is that the visual dynamic of the car’s design evokes strong emotional appeal, not forgetting the prestige associated with the brand and how that can affect a buyer’s self-image.
Generating this type of response is difficult. Firstly, you need to have a product that is both visually appealing, plus a slew of rational reasons to buy, and most importantly a ‘brand personality’.
Product descriptions alone just don’t cut through. The secret is to surprise, entertain and inform the audience, and that often means a massive departure from tried and true methods and a leap into the universe of new insights and provocative ideas.
Otherwise, you will not be noticed.
Ask these questions:
- What does your target want and need to know about your product?
- How do they feel about your brand, your product category, and the usefulness of what you are selling?
- What age are they?
- How educated are they?
- How do they think?
Knowing your audience is the first step. To discover a new way to catch your target group’s attention, you must apply a deep understanding of the psychology of your potential customers.
This is not easily done, but today we have extensive market analysis and endless digital data at our disposal; not just with technical data, but specific survey and focus group research that delves into your target group’s inner workings – their desires, their needs, and their ingrained opinions.
In many cases, finding fresh pathways to an effective sales message relies on ‘creative intuition’. Experienced advertising and marketing professionals develop an almost sixth sense of what will break through preconceived notions and open the audience’s mind to something new. Still many marketers are quite reluctant to try something innovative.
Once you know your audience and how they think, you can begin a personal conversation that increases your relevance to each of them as individuals.
Keeping the customer’s soul at the heart of every image and every word is vital.
Never be dull
It is quite easy to create visual imagery that is boring and annoying. Showing a photo of the product without encircling it with emotional and rational reasons to buy is a waste of time.
So too are long videos, poor photos and images used just for shock value. It is unrealistic when you are selling tractors to show a film star and be sure to get a click frenzy. Immediately the consumer knows they have been hoodwinked and move on. But, if an appropriate celebrity is riding a tractor, you may have something that honestly reflects your product.
Remember you are telling stories.
If your video is too long, people lose interest; too short or without clarity, and your message just cartwheels past without even a second blink.
Did that wake you up? Eye-catching and a little intrusive at the same time, isn’t it?
Lengthy, tedious voice-over will be ignored, or worse, turned off.
Putting words on screen following the voiceover does not make for riveting viewing, but adding information in image form creates a stronger campaign.
This can be as simple as showing pictures of the finished result – a wonderful food shot to sell blenders, renovations before and after to sell materials, a home on fire to sell insurance and legal services, or glorious scenic images and more food to promote holiday destinations.
The visual sell should always depict the result, not the product. The final effect of your product is the most powerful marketing tool in your armoury.
Tell your story in simple terms, with confidence, and fit the style of your content to the personality of your product.
Complex infographics are scary for most people; make them simple and easily understood.
Some are terrible and prove nothing. No one will spend time with something too hard to decipher. Always step back and view your advertising with the eye of the consumer, not through your personal filter.
Beautiful images make a longer lasting impression. Spend money and, if you are serious, you will conceive and produce your own unique images.
All the avenues of creative thought are open to you, from GIFs and cartoons to ‘All-singing-all-dancing’ videos, animations and interactive images.
Creating powerful attraction
To create a convincing rational and emotional response, you need passionate professionals.
They will uncover fresh insights, bring order to your quality information and craft a package that will reverberate.
Experienced creative writers and visual experts are ingenious in creating a unique character for your brand and can speak with the voice of authority and expertise, or take a more light-hearted approach — or anything in between.
Whatever tone of voice you need, as a marketer you are in charge of your product. The best advice is never to stray from the core message and insights you have uncovered.
Visuals and written storytelling must work in harmony. If you attract the audience with strong visuals and a few short words, it is most important that the click through brings them to exciting and focused brand journalism.