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Are you trying to find ways to drive more traffic to your website?

Research indicates that consumers receive about 3,000 digital marketing messages in any given day. That’s a bit overwhelming, so the objective for your business is to figure out how to stand out from the other 2,999 marketing messages your prospect may be receiving.

The good news is that consumers want to be informed, so all is not lost. What’s more, they want to engage with your brand in highly-visual ways, which provides you an opportunity to differentiate your brand from your competitors’ brands.

Perhaps this quote says it best: “Next to hunger and thirst, our most basic need is for storytelling.” – Khalil Gibran

Visual storytelling communicates a story – persuasively and emotionally – using visual media. It can utilize a mix of imagery, infographics, video, motion graphics, photography or audio. And these storytelling tools have become easier and faster to share across channels.

This is important for marketers. According to a study by 3M, “90% of the information sent to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.”

A survey from RIO Research found that respondents were 40% more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures. And a study from Simply Measured showed “just one month after the introduction of Facebook timeline for brands, visual content – photos and videos – saw a 65% increase in engagement.”

This means visual storytelling spurs engagement, gets noticed and drives results.

Visual concepts are emotional and logical. They’re informative and compelling. They have a purpose and make a statement. It’s not just one big campaign, rather an ongoing conversation with your audience.

Image of Visual Storytelling

The best visual storytelling:

  • Tells a story about something your audience didn’t know before, or helps them see something differently
  • Makes their life better in whatever way you define it
  • Is fun and engaging
  • Enables your audience to experience your brand

But truly great storytelling doesn’t happen by chance.

How can you start using visual storytelling in your marketing efforts? Here’s a 3-step plan to getting started:

1. Decide what impact you want to have and how you can provide value.

Your story needs to be relevant both to your organization’s business objectives and the audience. What perspective are you lending that’s fresh and thought provoking? Why should your audience care about your brand or the story you’re presenting?

Start by understanding the challenges and outlining the campaign goals to identify the opportunities for success. Utilize market research to analyze the competitive landscape and brand position. And of course, brainstorm in a collaborative environment.

2. Recruit the right people for the task.

Pulling together the right team is a major component to success. Plan to use writers and visual artists with a track record of crafting a unique voice for a story, and understand how visual media and content work together.

But beyond picking talented people, it’s important to recruit those that have the right approach: story first, tactics second. Whether it’s an army of agencies or an integrated team, they should start understanding the message and use that to drive how they’re told. Be cautious of having a “team” of specialized agencies that are siloed within their own capabilities and goals. If it is truly a good story, consumers won’t be able to tell if its PR or digital, advertising or social media.

3. Rethink your tried and true avenues.

Because social media is perceived to be easy and inexpensive, brands may use this as a safe playground to test ideas. However, going straight to social dilutes a first-time effort. Instead, seek ways to establish visual storytelling techniques within channels your brand controls for greater impact such as a corporate website or blog. It’s better to test and refine your messages within these spaces, before taking it into social for the promotion phase. This gives you a good foundation.

Once you have your story in place on channels your brand controls, validate its truth over time in social media – and back it with what your sales team is talking about in conversation. For example, if a customer interacts with you on Vine, they may look to your website for more information. Give them another touch point to validate your story.

During a recent project we worked with Graham Packaging to retell their story (see example at the bottom of this post). Traditionally viewed as a manufacturing partner, Graham wanted to be perceived as an innovative packaging solutions provider. JPL told the story of how Graham partners with clients visually and in a way that integrated all parts of their offering. No longer perceived as a commodity, the work made an impact quickly and clearly differentiated Graham from its competitors.

Lastly, visual storytelling is crafted over time. And everything is better with a plan. If you follow the steps outlined in this post, you’ll be well on your way towards creating a relevant and traffic-worthy piece of visual communication.

About the Author: Mary Pedersen is the Creative Director at JPL, one of Pennsylvania’s largest full-service, integrated, marketing agencies. JPL provides strategic thinking and creative execution across a full range of services that include brand, digital, marketing, advertising, video production and internal communications.

JPL used visual storytelling to bring Graham Packaging’s “Live Design” Process to life on their website. Pictured, Graham demonstrates how it visually started the conversation, knitting together the process and concepts to convey differentiation. The strategy focused on visual concepts, including custom photography and concise messaging to tell their brand story.

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