How to tell a good visual story

As the saying goes a picture tells a thousand words. Just look at how social media and television has risen to grab our attention or how more people would rather see a movie than read a book.

Our human brains are wired to love images – the brain processes visuals in 1/10th of a second making visual content an incredibly effective communication medium. In recent years, the term ‘visual story’ has continued to grow in the lexicon of marketing and advertising.

So, what is a visual story?

A visual story is not the same as a story with visuals. A story with visuals use images to support the text but a visual story should be able to stand alone with words coming into play only to enhance the narrative.

Here are 3 things to keep in mind for an effective visual story.

Keep it simple

8 seconds. That’s the average time you have to capture a prospect’s attention. Whether it’s a single image or a series, visual storytelling should be simple yet captivating enough to send a powerful message across in a short span of time. Pare down the visual to its bare essentials and have a solid focus.  The key to powerful visual storytelling is to evoke strong emotions with strong visuals.

Take this ad by Volvo titled ‘Safety Pin’. The message comes through clearly with just a glance.


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Or take this visual by the United Nations for their Women’s Rights campaign. It does a brilliant job of combining a strong visual design with copy to create a provoking message.


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Crank up on authenticity

Authenticity lies at the heart of enabling true emotions to be conveyed. In visual storytelling, the narrative falls apart if the image does not resonate with the viewer.

Show candid moments of real people living real lives. Show unpolished, raw images that lend to authenticity which people can connect with. Be as diverse and inclusive in your representation as the population you are trying to address and let your visuals tell your brand’s story in a clear, truthful way. You’re not just selling a product/service, you’re selling an experience.

A good example would be #ReinventGiving, a video by HP to promote the new HP Spectre in 2016 that tells the heartwarming story of two brothers while highlighting the difficulties faced by those with hearing loss.


Engage the senses

Give your readers something to do – even if it’s just scrolling through a page. This minor but crucial piece of interactivity could make a huge difference in engagement. Minute animation and sounds have a better chance at holding a viewer’s attention. This is the reason why video along with Virtual and Augmented reality have such high engagement in users. It allows for a more interactive and immersive experience that uses almost all the senses we possess.

However, the majority of marketing still relies on the use of traditional images and films. Using the right textures and light, motions and sounds to imply touch, taste, smell and sight, marketers can create a sensory experience that is both entertaining and desirable.

In this campaign, NPR launched a microsite which pairs audio, video and an interactive storyboard to take viewers on a trip to a school in Afghanistan for an up-close look at the challenges facing women in the education system.


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There’s nothing like an arresting visual story to cut through the clutter and reach your target audiences. If you’re interested in using visual storytelling in your campaigns, drop us a line!





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