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Visual storytelling is the next frontier for brand marketers

Visual storytelling is the next frontier for brand marketers Chris Hall

In an age where display, search, social, mobile, and video ads are easily skipped or ignored, it becomes increasingly more difficult for brand advertisers to effectively engage with key audiences. Even with sophisticated audience targeting technologies, consumers still view ads as a barrier to their desired content.

So, how can a brand best deliver its message and purpose, and build affinity among such jaded audiences?

Sensing a changing landscape, many savvy brand marketers have made investments in visual content creation and storytelling to build their narrative and start discussions. They realize that if consumers want dynamic, entertaining content, don't give them static ads. However, they also know that creating content for content's sake is not enough. According to LinkedIn, there are 4.6 billion pieces of content produced every day. To combat this crowded market, brands need to tell compelling stories that showcase their authenticity and purpose, and pair it alongside captivating visual content in order to win the hearts and minds of consumers.

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, is a video is worth a million?

CMOs also realize that successful branding is replacing marketing, and their focus has shifted towards delivering customized branded experiences across all channels -- especially video. Here are a few excellent examples:

  • Norton: In order to educate consumers on the need for strong anti-virus software and data protection, the company released a 24-minute, branded documentary called "The Most Dangerous Town on the Internet." The film never mentions Norton's offerings -- however, the underlying message is clear: If criminals go to great lengths to protect their data and systems, consumers need strong protection against these threats.
  • Dove: If long-form video does not fit your brand strategy, or if you're trying to reach a more connected/mobile audience, a shorter but equally thought-provoking video, such as Dove's Change One Thing campaign for the Dove Self-Esteem Project, can be as just as effective. Instead of showcasing how the brand's products can make the consumer more beautiful, as so many skin care and cosmetic brands do, the video dives into the emotional issue of self-esteem among young girls and delivers the feel-good message that they don't need to change anything about their appearance.

The 411 on infographics

While video is a powerful medium, it doesn't always fit one's brand identity -- or budget. The good news is that brands don't need to make such a profound investment in order to get their message across -- and infographics are here to stay. According to the 2015 CME Council white paper, "From Creativity to Content," 57 percent of marketers surveyed said infographics are critical to their current marketing and storytelling strategies, followed by illustrations (54 percent), video (52 percent), and photography (47 percent).

It's clear as to why: Infographics are visually appealing, easily sharable, sometimes interactive but always content-rich. The best ones culminate in some sort of take-away or "ah ha!" moment, with subtle branding so as to not distract or detract from the presentation. In the end, the reader feels like they've received something of value, which they attribute to the brand.

Also, our brains don't always hold facts and figures. Hubspot reported that people only remember 10 percent of information communicated to them after three days. However, when paired with visuals, recollection increased to 65 percent. Infographics do a great job of pairing valuable information with visuals to create a memorable -- and sharable -- piece of content.

Is virtual reality the new reality?

In terms of visual storytelling, VR (when done right) cannot be beat. A number of brands have dipped their toes in the VR pool and created some exceptional VR experiences, such as:

  • Volvo's XC90 virtual test drive puts you in the driver's seat and takes you on a literal journey
  • The Northface's VR experience, which takes viewers on an excursion through California's Yosemite National Park and Utah's Moab desert
  • Patron's "The art of Patron," which translates the complex process of distilling tequila into an amazing, immersive experience

While VR creates an engaging, unforgettable visual experience, mass adoption is still a long way off. The high production values needed mean equally high production costs for brands, and consumers are waiting for the price of technology to come down before investing.

Before investing in visual storytelling, brand marketers must ask themselves: Why are we doing this? Who are we doing it for? Which vehicle is best for our brand and message? How will we measure its success? Creativity and pushing the envelope are key to engaging today's connected consumers, however brand marketers must ensure that the content they create still meets the fundamental objectives of their campaigns and targets the right audience with consistent messages across channels. Otherwise, it will end up lost among the other 4.6 billion pieces of content instead of creating a lasting, emotional connection with the viewer.

Chris Hall, the CEO of Bynder has grown his company to over 200 employees with six international offices in just 3 years. He first conceptualized Bynder in 2010, while working to establish a web development company, Label A (still in business). In...

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