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How to tell a visual story

Think back to when you were a child and it was story-time – didn’t you prefer the books that had pictures in them? As we grow up we become more sophisticated but the basic premise behind this remains the same – most of us grasp information more quickly when it’s presented in visual form.

Images grab our attention and are more engaging, a fact demonstrated perfectly by social media, where it’s the posts including visuals that are the most widely shared or commented on.

It makes sense, then, that your marketing will be far more effective if you use powerful images that resonate with your target audience. As well as generating sales, it’s a way to increase brand awareness and loyalty – think of the anticipation that surrounds the John Lewis Christmas advert every year. As an example of successful visual storytelling, that’s hard to beat.

No matter how compelling your story or how well-planned your marketing campaign, though, make sure you bear these tips in mind to ensure its success:

  1. Stay on-brand

Consistency is key. You want people to know immediately that what they’re looking at is related to your brand so make sure your colours and logos are represented. Talk to your graphic design service to make sure they are properly briefed and have everything they need to create beautiful images that fit in with your campaign. From a marketing perspective, the most successful visual content is not just attractive – it features a reliable design theme that consumers come to recognise.

  1. Keep an eye on the calendar

It might sound obvious, but keeping your campaigns in line with the time of year is important. Your story might not be directly related to a particular event, but certain colours and images are more impactful at different times of the year. Pictures of blue skies and beaches during an autumn campaign will jar with your audience (unless you’re selling summer holidays, of course); keep your content associated with the appropriate season.

  1. Customise your images

If you want a really effective campaign, this is important. Most businesses will design one image and post it on every social media platform they use. But not only does each network have different ideals in terms of image size and resolution, they tend to be used primarily by different demographics. If you want your visual to be presented to best possible effect on every social media channel, ask your graphic designer to give you different variations according to where it will be used.

  1. Make it personal

Emotions play a big part when it comes to buying decisions. If your images evoke strong feelings, you’ve got a better chance of capturing a customer. You need to play to the rational side too – how will your product or service benefit someone on a practical level? – but triggering sensations such as happiness, comfort or nostalgia will have a big impact.

  1. Add images to your newsletters

Studies have shown that click-through rates improve when visuals are included in email newsletters. Make sure that they help to tell the story of your e-newsletter’s content – they should relate to the subject matter.

  1. Include visuals in your real-time conversations

If you’re interacting with people on Twitter, for example, wouldn’t customised visuals sometimes add a spark to the conversation? Brief your graphic design team to come up with a range of brand-consistent GIFs and emojis that you can use – it’ll get you noticed.

  1. Remember the shape

Stories have a beginning, a middle and an end. Even though you’re not using a traditional narrative, you need to keep that in mind. In marketing, you generally want variations on the theme of: there’s a problem – here is a solution – this is the result. Traditional storytellers use words to guide readers – you need to do the same with your images and videos.

  1. Promote interaction

Encourage customers to get involved in your visual story by sharing their own images, for example of them using or enjoying your product. Create your own hashtag for use on social media and use it to increase engagement with your brand.

Visual stories can do far more than simply promote a product or service. Use them as a way to present the human side of your business, for example by focusing on specific employees and team-members; offer behind-the-scenes glimpses on how your business operates or how your product is made; tell the story of how it all began and how it got to where it is today.

There are always stories to tell. Present them in the right way and they will capture imaginations, spark interest and have a positive impact on your brand – and your sales.