The Power of Visual Storytelling

Information overload is a major challenge — maybe the major challenge — for marketers in every vertical. The web contains upward of 130 trillion pages. Between that content, 24/7/365 cable TV, and social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and all the rest, how can a marketing message be heard and remembered?

Marketing professionals have come up with all sorts of ways to overcome information overload, including drip campaigns, storytelling, event marketing, content marketing, search engine marketing and visual marketing. Many of these techniques are effective, but only seem to go so far.

To really make the message stand out, more than one effective technique is needed: It takes two great ideas working in tandem to overcome the noise and get people to pay attention. Two techniques that combine for powerful results are visual marketing and storytelling. Visual storytelling hits all the right communication notes, and this is why.

10 Reasons Why Visual Storytelling Gets Results

1. Our brains are wired to absorb visual information. While many intuitively know this, the degree to which it is true may surprise you: 90 percent of data sent to our brains is visual.

2. Many people — 40 percent —respond better to visual messaging than to words alone. This is why adding images to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posts have become so popular among sophisticated marketers.

3. We have five senses, but our eyes do the heavy lifting. Seventy percent of our sensory receptors are — guess where? — in our eyes.

4. Visual messages “wake up” our brain and get it working. Processing visual stimuli engages 50 percent of our brain, which may explain in part why visual messages make such a strong and long-lasting impression compared to verbal or textual communication.

5. Not only are visual messages processed more robustly, they are processed more quickly — 60,000 times more quickly than textual messages, as a matter of fact. Processing speed is especially important, and not only because of information overload. Thanks to perpetual mobile phone use, continual distractions, and other factors, our concentration spans are shorter than ever. Brands no longer have the luxury of time to deliver their news

6. To expand on this all-important point, concentration spans are not only shorter than ever, they are heading in the wrong direction. In 2012, the average human attention span was 12 seconds; in 2015, the time fell to eight seconds. Goldfish, at nine seconds, now concentrate better than humans.

7. As further evidence of the comparative weakness of text-only communication, about 90 percent of human communication is non-verbal — a data point not too surprising when you consider how much we notice body language, facial expressions, posture, gestures, eye contact, voice inflections, etc.

8. For marketing messages to have a long-term impact and influence action, they must engage the brain’s learning center. Studies show that more than 80 percent of human learning is visual in nature — again, not surprising when we consider the data we’ve reviewed to this point.

9. To break down learning further, when messages contain words only, we recall about 10 percent of what we heard or read. However, when visuals are involved, our recall shoots up to 65 percent on average.

10. For an even more precise understanding of visual messaging’s impact on retention, consider this: We retain 10 percent of what we hear, 20 percent of what we read, and 80 percent of what we see (or do).

The Storytelling Advantage

Visual storytelling is nothing new. Our ancestors validated its effectiveness when they used cave paintings to get their points across. Over the centuries, humans have used hieroglyphs, stained glass, staged dramas, illustrated books and much more to combine the visual and the story.

Stories move us because they engage us intellectually and emotionally. Textbooks certainly help us to learn, but who among us would opt to spend an evening reading one instead of reading a mystery novel, watching a movie or going to a play? Stories are things we relate to and immerse ourselves in.

In terms of visual storytelling for marketing, brands can apply the technique in many ways, including:

  • Video testimonials that describe real-world experiences with the company, product and service
  • Video or slide presentation case studies that convey detailed insights about how the company, product or service improved life for a customer
  • Photos and video of products being used in unusual or innovative ways
  • Infographics and other graphical elements that enable the audience to visualize technical or complex ideas.

Speaking of infographics, here is a great one that recaps of the benefits of visual storytelling.

10 Benefits of Visual

Storytelling from AgencyEA

Claire Holland

Claire Holland

Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA
Claire Holland is Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA in Chicago, a brand experience agency specializing in experiential, digital and traditional engagement. She guides the strategic vision of the company’s brand, messaging and voice, while supporting and evolving consumer engagement programs for clients. Holland also oversees agencyEA’s internal and external marketing communications, including digital marketing and public relations.
Claire Holland

Latest posts by Claire Holland (see all)

Claire Holland

Claire Holland is Director of Marketing Communications at agencyEA in Chicago, a brand experience agency specializing in experiential, digital and traditional engagement. She guides the strategic vision of the company’s brand, messaging and voice, while supporting and evolving consumer engagement programs for clients. Holland also oversees agencyEA’s internal and external marketing communications, including digital marketing and public relations.

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