A guide to visual storytelling


In the first part of a two-part story, we look at the importance of visual story-telling in challenging times. be with us in mag digital.

The audience is tired. They have spent a long period seeing — and ignoring —ads. It’s just noise now. Go online, and things don’t get better. Banners. Pop-ups. Every social media platform is now run by algorithms, which will float or sink the message.

Shlomi Ron is discovering a way to solve this issue.

You Know It When You See

Visual storytelling is a marketing strategy that leverages convincing narratives, putting the customer at the heart of the story, staged with an emotional visual media experience and effectively allocated across your buyer’s journey, to empower customer’s lives and aim business results.”

That is how Ron defines his specialty, which he shares by teaching university courses as well as consulting for major companies in his role as CEO of the Visual Storytelling Institute.

A simple reality is behind this approach: people comprehend images 60,000 times faster than words. And they are attracted to pictures, videos, and images.

Ron found this out by the incident. “When I led digital marketing at SiriusDecisions, I was involved in managing the digital strategy for SDSummit – the high-profile annual conference,” he recalled. SiriusDecisions is B2B research and advisory firm developed by Forrester in 2018. “One of my rewarding experiences was to mount a giant 26’ x 13’ interactive social media LED display (92 LED tiles) that generated a 374% increase in conversation as attendees flocked around as if it was a ‘digital altar.’”

In the following years, Ron developed a framework and definitions to explain what might have seemed apparent but nobody mentioned. That became visual storytelling.

But within visual storytelling there are a variety of branches, Ron noticed, which he labeled as crisis storytelling, virtual storytelling, fake storytelling, and crypto storytelling. Each branch has its criteria and approaches.

When a brand is in trouble

Ron clarifies crisis storytelling as the story “a brand creates to effectively manage brand perceptions during an unexpected problem that puts the stability of a company or organization at risk.” This came to mind while Ron sized up how brands were dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, which resulted, of course, in conditions and nations shutting down commerce to encompass the virus. Companies could not carry on with business as usual.
Brands had to find “ways to sympathize with their audiences during unsteady times,” Ron noted. That means telling “influential stories that translate into acts, versus just sympathetic words.” he said. This is taking place against a backdrop of mistrust (see the Morning Consult study on “The State of Consumer Trust”).

Fumbling the crisis message only deepens the hole (watch “Every COVID-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same”). Brands try to put out a meaningful message, only to run afoul of each other by saying the same thing.

Feeling the crisis message only deepens the hole (watch “Every COVID-19 Commercial is the Same”). Brands try to put out a meaningful message, only to run afoul of each other by saying the same thing.
“On the contrary, a great example is what Panera Bread did with their ‘From One Neighbor To Another’ campaign,” Ron said. “They asked their delivery drivers to take short real and valid stories about their day using their smartphones. It’s authentic, it’s real, not sales, and it’s a great way to diversify storytellers.”

Companies can’t anticipate when a crisis will hit, but they can plan on how to deal with one.
There is a pre-crisis playbook that deals with “identifying people, process, and tools,” Ron explained. The during-crisis playbook summarizes “an adaptive communication strategy that both supports the brand narrative and focuses on compassionate stories, emphasizing actions vs. words”. And finally, the post-crisis playbook considers past storytelling performance, using conclusions to make better the other two playbooks, Ron concluded.

Seeing (even virtually) is believing

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality have been around for a while, for example as improvements for online gaming. But a platform is a platform. If you can play in one, you can be sold there too. Ron mentioned a study by Statista that estimates the AR/VR global market reaching $20.8 billion by 2023.
Ron remarked that brands like Lowe’s offer on-site virtual skills-training clinics using HTC Vive virtual reality systems; the Weather Channel offers a mixed-reality experience of upcoming storms. Other examples of brands leveraging these technologies are Sephora’s Virtual Artist App for experimenting with make-up, Ikea Place App (for furnishing), and Burberry’s multi-player game B Surf which promotes the summer collection.

Based on the brand’s business goals and audience requirements, brands need to analyze virtual experiences. “The success of the digital transformation we’ve all experienced in the past year with no doubt will exponentially increase post-pandemic. The audience is already moving to all these virtual goals,” he said.

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