Marketing in 2015 – The Importance of Visual Storytelling

by Anton Dvorakovsky on Wednesday 16 September 2015

You may remember last year we talked about the Rise of Visual Content and platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest growing exponentially in popularity and user base. This trend is set to continue and in some cases, even start to eat into several marketing channels that up until recently have been set in stone. 


Scheduled television is losing share to online video services from companies such as Netflix, while podcasting has also taken a huge chunk out of the radio market. The common theme here is the focus on the customer and ability to provide a better, on-demand experience. The product should be flexible enough that it matches the needs of different customers, not the other way around. 



Visual Platforms


Pinterest and Instagram are still leading the way in terms of user numbers and engagement metrics but there is also a new wave of companies and apps that are snapping at their heels. Because of investments behind the scenes, the platforms outlined above have enjoyed exponential growth in the past couple of years although without innovation, growth can stall (just look at iTunes Ping, Delicious or Google+)


As marketers, it’s our duty to stay ahead of the curve and anticipate which platforms and mediums people will be using in the future and how we can make them work for our clients. Over the last year platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have started to mature, rolling out advertising options such as sponsored posts and business analytics to take advantage of the huge number of users and impressive engagement metrics. 



These direct response options are effective at converting users that are ready to purchase, but there’s now also a new wave of apps that allow brands to use ‘experience sharing’ to help influence customers at an earlier stage in the sales funnel. These customers might be unfamiliar with the brand, or not yet quite ready to buy and so wouldn’t necessarily be reached through more direct types of messaging.  Apps such as Snapchat, Periscope, Meerkat and Facebook Mentions may not be as refined as their more established counterparts, but they provide a personal touch, something that’s much harder to do on platforms such as Tumblr or Instagram. 


By taking the user directly to an experience, you can establish a much more immersive and personal connection - as DKNY showed recently with an interactive Periscope video that took users through the brand’s NY closet. Because there is no obligation to watch these videos, the user feels much more in control as they have ‘opted in’ to interact with the brand as opposed to being targeted or broadcast to. 


It’s not surprising to see brands such as Disney, Chelsea FC and GQ adapting their content strategy to include livestreaming and video experiences to help them reach content-hungry audiences.


Growing Mediums


It’s easy to think that video advertising and sites such as YouTube are fully established in the industry, yet the 40% YoY growth figures listed show that there is still room to expand. YouTube is also slowly entering the live streaming arena to compete with services listed above and over the last year it has also become the second biggest search engine in the world. Not bad for a company that has yet to turn a profit.


Google is showing great confidence in its video offering as just last month, Youtube Gaming was announced to compete with popular live streaming services like Twitch and Hitbox, while the rise of vlogging has created YouTube celebrities such as Patricia Bright or Zoella who reach across a wide variety of different niches and interests.


As a medium, video is a much stronger visual stimulant than static images and can also be used in more diverse ways. Storytelling is far more effective through video as you can talk to your audience directly and showcase more engaging information such as video tips and interviews. 


Businesses can take advantage of this by using native advertising options such as video annotations that link with pay per click advertising and display dynamic stock and price information to the user.


Virtual Reality


Another medium that is poised to make a huge impact is Virtual Reality. When Facebook bought Oculus Rift, Mark Zuckerberg made his intentions with the platform quite clear and over the past year developers and forward thinking brands have been hard at work at making it happen...


When it comes to interaction, there is currently nothing to rival virtual reality as the user is taken directly into the experience. Smartphones are now powerful enough to support basic VR and 360º videos are becoming commonplace on YouTube. Once the platform develops I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mark’s vision (below) become reality. 



Although businesses have been slow to embrace the coming VR shift,  brands such as Topshop, Lexus and Thomas Cook have dabbled in stand alone VR experiences to showcase their forward thinking nature. The Thomas Cook 360 Holiday VR App is my particular favourite as the product TC sells have not changed but they’re giving the user a chance to experience Egyptian resorts in their own time and without modifying their device. 


Brand Impact - The Art of Storytelling


Visual advertising methods should not be thought of as stand-alone marketing techniques. People learn best by viewing, others by listening, and others by reading. They also respond to different forms of marketing, and different types of media In the same way. Video content should be an essential part of a brand’s marketing comms, but the methods employed will vary from business to business. 


Choosing the right medium should be priority number one as there’s nothing worse than seeing a marketing message turn into white noise. The second is to use your chosen medium to tell a story. Our minds only truly pay attention to advertisements when they offer something different, and stories are often different as they distance themselves from standard promotion methods.


BT used a great example of storytelling in their Adam & Jane campaigns which produced 40 ads over 6 years using the same recurring characters. 

BT used a great example of storytelling in their Adam & Jane campaigns which produced 40 ads over 6 years using the same recurring characters. 


Stories can connect you with authentic human experiences and they’re capable of connecting with us on a level that direct marketing campaigns cannot. A video for example can be constructed to demonstrate that the company understands the customer’s problem and showcase a solution or a product rather than simply writing about it. 


Stories can also provide emotional attachment and engage users even after they’re over. The John Lewis Christmas advert for example attained tens of millions of views months after it’s initial air date because of the pull of the story and its characters. 


What We Do at Forward3D


Because stories don’t necessarily need to have conclusive endings, a teaser campaign can be used to build excitement and anticipation, which in turn can be used to enhance other marketing channels. At Forward3D we try to stay ahead of the curve and work directly with our clients to create meaningful and memorable visual campaigns that can enhance activity across other channels.



Our work with Simply Be for example allowed us to display the brand’s core value - “have the self confidence to be you”. We wanted to make a special campaign that would make people feel happy but also interesting enough for bloggers to want to work with us. We gathered the UK's best up and coming illustrators to recreate a 'real’ moment provided by the bloggers from their own experiences. The illustrations were a wild success and we eventually started getting approached by the bloggers themselves to be part of the campaign - we had 36 in total. 


This campaign was unique because the bloggers received a personalised illustration of themselves, reminding them of a significant moment in their lives. Moreover, body positivity resonates with so many people, that the campaign was effective in both appealing to bloggers and also promoting Simply Be's beliefs and values. From a commercial perspective, Simply Be’s brand values were communicated across a wide network of influencers and their followers.



There’s an ever-increasing number of visual platforms that introduce new functionality to a marketer’s arsenal, but the importance of ideas, values and understanding your audience has not diminished.


That said, it’s critical for brands to use the right mediums to reach audiences, otherwise even campaigns with the biggest marketing budgets can miss the mark. Planning and research allows you to distinguish between the different mediums and platforms, as some will have a more direct impact on sales funnels while others will serve to enhance brand perception. 


Anton Dvorakovsky  SEO Manager

Blog / Instagram