Show, don't tell: Communicate more effectively with visual storytelling

Mathias Benninghoven
Mathias Benninghoven

Stringing together a good narrative is no easy feat, but never underestimate the power of a convincing story. But why is storytelling crucial for communicating successfully? Storytelling links facts with experiences and emotions, thus creating stories that not only reach the target group better, but can also build an emotional connection to them. 

This holds even more true when you enrich your story with visual elements: Visual information is absorbed much faster (60.000x) and remains in the memory more sustainably than just texts. On top, in times of information overload it’s easier to stand out from the crowd. We absorb between 50-80% of all information visually and remember statements much better when they are combined with relevant images, infographics, animations and video content

Short attention spans are also an issue that play into the hands of visual storytelling. Only 16% of web users read word-by-word, 79% merely scan and look for visual markers that grab their attention. (Nielsen Norman Group)

Turning complex into tangible

In a world that’s becoming more and more complicated, data-driven visual storytelling is a way to keep people informed and engaged from the get-go. By breaking down an aspect into bite-sized and tangible pieces, the observer is drawn into the story that might otherwise be too complex and exclusive. 

Visual storytelling is, of course, nothing new. In-depth, long-form content on the web has been used successfully by publishers such as the New York Times, The Guardian or Süddeutsche Zeitung for the past 10-15 years. And with innovative, new web design solutions the boundaries of what’s technically possible is constantly shifting.

Left: Data visualization on the Ukraine conflict in the Guardian (© The Guardian)
Right: Scrollytelling format of the ZDF on the mechanism and efficiency of the COVID-19 vaccine (© ZDF)

Using visual storytelling to our marketing advantage

But visual storytelling isn’t limited to digital journalism painting a comprehensive picture of real world events such as war conflicts or scientific topics such as the functionality of vaccines. As digital marketers we can use it for our clients’ purposes as well: To highlight and explain a product (think Apple’s digital product unveilings), a feature, a decision, a process, raise awareness for a brand and create a connection with followers and clients or just to get into a conversation with your audience.

Because let’s face it: In a time where it’s more and more difficult to stand out on the web and on social media, it’s more and more crucial how you present your client’s offer or service to get the right results. Investing in SEO as well as organic and paid social media may still be a recipe for generating traffic and growth for brands, but as marketing budgets are beginning to shrink, their effectiveness stands or falls on the quality of immersive, entertaining content and stories.  

Many ways to tell a convincing story

Many marketers for both B2C and B2B are therefore sinking their teeth into various visual storytelling formats to get their client’s message across – from intricate, immersive web experiences incorporating animated graphs, video overlays, 3D elements or horizontal scroll sections to compelling infographics, animations and explainer videos that grab users’ attention on social media with snackable, authentic forms of storytelling.

Left: Visual Article of the New York Times about the AI ecosystem (© New York Times / Berlin Partner)
Right: Scrollytelling page by HateAid about hate on the web (© HateAid / Uhura Digital)

 According to HubSpot, infographics are the 4th most used type of content marketing in 2021 and had the biggest increase in usage among B2B marketers in the last four years standing at 67% (Content Marketing Institute). A recent study by OneSpot even suggests that infographics can increase website traffic by up to 12%.

An estimated 4 million businesses used Instagram Stories ads every month in 2021 – 58% of people surveyed say they have become more interested in a brand/product after seeing it in Stories. 35% say they engage with short narrative-styled Stories most often, followed by interactive Stories centred around quizzes and polls (Hubspot, 2021). 

Unsurprisingly, video content has been an exceptional vehicle to push brands in 2022, not least since it belongs to the best-performing content types on social media – not least since Instagram's massive focus on reels. 73% of B2B content marketers say videos have become more important to their business in the last year, according to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute. However, only 12% claim that their organisation is using it to their full potential – proof that the medium is here to stay and video content production will gain even more importance in the future.

Storytelling and explainer format for social media (© Uhura Digital)

Finding your fit

Visual storytelling is certainly not the cheapest or fastest form of content marketing, as it requires a considerable amount of time and resources, nor is it a one-size-fits-all solution for every business. However, if this is well planned, implemented and strategically played out, it can be a brilliant way for companies to shine on the web and social networks and present complex content in a channel-appropriate way, because:

• Creating a real narrative (short or long) creates attention and draws users in short and long-term

• Visual storytelling can give depth to a story, a product or service in a creative way

• Using visual assets as part of a coherent storyline can act as a multiplier for reach and engagements on social media

How about you? Does your company or your product have a story to tell, but you are struggling to get the message across on the web and social? Then it’s worth considering making the jump to visual storytelling and assessing more effective ways to communicate.

Get in touch with us to discuss how our strategic approach and services in the field of visual content marketing can help you.

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