What Is Visual Storytelling? (Including Benefits and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 27, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Marketing and advertising professionals use various strategies to appeal to and engage with members of a target audience. One strategy is visual storytelling, where individuals use visual tools, such as photos or videos, to tell a story to the viewer. If you think this storytelling method might help you improve a marketing strategy, learning how it works and how to use it in your next campaign may be beneficial.

In this article, we discuss visual storytelling and its elements, explain who uses it, discuss the power of this method, provide the benefits, share how to use this strategy effectively, and explore some tips.

What is visual storytelling?

Visual storytelling is the technique that tells a story through the use of visual media, such as video, photography, or illustration. Examples of this storytelling method include stories told from one individual's point of view, images placed side by side to tell a story, or glimpses provided into a specific topic. The purpose of this method of storytelling is to gain the attention of the audience quickly and effectively. When a member of a target audience sees a story represented visually, they can process and engage with it much quicker than they might read words on a page.

Read more: A Comprehensive List of Effective Marketing Tools to Use

Elements of this storytelling method

This storytelling method can include various elements and tools, depending on the brand's voice and intent. For example, an individual might use a comic strip to convey a particular message or story. Different elements of this strategy may appeal to unique members of a target audience. For example, a specific audience might engage more with memes and animated images, while a different demographic might prefer charts and graphs to get information.

It's vital to consider intent and brand voice when determining which elements to use in a storytelling campaign. If you're telling a story for a serious brand, you might use videos, graphs, charts, and images. Conversely, if you're storytelling for a lighthearted organisation, you may share animated images and memes to make the audience members laugh and potentially engage through likes, comments, and shares. Here are some examples of elements and tools you might use to convey your message:

  • infographics

  • memes

  • animations

  • graphs

  • videos

  • photos

  • charts

Read more: 13 Types of Brand Storytelling Strategies (With Definition)

Who uses visual storytelling?

Many individuals in various industries use this type of storytelling. Often, people present news and information through visual methods, such as when journalists present information from a specific location as a story develops. Individuals who work in various forms of entertainment, including film and television, also rely on visual methods to tell stories. In marketing and advertising, people may use this storytelling method to showcase a brand and its offerings by informing people what they might experience if they become a customer.

Read more: What Does a Storyboard Artist Do? (Job Skills and Salary)

Power of this storytelling method

Individuals often find success using visuals when storytelling because consumers may be more willing to share captivating images or videos than they are text, which can help with promotion. Some consumers might retain information more easily from viewing an image or video than from reading text. Many individuals find visuals to be more entertaining than text, so this method of storytelling is more engaging for many viewers.

When you use this method, you may connect with your intended audience on a personal level. For example, you can tell a story of how a medicine helped a person survive and allowed them to spend more time with a loved one. While you may communicate this story in words, you can share a video with actors who can elicit strong emotional responses from viewers.

Read more: A Comprehensive Guide to Presentation Design (With Tips)

Benefits of visual storytelling

Including this storytelling method as a key component to a marketing campaign often generates more interest and engagement at a much faster rate than a campaign that solely uses words. The human brain can process images and videos more quickly than it can process and read words, so including images attracts the viewer's attention more effectively. When you use this storytelling method with written copy, visual elements can make the content feel more engaging and appealing.

Passive participation is another appealing aspect of this storytelling method. When you create videos for a brand, viewers can view them passively rather than having to read content or browse through a page. Using visual elements to tell a story can separate long sections of text, which can make the viewer feel less overwhelmed than a lengthy page of text. Many individuals also learn more effectively through visual methods. For this audience, using visual methods, such as images and videos, can help them learn and understand the message you want to communicate better than if you used words.

Read more: 15 Social Media Tools for Digital Marketing (With Uses)

How to implement a campaign using this storytelling method

You can follow these five steps to implement a campaign that can increase engagement and appeal amongst viewers:

1. Create a campaign strategy

Taking time to create a strategy for your storytelling campaign with visuals is beneficial. You can start by identifying the message you want to convey and highlighting some of the key elements of the story that you can represent visually. For example, if you're marketing a sauce, you might choose to use an appealing photo of a cheeseburger with the sauce on it and a link to the recipe. In the future, consumers might make the association with the sauce and purchase it instead of competing brands.

Read more: 36 Marketing Tactics for a Successful Marketing Campaign

2. Invest in your own content

While sharing existing content can have its place in marketing, it's also vital to create your own visual content that appropriately represents the brand. For example, you may want to tell a story about an individual suffering from joint pain and how a product the organization offers can eliminate that challenge. You can create a video that shows how the product has helped individuals suffering from joint pain to encourage viewers to purchase the product.

Read more: What Is Content Creation? (Plus How-to and Tools List)

3. Motivate viewers to keep learning

Strong storytelling motivates consumers to continue learning about the story you're telling, so it's essential to determine what motivates viewers and include those elements in the campaign. For example, you might consider the emotions of a consumer, and use an image that illicits a strong emotional response from the viewer. You can include text with the image to provide more information about the product or service. An effective content piece gains the viewer's attention in the first few seconds and provides valuable information that makes them want to keep learning more about the product or service.

Read more: What Is Impression Management? (And Its Impact on Consumers)

4. Provide a positive experience

When you use strong visual content, it's also important that you provide a positive experience to the person interacting with it. For example, if you use an e-mail campaign, you can ensure all images or videos load correctly regardless of the technology individuals use to open it. This step increases the likelihood that consumers learn about the message you're aiming to convey. If you share content on social media, it's crucial to follow the platform's guidelines so that viewers can see what you share. For example, one social media platform might require you to use a specific image size.

Read more: What Is Experience Marketing? (With Examples of the Types)

5. Include a call to action

When you tell a story visually, it's essential to include a call to action that encourages the viewer to take the next step. For example, you might provide a link to purchase the product or service. It's crucial to identify an effective call to action when planning the campaign strategy. Then you can ensure that every element of the story directs the viewer to complete the action you want them to take.

Read more: Call-to-Action Examples (With Helpful Tips for Writing Them)

Tips for implementing this storytelling method into a campaign

As you consider how to implement these storytelling elements into campaigns, you can follow these tips to increase your likelihood of success:

  • Provide clear context. Without context, a visually represented story can feel confusing to consumers. To avoid confusion, you can show the context of the story through background imagery and detail.

  • Show instead of telling. Communicating your message using mostly visuals is often effective. While you can still use text, it's best to keep it to a minimum.

  • Make it relevant. Simply adding a visual to an ad or e-mail campaign likely doesn't automatically engage the viewer. When using these storytelling elements, you can ensure the story you're telling is relevant and appealing to viewers.

  • Include conflict. A good story always includes some type of conflict that requires resolution, which engages the viewer. It's essential to ensure the conflict you include in your storytelling campaigns matters to the target audience.

  • Go behind the scenes. Providing viewers with some unique information is an effective engagement tool. For example, you can provide a behind-the-scenes look at a moment your audience may be interested in seeing.

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