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The Art of Visual Storytelling in Content Marketing

Visual Marketing
Visual Marketing

Until now, you heard me talking a lot about visual storytelling.

In fact, I still believe that visual marketing is one of the most important techniques in digital marketing, together with storytelling.

Just pause for a few seconds and think about all the top social media platforms we use today, platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter. Most of these channels are based on visual content, whether they are photos, videos, live videos, gifs or even emojis. And yes, emojis are also great types of visual content we can use today.

However, visual storytelling is not something new. It was not born together with the internet or the social media era.

Visual storytelling is and was a thing even in ancient times. Back then,  business owners had to put their signs out of their shops. They needed to also get creative and create some great artwork people will observe on the streets.

Why is visual marketing important in today’s context?

Well, just like in any other era in human history, visual content has the capacity to acquire and keep people’s attention.

Visuals attract.

They are easy to understand and remember. They are able to tell a story in an instance without any words or by the help of short and simple copy texts which act more or less as CTAs as well.

At the same time, visuals transcend language barriers easily and are able to transmit the message regardless of what language the addressee speaks or their cultural and ethnic background. They are all speaking the same language, one that is made out of images and not words.

Not to mention the fact that once you adapt the message to a specific audience, you get to resonate with it and convey your thoughts, ideas, and sales pitches in a fraction of a second.

And, you can do this more effective than if you would have used instead of images, words, sentences, phrases, and textual paragraphs.

They help you give a deeper meaning and a deeper understanding of your brand, your services, your products and help them connect better between themselves and with the target audience.

According to these stats, a website is 50 times more likely to reach the first page on search engines if it includes video content while text stories containing images receive 94 percent more views. People like images, they like stories and they like the visually way of telling those stories.

visual marketing stats

What can you do?

However, at this point, I am more than sure that you will have a lot of questions that ask to be answered right away such as:

  • How do you create the visual content people want to connect with?
  • How to create a compelling visual storytelling strategy?
  • What are the best visual storytelling techniques you can use today?

Well, not to worry, these are all questions I plan to answer in this article.

And, in the end, I hope you will leave the page with a better understanding of what visual marketing is and why storytelling is at its core, the most powerful asset you can use in today’s context for today’s people.

What is visual storytelling?

Visual storytelling or visual narrative is one of the most important marketing strategies of today. It’s a form of communicating visually and transmitting messages and information that take the form of stories which become more entertaining and interesting than the traditional marketing messages. Visual storytelling transmits emotions through images and aesthetics.

In conclusion, the strategy encompasses any type of content or message conveyed through visual media. It can be anything starting from static images such as photography and illustration to animations and videos.

Also, the latter two of them can be enhanced with audio or music.

Important steps in launching a visual storytelling strategy:

Most of you are familiar with the old Charlie Chaplin movies that managed to tell stories without the use of words and speech. Or, maybe, you watched cartoons and animations which followed the same path, with the sound being based only on musical scores.

Were they entertaining? Well, yes, and they still are.

Were they able to tell their stories? Indeed they did. And to some extent, they are still as powerful now as they were back in the day.

There is no magic there. The success was mostly dependable on the stories and the way they were constructed visually or if I might say, the way they were put together from a visual standpoint.

If you want to transpose a similar success into the twenty-first century and into a digital market at the same time, you need to come up with a strategy.

Let’s talk about this for now.


What are the most important steps in launching a visual storytelling strategy?

We are not going to talk more about the importance of coming up with a strategy. We all know that this approach is the best approach since every action you take, in order to make it go the way you want, it needs some kind of strategy to outline its course.

Therefore, let’s focus on the steps that are to be undertaken when you design a visual storytelling campaign:

1. Define your purpose.

What do you want to achieve?

This is the main question you should focus on and try to answer it the best you can. Do you want to grow awareness of your brand or a product? Do you want to see how the customers react to a new product? Do you want to attract more customers?

Answer these questions and establish your motive. Then, you will be able to proceed further and construct your strategy based on your main goal.

Strategy is essential in marketing. And, according to this collection of stats, marketers document their work and strategize according to the documentation.

The most organized marketers are consequently 397% more likely to be successful.

content strategy statistics

2. Embrace visual imagery

Understand the power of images and learn as much as you can about this type of content. Learn as much as you can regarding producing the visual content and choose to start with the type you are most comfortable with, be it video, animations or based on static imagery.

Then, start to explore your choice. Try to write down some stories you would like to promote yourself with and try to recreate them visually, afterward. You may not be that effective at first but experience and repetition will teach you to overcome whatever skills you lack and become increasingly good at what you do.

As an example and for inspiration, you can browse Pinterest, Instagram or other visual based channels and explore as many visuals related to your industry as you can.

3. Choose your channels and the type of visual content

One of the most important steps of your strategy will be, of course, the one where you get to choose the type of visuals content you’ll get to create and the channels where you are going to market your business. The content may be chosen based on the channel or vice versa. It is important however that these two fit together. For example, it may seem quite useless to create a story based on a series of images and plan to market your business on YouTube. In such a case, Instagram or Facebook may be better choices for your content.

Take for example Starbucks. Did you notice how most of the people share images from restaurants and cafes of Instagram?

Well, this is the best channel to advertise such as business and they seem to be doing a good job, strategically and visually.

Starbucks visual marketing

What are the best visual storytelling techniques you can use today?

How can you create awesome visual content?

Storytelling is a personal approach to marketing as every individual narrates differently and uses different emotions to trigger a solid and direct positive response.

You will learn everything you need to know about storytelling and find your own style as you go, through experience and trials and errors.

Besides that, here are some things you can think about and consider as worthy to be introduced in your strategy:

Use visual metaphors

Visual storytelling is rarely based on words.

Even when you will have no other choice than to use words along with the images, they will be limited in numbers and as of consequence, they should be regarded as only additions to your narrative.

Different images can be used as metaphors to convey different messages instead of words such as clouds for sadness or dark times, a light bulb for a new idea, etc.

Build your scenes by taking into account color psychology

This is an important topic you should try to learn as much as you can about. Color psychology is a real thing and it may help you attract the audience. It can also repulse them if your colors are being chosen wrongly and this is what makes it especially important in your marketing process.

What do you need to know in the first place?

  • Different colors trigger different emotions.
  • Not all colors mix well together. If you need help in this area, try Coolors.co, a great visual content tool that will definitely make your life easier if you need to choose a palette.

Use the light to your advantage

The same scene may trigger different emotions based upon the light, one of the most important elements of a visual image. While darkness and darkened landscape or environment may convey danger or mystery, people associate light and luminous spaces and objects with positive emotions. Also, the light is important outside the psychological factor, as it may outline specific items, objects or characters from your story.

For example, in a dark room, if the light falls upon a specific object, that object becomes the center of attention, the main focus of the viewer.

There are a lot of properties the quality of an image depends upon. You need to take care of the perspective, the rule of thirds and at the same time the framing. They are all tied to light and lightning. Use all these visual design composition options to your advantage.

visual light composition

Use familiar images

Popular characters, popular faces, landscapes, products or objects, may help you capture the attention of the audience and help the mentally associate those images with your brand. If you are talking to a very young audience, for instance, popular cartoon characters may be included in your stories.

You can hire popular and influential faces to speak to an older audience or use products, places and items that are popular among your targeted audience as well. Give them a sense of familiarity.

Here’s an example from Pepsi’s Instagram profile:

Pepsi visual content strategy

Each of their posts tell a story and associates in our minds with familiar instances and situations.

Tell the whole story

Every story should have three main parts: beginning, middle, and end. The last one is essential as it gives closure to it and convinces the audience to at upon what you have asked from them, whether it is a follow-up click, a product check, a newsletter subscription or even a buy.

visual storytelling

Take a look at the above picture from Volkswagen. Does it lack something? Well, no. Does it have a closure? Yes, it does.

As simple as it is, it manages to tell the whole story and convince the viewer that he has made a good choice or that he is about to make such a choice of they choose to become customers.

Good and bad visual storytelling marketing examples

What is good visual storytelling? What makes storytelling bad and prone to fail? Well, I will try to give you some really easy to understand examples and thus, learn from some of the best.

Let’s start with some good examples:

Internet live stats:

image internet stats

Here’s the first and the most simple visual story that we can learn from, today. It comes from a life stats page which tells the simplest story possible and yet, the imagery is quite powerful when it comes to conveying an effective message. Instead of just saying how much Tweets are being published every hour, they paint a picture based on Tweet logos that add side by side to the background.

The user understands instantly how popular Twitter is and how many messages it processes every 60 minutes.


image foodsided

The next example comes from foodsided.com, and more especially, from an article that talks about the most popular types of pies Americans cook and eat for Thanksgiving. The visual chart featured in the article tells a visual story and stands by itself as a great and valuable visual content item. A chart like this can be shared on all social media platforms and used as a visual marketing asset.


image twoodie

The third example comes from Twoodie.com, a website that sells toys and that creates very powerful pieces of content through the power of visual storytelling.

Just check out their website. Most of the images featured here are great examples of visual storytelling. They are all selling some story and they are all designed and chosen to attract and trigger emotional responses and based on great image compositions. Also, notice that only the main products are featured in colors. Everything else is black and white, thus making them easy to be focused on, easy to be noticed by the audience.

Bad visual marketing

What is bad visual storytelling? What are the elements, choices or errors you need to avoid in order to avoid failing in your marketing strategy?

A. Irrelevant images

One of the greatest errors you can do in telling a visual story is to choose the wrong images for the wrong audience. If you need a good example, let’s say you are addressing an audience that is comprised mostly of senior women. And, that you like superheroes and choose to create some images or videos featuring comic book stars.

It’s more than clear that your result will be zero or even negative. If you choose your imagery and ignore the audience, you will fail.

B. Hubris

Hubris is bad regardless of the marketing strategy you strive to design and launch. It is great to have confidence in your brand or products and build up on that. Draw the line there. Limit your approach to confidence and do not let yourself descend into hubris.

It will drive customers away and bury your campaign right from the start.

C. Bad timing

This is also a major issue when it comes to visual storytelling. Imagine yourself talking about tennis just a day before the super bowl. Or, launching a very well designed story about Samsung smartphones, the week prior to Apple launching their new iPhone. You may get some interesting fans or readers but not as many as expected. My advice? Always follow trends and pay attention to everything that happens in your industry.


If you need a bad marketing example, I will choose one that combines the above two bad choices into a single visual story that failed to meet its purpose. The campaign in question was launched by Audi and it managed to cause outrage on the chinese market, after they chose to compare women with used cars.

The choose the worst imagery they could have possibly chosen and at the same time, out of hubris and over-the-edge self worth, they thought they could get away with anything, being a popular brand.

Well, it seems that these days this approach is deadly, since customers are more aware than ever about what is and what is not politically correct.


Visual storytelling is powerful and as long as you choose your approach wisely, you will more likely be successful at it. However, not all the visual approaches are good and as of consequence, you need to design your campaign strategically.

With this article, I have tried to outline some of the best approaches towards visual storytelling and give you a head start against your competitors regarding a visual marketing strategy.

What do you think about these pieces of advice and what other strategies are you using? What are your results?

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Robert Katai

Brand and Communication Manager

"Content isn’t king. Usefulness is. Robert does this in the online marketing and social media space with ease."

Ram Castillo