Humans are visual creatures: we are programmed to react to visuals more than words, and an incredible 93 percent of communication is in fact non-verbal. Visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text, and 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual.
Our preference for understanding the world through sight is coupled with a desire to understand what we see via narrative. Storytelling has been our way of communicating and sharing information since our ancestors sat around fires thousands of years ago. Now that brands have the ability to share images and videos more widely than ever before, it’s time to tell our stories and connect with our customers through visual (and social) media.
1) Show customers how your products can help them achieve a lifestyle on Pinterest
Luxury Monograms website owner Melanie Duncan noticed that Pinterest had become her site’s top traffic referral source, above Google and Facebook. She developed a strategy to show her brand’s visual story though pinboards that show all the ways her range of monogrammed décor and gifts could be styled.
For example, Melanie has a board called “Blissful Bedding” where her monogrammed pillow shams are interspersed with dozens of images of beautiful beds and bedrooms. She filled the “Bridal Shower and Wedding Gift Ideas” board with products that compliment her own items.
Mixing your products in with style photos or how-to-achieve-this-look images can bring your products to life and show how they fit in with wider lifestyle ideas.
2) Show the lighter side to your brand
One of the first company videos to go viral and make a real sales impact came from Blendtec, a company that manufactures food blenders in the US. Back in 2006, Blendtec founder Tom Dickson started making a series of videos shot in the style of tongue-in-cheek infomercials called Will It Blend? that showed him using Blendtec blenders to blend ordinary household objects, including iPhones, credit cards and golf balls.
Dickson’s videos went viral very quickly and the channel now has over half a million subscribers, with 130 videos now uploaded. Dickson brings out themed versions for holidays such as Thanksgiving, as well as a World Cup version where he blends a vuvuzela.
The popularity of the brand’s series is staggering, but the impact on sales has been similarly impressive. Since the first video went viral in 2006, Blendtec has seen its sales jump by over 700 percent.
3) Use Instagram to tell your visual journey
In October 2012, skydiver Felix Baumgartner successfully jumped 127,900 feet from space, and became the first person to break the sound barrier without vehicular power on his descent. His sponsor, Red Bull, created a 360-degree social media campaign around the event, and the company’s use of Instagram captured people’s imaginations with a step-by-step depiction of the preparation leading up to the feat.
Red Bull posted 3,800 pictures in the run-up to the jump, giving fans an insider’s-eye view as it happened. Red Bull’s creative use of Instagram has earned it over 750,000 followers.
4) Use photos to make your customers part of your story
RadioShack used the Promoted Trend function on Twitter to ask people to upload a picture of themselves stretching out their hand, along with the hashtag #ifihadsuperpowers and a tweet of what they would do with super powers, for the chance to win a mystery prize. RadioShack then digitally added a superhero costume to the photo and tweeted the photo back to the user. Several of the photos were randomly selected to win prizes from the store or RadioShack gift certificates.
5) Show the whole picture
Your “official” marketing images only show one side of the brand. Social media is a great place to show off all the aspects of your business that don’t make it onto the glossy magazine page: the behind-the-scenes photos, the customers who follow you and the communities of which you are part. Rich media can tell your brand’s story in ways your official channels can’t – so get snapping and sharing!
Originally published Nov 27, 2013, updated May 27, 2021