A few words of wisdom to young creatives: Invest in a good camera.

It’s not that a talented copywriter isn’t worth his or her weight in gold, but consumers are now gravitating toward visuals more incessantly than ever. Between the ubiquity of camera phones and the surging popularity of photo-centric social platforms, imagery has become central to digital engagement. Facebook may have reached 100 million users in four years, but it took Instagram only 10 days to attract 10 million users.

So why the wave of image obsession? For starters, we’re visual creatures by our very nature. Science has proven that humans assess and store perceptions quickest through visual cues. For instance, a study from 3M recently found that the human brain actually processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.

We not only respond more quickly to images, but we also have a more emotive connection to visuals. Those who have spent a day at an art museum and simply got lost in the complexity understand the power of visual stimulation. Images convey more than the written word could ever express. The right imagery can entice feeling and emotion, bypass our filters and communicate deep meaning in an instantly understandable way.

For brands, adopting a new form of customer communication through imagery is mandatory. In fact, the average Pinterest user follows more brands than on Facebook or Twitter. Consumers don't want to hear what a brand has to say; they want to see what they stand for.

Image-centric engagement demands not only smarter brand visuals in social spaces but also creates a need for a strong visual story. The big idea and a high production campaign might affect brand perception, but it’s the thoughtful, sincere and consistent visual story dispersed socially that builds a relationship. Serious investments are needed to ensure that a systematic, consistent collection of brand-relevant visuals is regularly dispersed to where customers are. While that may seem like a daunting challenge, there is a huge payoff to visual storytelling when executed in the right way.

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A few steps to get there:

1. Understand Your Unique Story.

Herein lies a much larger, more prevalent issue seen with client after client. What is the purpose of the brand? Look beyond what you make or sell, and ask: Why do you exist? What is the higher purpose for customers to believe in? Now you have your story. If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why,” begin there.

A few brands getting their story right: IBM Smarter Planet, Kate Spade Live Colorfully, Sharpie Start Something and Gatorade Win from Within.

2. Invest in Serious Talent.

Giving the summer intern a camera phone to own your social storytelling should be a federal crime. How ironic it is to spend millions on paid media but then lose out on the opportunity to tell stronger stories through images within more intimate social spaces.

3. Quality. Consistency. Cadence.

Take a queue from any professional storyteller (yes, people get paid to do such things), and you will understand the importance of a well-thought-out story in not only its thoughtful substance but also in terms of timing the delivery.

Then, let the pictures do the talking.

visual storytelling

 visual storytelling

Originally published Mar 18, 2013 1:00:28 AM, updated April 18 2019