The Power of Visual Storytelling

Marketers are always looking for ways to get more engagement from their target market. Storytelling, especially visual storytelling is a great way to accomplish this objective. People are always ready for a story, and stories told with visual elements are instantly captivating.


(Editor’s note: People generally learn more and remember more when more of their senses are engaged by an experience or story. Also, stories that include images get about twice the engagement as text-only stories.)

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Here are four principles of visual storytelling that marketers can use to enhance engagement with their target markets. When you want to pump up the power and impact of your stories, use these principles of visual storytelling get more engagement from your audience:

Reality Makes Great Stories

Hollywood regularly returns to the true story theme with films based on real-life events because audiences love stories about people like themselves. There is instant empathy and identification with the characters, their needs, their problems, their struggles and their triumphs. Regular people are capable of doing extraordinary things. Unscripted reality isn’t always ho-hum boring; it can be engaging and compelling.

The fact that selfies are so popular should be an indication of the extent to which audiences are captivated by candid moments captured from everyday life. The popularity of the vast volume of unscripted content on YouTube should be a hint to marketers that real people in real-life situations can capture an audience’s attention.

Marketing images that are based on events and instances taken from the lives of regular people seem more authentic because the audience immediately infers and identifies with a story that is familiar and has emotional content that is uncontrived and relatable.

If your brand makes a product that is used daily life, there are probably many stories that you can tell using the situations that your customers encounter regularly.


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The Hero’s Journey

Every story is, at its core, a journey or quest. The most compelling stories have a hero that encounters obstacles and struggles to overcome them. The three-part structure of a story – beginning, middle, and ending – has been accepted and expected since the beginning of storytelling.

Understanding these elements of storytelling as principles that make stories relatable rather than formulas for storytelling is an essential element in understanding the values, experiences, needs, desires, and aspirations of the customer personas who can tell a brand’s story.

Brands must promise an experience that shows customers how to use the brand’s products or services to complete the hero’s journey. Making this promise with images provides instant entry for prospects and clients into the promise that the brand is putting on the table.

Think about the promise your brand makes to customers and how that promise translates into experiences that help customers overcome obstacles and in so doing, become heroes and heroines. The images that capture those experiences are the images that will help your customers tell their own stories with themselves at the center of the action.


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Think Sensual

Too much information is just that, too much information. Information is abstract and conceptual. People today yearn for sensory experiences to balance the conceptual quality of the online experience. This alone could account for the popularity of video and images over words.

Even though we may be saturated with information, or perhaps because of it, people still reach out for experiences that stimulate, fascinate, inspire and entertain. Using images that convey sensual experiences, imply action and engagement, represent familiar situations or desirable locations, the more the audience will relate and find the excitement they are looking for.

Engaging as many of the senses as possible has been a technique used by storytellers for ages. With visual storytelling, the possibilities for engaging the senses is almost endless. The more an audience’s senses are engaged, even metaphorically or virtually, the more their emotions will be engaged, and the more memorable the experience will be. If you want your brand to be memorable, make the visual images you use as sensual as possible.


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Keep it Current

There is so much going on in the world. History is being made every day. Events happen on a regular basis that are compelling, even shocking. When these events are captured and presented to an audience visually, it is easier for the audience to relate to them and imagine what it might be like to be there. Visual images provide a completeness of context that can only be hinted at with words.

Simulating or even using current events to tell a brand’s story or to demonstrate a brand’s promise and experience has a number of advantages and facilitates visual storytelling. For the viewer, most of the story is already top of mind, so the storyteller doesn’t have to get bogged down in providing a lot of background details. This makes it easier to keep the brand’s story at the focus of the experience.

Contact The Sherwood Group for more information.

Author: Hilary Smith is a freelance writer who lives in Chicago, Illinois. She is an avid sports fan (Go Blackhawks!), is a huge fan of technology, and loves to spoil her English Bulldog, Chauncey.

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This article is published by Will Sherwood | The Sherwood Group |Website Design | Graphic Design | Marketing Communications: The Sherwood Group has over 30 years of experience working with all sorts of companies, small and large. Our clients range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 firms, in nearly every business sector, from across the street to around the world (and yes, even Europe, China, and South America). Our goal is to create advertising,  graphic design, website design, and marketing communication that still looks fresh and relevant 10-15 years later. Our mission is to stir your imagination and leave your competition shaken and wondering,  Now what do we do?”  We are located in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

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Please comment. We’d like to know if you found this article informative or helpful?



  • By CHIRANJIV 08 Jan 2015


  • By Sandeep Srinivasan 09 Jan 2015

    True ! One good visual picture is enough to speak 1000 words… Also, people generally don’t like sales presentations but they all love to listen / see good stories…Because we all grew up listening stories from our parents / grand parents / teachers…I don’t remember clearly what I read yesterday but I still remember what Rocky Balboa said / did in his master piece movie (The original Rocky movie)..That’s the power of good story telling…It makes you not only understand the subject but also ardently love the hero of the story… And when it comes to telling great product / business stories ….We could remember only one name …Steve Jobs ! He is such a great story teller & comes way ahead of the top Hollywood screen writers & film makers..

  • By Dan Nordsieck 09 Jan 2015

    Well said! Even more compelling are stories & images that evoke good memories. The Progresso Soup marketing campaign utilizing the “can and string” customer service communications imagery brings back childhood fun and links the brand to positive play.

  • By @chrisWpestel 11 Jan 2015

    Ive created a few examples of Visual Storytelling…would love some feedback. The linked piece/story has had the greatest social reach of anything I’ve created (roughly 1,000 hits over the past 3 weeks). If you take a look, thanks:

  • By Kathy Berardi 13 Jan 2015

    Agreed – nothing beats the power of story in written or visual form vs. a hard-pushing sales message. If you entertain and engage while you inform and motivate – the story does the selling by resonating with the intended audience.

  • By Brett Gilmour 24 Jan 2015

    Will, thanks for helping people understand the power of imagery. What is a campfire story without the fire to look into?

    Gilmour Photography

  • By Peter Gillespie 24 Jan 2015

    A good story with engaging headline, accessible copy, nicely illustrated. Wish I could land a couple of assignments of this type. I hope it works for you as a marketing piece and that you get lots of clients from this kind of share.

  • By Georgie 28 Jan 2015

    Visual storytelling (seems to be one of this words of 2014 and possibly even 2015?!) is so important to make anything successful, isn’t it. Great post Will, thanks for sharing!