The Ultimate List of Visual Storytelling Examples + Our How-To Guide
Our list of visual storytelling examples will give your branding what it needs or has needed all along. There are quick ways to revamp your branding and far-reaching visual storytelling techniques.
Make time to implement one or more of the following visual storytelling examples. Upgrade your visual storytelling marketing today.
What is visual storytelling?
To help you understand visual storytelling a little better, let’s take a look at one of the most characteristic visual storytelling examples.
Here’s what @zarahome looks like on Instagram:
1. We tap to view their Instagram story.
It’s in the format of What’s App chat messaging.
From a marketing perspective, this suggests that the communicated message resonates with a specific target audience a) for the medium used (i.e. What’s App), b) the language used (see “is fab”), c) the visuals/expressive tools employed (i.e. the use of many emojis), and d) the level of familiarity of the user.
The latter is expressed via the extent to which the user has personalized their chat window, using a custom background.
At the end, the story invites users to “Swipe up”, the most popular call to action on Instagram. Through a direct link, this takes users to the Zara Home website to view this season’s lookbook.
This is what the @zarahome account looks like on Instagram. There is a different theme in every row or every other row of their grid.
The hues, styles, and items pictured change from one row to the next. This way, the brand provides users with a visually organized space where they can browse and view Zara Home products in context.
Let’s take a look at the visual storytelling definition
According to the American Marketing Association, storytelling refers to
“a questionnaire method of data collection relying on a picture stimulus such as a cartoon, photograph, or drawing, about which the subject is asked to tell a story.”
Visual content is situated right at the heart of storytelling. However cool your content is, if there are no high-quality visuals, you could be killing your content.
Would you like to read more on storytelling? To save you the trouble, I gathered a few more definitions for you (see below). These might come in handy in case you decide to explore visual storytelling examples further.
(I promise, no more. Or maybe, I promise no more. OH THE DIFFERENCE A COMMA MAKES. Kthnxbi.)
Sentence completion: “A questionnaire containing a number of sentences that respondents are directed to complete with the first words that come to mind.”
Projective techniques: “(consumer behavior definition) A psychological method of uncovering subconscious material within subjects. ”
What are the benefits of visual storytelling?
Visual storytelling serves as a communication enhancer.
It is used across a variety of contexts, even for health research, to help extend and enrich the scope of communication and bring down any communication or expressiveness barriers.
What your audience or different people from different cultural or other backgrounds (despite your positioning) might have difficulty explaining.
So, either by asking your audience to choose from photos you present them with (photo elicitation) or through asking them to provide you with photos they created you can collect more information about your followers.
In Marketing, visual storytelling is getting your brand a 3D representation in the eyes, minds, and perception of the consumers.
It is like your brand coming to life.
Visual storytelling helps your marketing department tell a story, convey meanings and company values, communicate the personable aspect of the brand.
It helps you, as a Digital Manager, to create a 360 brand.
Talk to me benefits of visual storytelling marketing
Does branding sound mumbo jumbo to you? You don’t see how branding is any good, how that translates into sales or another quantifiable, traceable metric?
I got ya.
1. Bloggers are the ultimate visual storytelling examples. And they get sponsors.
There are thousands of bloggers out there. Very few of them stay afloat, hoping to catch a Brand Manager’s eye.
To go from blogger to influencer or brand ambassador, you need more than just an one-dimensional profile/website/blog.
You need to let your personality shine through. This way, your profile will break through the clutter.
In the meantime, you will be working on a blog/social media account/website that differentiates itself from the rest.
2. Brand identity will get you customers, but visual storytelling will get you fam.
Starting out, getting a fancy logo and applications is only good to get you to market your product. But that’d be all about it.
If you are looking to make a brand evangelist out of your customers, then you need visual content that is consistent without repeating itself.
Your visual storytelling needs to be evolving but in a “ripple effect” kind of way. In other words, there should be a common starting point, the DNA of the brand should remain the same.
3. Stay ahead of the curve and monitor your audience’s mood through barrier-breaking methods [wink, wink]
Revamp your brand in the most straightforward way; ask your audience! (Just not in a flat, explicit way like “What should we change?”, ’cause that wouldn’t go well. Enter Henry Ford’s adage “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.“)
Always keep in mind to evolve as your audience evolves and as the market undergoes these small, incremental changes.
There are many visual storytelling examples across platforms. For instance, with Instagram stories, you can monitor different segments (see Close Friends feature) and how their preferences may change over time, through real-time polls. Also, you can set up photo elicitation sessions in focus groups.
Another idea is to invite some of your audience segments to take a survey (for emotional journey mapping purposes). By monitoring your audience’s emotional experiences and motivators you discover what motivates them. You also find out about your users and their self-images, who they identify with. We could build an analogy between emotional journey mapping and the use of fMRI in Neuromarketing.
All of these ideas will help you:
a) come across as more personable
b) make your customers feel valued and special
c) and finally, you will be able to craft precisely targeted campaigns.
As a result, you will increase your followers and their engagement.
And then, before you know it, you will be looking at increased loyalty and an established brand.
Invite your users in.
Here are two visual storytelling examples to get started
Allow me to introduce myself in the form of visual storytelling. This is what the placeholders would look like:
Now, this is the way I see myself. This is not necessarily the way others see me. For instance, chances are my friends see me as King Julien, the ring-tailed lemur from the Madagascar movie. (And I love that!)
This is the case with corporate identities, too. Every once in a while, we need to check back to see whether our users think the same way as we do. If this does not coincide with what we have in mind, then we take action!
Do you own a personal blog? Check out this list of visual storytelling examples:
This is a sample of blog or social media post ideas. You could publish these as a personal blogger. Suppose I do not work for Moosend and I am a painter. (Which I am. In the very broad sense of the word.)
Share a photo; let your followers have a photo in mind
Whatever topic you like to blog about, include a photo or short video of yours (GIFs will do, too). Even if you blog about the faster RAM of all the latest mobile phones your followers would connect more easily to a face they see, rather than a voice that they listen to.
Plus, is it just me or when people listen to a voice try to imagine the face from which that voice is coming, and have trouble concentrating to the actual message of the speaker?
*insert photo of photogenic person here*
“Aloooha! My name is Ine. It’s pronounced /ˈɪnei/ and rhymes with Beyonce (and that’d be about all we have in common with Queen Bey). I paint when I don’t want to do the housework, so now I am a full-time painter.”
Post short bio deets about you.
Showing and selling your work is your ultimate goal, but to get there your followers need to get to know you a little better.
Talking about a recent trip, what you saw there or what inspired you, is one way to connect with your audience.
Another way is to talk about things that make you …well, you! For instance, you could talk about a funny habit you have: “I am not a foodie of sorts, but I will add yogurt to literally any dish, even if that is a soup. There, I said it. #confessions”
“I took this photo in March 2018 when I was visiting my friends in Amsterdam. I spent my entire trip wrapped in coats, scarves, gloves, beanies, and this is what the weather was like on my way to the airport to catch my flight back.”
Share the backstory of an item to make it pop
Don’t settle for the obvious message. Suppose you are a fashion blogger and are about to publish a photo of you drinking coffee at a cafe. Instead of going for something like “Sunny days got me like”, you could write “We didn’t get this photo until I drank the 5th espresso shot. Looks like I’ll have a hard time falling asleep. I mean, it’s already been 4 days since we took it.”
“What I love about this painting (which explains why I wouldn’t mind not selling it, actually) is that, to me, it represents all positive things in life. You can’t just look at this painting and stay grumpy, you know?”
Post some backstage action
What is your personal blog about, food, fashion, traveling, gadgets? How about sharing some backstage action with your audience?
If you are a food blogger: post a video when you shop from deli or ethnic supermarkets and cannot read the food labels. Post a photo of an interesting delicacy from another country that you came across in the supermarket. Capture people’s reactions on video when they try, say, bonito flakes.
If you are a fashion blogger: post a video about all the outfits that came before the one you posted. Post a video in which you explain what is wrong about each outfit, and what they should keep an eye on when trying new combos.
If you are a travel blogger: post a video about all the time you spend waiting at departure lounges when there is a delay. Talk about turbulence incidents or share tips about ways to best be prepared when traveling abroad to a specific country (from a cultural point of view). This travel blog shows exactly what we are talking about.
“I promised myself I’d go to the Art Supply store today and only get one brush. This is what my cat and husband came home to.”
Show your users around your studio or personal working space
Each of us experiences their world in their own way. To what extent are we aware of our surroundings though? I’ll get to it! What makes up our world, we take for granted. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to share a beautiful aspect of what you do, thus inviting your users inside your studio, she-shed, man cave, you name it.
“Arguably not the tidiest studio ever, but then again, I don’t think that words “tidy” and “studio” would ever occur together in a non-negative statement.”
Give users tips about the way you do things
Your audience admires what you do. Maybe some of them try to learn from you and imitate what you do. Encourage them and motivate them to feed their passion and follow their hearts by providing them with expert tips, hacks, and cool workarounds. Give them tips on how to save money on supplies or how to use their tools most successfully. Put together cheat sheets for your users and share these with your audience to build your list.
“Designing a portrait is a very challenging procedure because … AURA. I still find it very difficult to capture the mood of a person when drawing. There are times that I can’t even put my finger on the mood of the person I’m drawing. Does this ever happen to you? Even if you don’t draw, can you always tell what the person next to you is experiencing?”
Post the actual products, of course. But shake things up a little.
Your followers know what line of work you are in. So, repeatedly posting your latest post or creation is no longer as appealing past a certain point. Therefore, you can spice things up by posting a post-midnight food craving cure if you are a food blogger (after midnight), an A-ha moment with a free-hand sketch on a napkin (if you are an artist), and so on.
“Couldn’t get any sleep if I didn’t finish this first. I think there is a word for it. Maybe even an acronym! hahaha #OCD #betterthanprocrastination”
Put together helpful How-to guides to help your audience further
Lend a helping hand. Show your followers how you cut corners in a boring procedure, or what you do differently. Don’t be afraid that you’ll be giving away all of your secrets. It is not surprising to see that the more you share about what you do, the more you will enchant people.
In the meantime, you will be gaining authority in what you do. And you’ll have that little extra motivation to stay ahead before everybody else catches up with you!
“Well, turns out you’ve all been curious to see how I get that pistachio shade, so here it goes. You’ll find the products I used at the end of this post.”
Motivate users to engage with you by sharing user-generated content
Getting a pat on the back from an expert every once in a while is not bad. So, ask your audience to tag you in their posts when they try out something you showed them.
Your sharing their posts is positive reinforcement at its best.
“This is @iamtina’s work and I am in love with the amount of detail! Check out all these fine deets! Tina, you have perfectly mastered the technique I showed on my tutorial last week. WOW! Team, don’t forget to tag me to see your work!”
Hold a Live session with another professional
So, how about a live performance for your audience, in the comfort of your own studio/home/office, etc? Notify your audience about the time and day when you’ll go live, and let Instagram Live, Facebook Live, or a GoToWebinar session take it from there!
“Join me on May 14th at 3 EST, for a live painting session. I will be working on the pictured image so you can also work on the same painting at the same time. It will be like an actual class! Sign up below to get a reminder! I’m excited!!!!”
Here’s a few more quick visual storytelling examples
Post practical tips about what you make
” This one is my latest painting from the series that was featured on BuzzFeed (see here, here, or check link in bio). It’s 30 in x 21 in. Ships worldwide. Works well in rooms where pastel hues are dominant.”
Run a quick sale and connect with users for inquiries
“FLASH SALE! Head over to my website; starred items are on sale. Enter code VIPSALE at checkout for 30% off. Sales last until March 5th, at 21.00. Three days to go. DM me for delivery or other inquiries.”
Let your users tag along (virtually)
“II’m going to Italy! I will be sunbathing— err, drawing every beautiful corner of the Amalfi coast. I also invite Italy-based artists, beginner or advanced level, to join me at my seminar running from Friday, May 18th through Sunday May 20th. Arrivederci!”
Are you a digital manager for a brand? Check out these examples of visual storytelling questionnaires by major companies
These are two of my favorite visual storytelling examples. I think it’s not right to disclose the names of the companies carrying out the studies.
Buuuut they are both British and very successful, and these questionnaires just go to show why they are so successful.
What this world-famous British luxury clothing retail company sent me the other day
I was so excited to have been selected to participate in the brand’s research! My fellow marketers are using segmentation to design their visual storytelling and craft customer personas.
I got an invitation to help out one of my favorite stationery brands in Britain to pick out their Christmas wrapping paper designs
Visual storytelling as the look and feel of the brand
Visual storytelling is the red thread of your brand.
It means that users understand why you post what you do, and the see a point in your doing so.
Visual storytelling is the path you build for your audience to guide them through your brand’s Wonderland.
The key to visual storytelling marketing is to get the look and feel of the brand right:
- Every time
- Across all media
How to get visual storytelling right always
Design your visual storytelling by selecting from this pool of ideas, to create your content plan:
- Share and compliment user-generated content
I cannot think of a better visual storytelling example right now than Fenty Beauty. The Instagram account of the beauty collection of one of the most successful women in the world (: Rihanna) features photos of their users.
What better way to empower and liberate cosmetics fans? When they could have Rihanna or first-row models donning their cosmetics, they let real people “take over”. I love it!
- Design memorable, outstanding on-site experiences at your sponsored events
This is a photo from the event PEPSI organized for the NFL at Regent Street in London. The entire street was closed, filled with people playing, exercising and getting branded NFL or PEPSI souvenirs or tickets!
- Make boring infographics no more
Since Spotify’s 2016 “It’s Been Weird” campaign, infographics are now much cooler.
- Take your visual storytelling to the next level with the right influencer
Estée Lauder announced their collaboration with the beauty blogger Violette Vibes. In their announcement, they presented an interview with the influencer which would help the fans of the brand get to know her better.
- Share stories from your staff/employees
I love Sophia Webster’s Instagram account– it’s so spontaneous! On the day of the #RoyalWedding, employees took over the account one at a time and posted a video of the shoes that they’d wear, were they to attend.
- You can always start a viral visual storytelling battle by interacting with other brands
It’s amazing how informative such a battle can be, when a museum starts it.
- Go live with your brand or sponsored event
Pepsi team up with Dua Lipa for the UEFA Champions League Final Opening. And it’s all over our Instagram news feeds!
- Surprise your audience with backstage footage
Now, you all know what an Instagram backstage live looks like. This is why I am going to leave this one here: one of my favorite not-so-spontaneous backstage videos out there! And my all-time-favorite of my favorite visual storytelling examples.
- Forget about stock photos
Your brand needs content that is unique and original, specially created for the brand. Every photo should aim to become iconic or synonymous to the brand.
Only source high-quality images, at all times. When hiring freelance photographers provide them with very specific guidelines regarding your brand and also detailed specifications on the kind of photographs you are looking from them. This will allow them to capture the right photos to make your storytelling campaigns a success.
- Connect with a value through visual storytelling
This season’s Facebook campaign for Golden State Warriors is “Strength in Numbers”. Referring to the Oracle arena in Oakland, California, this post stirs up excitement among their fans.
- Break the mould – be the coolest of all
When a tourist got locked inside one of their bookstores, Waterstone’s organized an in-store sleepover for 10 guests. The best way to handle a near-crisis!
- Use the coolest GIFs in the market
You can really show your brand personality through GIFs. No two companies can choose the same type of GIFs, certainly not as a whole. For instance:
- BONUS: Can your brand interact with users?Cuz Wendy’s certainly can. Here’s a list of visual storytelling examples whereby Wendy’s made a name for itself.
Mood boards as your main visual storytelling example
What is a mood board?
A mood board is a type of collage of images, fabrics, keyrings, you name it, of a specific style.
Why did I say this? I think that the safest way to go about maintaining a consistent visual identity at all times is to put together a mood board for your brand. A mood board can be a corkboard, a wall, or a large screen.
You can make a digital mood board on your Pinterest account. But, I like my tactile elements so I (think before I) print and pin. I like to add various textured papers, photographs, stickers, anything that reminds me of a specific brand and might serve as inspiration at some point. Of course, these are not set in stone.
I switch things around all the time and throw stuff out. I revisit older content to ensure that we are aligned with where we started. At the same time, I like to make sure we on the right path to where our vision is.
How to make your own mood board
Before we start, we must consider these two (yes, it’s time for my promise to teach you something new at every given opportunity):
1. Know your semiotics: Introducing the signifier and the signified
Brands have long realized the power of imagery on the branding identity and the perception of consumers.
To understand the concept, let’s consider the word “tree” (signifier). Some people will think of an oak tree, others of an olive tree, no two people will probably think of the same tree (signified). The image that comes to mind upon hearing the word tree differs. Believe it or not, the signified for the word “tree” to me is a colorful drawing of a tree!
How amazing can the human mind be, do you agree?
That’s not all, there. The word “tree” to some others, could elicit negative connotations due to a negative past experience. For instance, the individual might have fallen from a tree when they were younger, broke a leg, and had to spend their summer holidays in their bed. These people wouldn’t be very excited about seeing trees, right?
If we are building a mood board as part of our creative brief to an agency, we must first make sure that the images we select elicit few or no negative connotations. We do that to ensure that they do not use any of these as symbols to design a campaign, etc. To do that, we first need to run the image through a satisfactory sample to examine how they respond to these.
2. Head over to Pinterest for inspiration
Save all the pins that speak to you – choose with your brand in mind. Choose based on where you want your brand to go next, not where it is right now.
Pick all that glitters.
Go back and refine your results to the most quintessential ones.
Add more bits that complement your brand. For example, I sometimes add the most successful blog post titles or include quotes or testimonials from our customers. This helps me even more to keep track of where each brand is headed and when it’s time to diversify the content before users grow old of it.
(Needless to say that mood boards make a beautiful piece of interior design decoration!)
Step-by-step guide: How to build your visual storytelling
1. What’s your goal?
Choose your outcome. Determine what you intend to achieve with your visual storytelling.
What data do you need and why you need it? For instance, depending on the objective (see below), you may ask for demographic details to correlate them with users’ responses. These could be user responses to an emotional intelligence test, a photo-elicitation technique, or to update your customer personas. Here, SPSS enthusiasts can inform the design of a visual storytelling research and run more sophisticated correlations.
– To revamp your brand:
A. What directions are you considering switching towards?
Whatever they are, narrow them down to the bare minimum.
B. Put together mood boards for each direction/style/identity.
C. Remember to design your mood boards using the concepts of the signifier and the signified. In other words, play on connotations. Use photo elicitation as a method to bring forward the personality characteristics of the new suggestions.
D. Prepare a visual storytelling questionnaire. Shuffle all images regardless of their corresponding groups. Ask users to choose between two. Consider variations in participants’ answers by assigning different weight when they choose A over B, and another if they choose C over A. In other words, remember that you need to test every image against more than once.
E. If users show a stronger preference towards one direction then start planning your re-branding accordingly.
Otherwise, if there is no one winner but different directions unearth, you could update your different product category lines.
– To inform your next campaign and design a successful new product launch:
With visual storytelling research, you inform your upcoming launch most effectively and design it accordingly.
A. One way to check this is by writing different copy to match different suggested campaign styles.
B. Present your audience only with the copy and compare it and contrast each suggestion with one another.
C. Repeat the process with your campaign styles you are considering. Check which resonates best with your audience.
D. Show participants some photos which are similar to or could serve as inspiration for the campaign styles you are considering.
Ask them to describe with one word or more what they think or feel about the photos.
E. One more idea could be to employ projective techniques to tap into your participants’ deep motivations and beliefs.
F. Another helpful technique is through word association. So, you can show participants photos of the symbols each of your campaigns relies on, or the colors you will be using, etc. Proceed to ask participants to provide the first word that comes to mind. Add a countdown timer component to this section (of which you must inform participants at the beginning), so that their answers are most spontaneous. According to Carl Jung’s theory, presented with the prompt of a cat, certain people will provide the word “companion” while others “claw”.
– To re-segment your mailing lists to perfection:
Streamline your email marketing and drip campaigns strategy by crafting more accurate brand personas.
B. Ask subscribers to rate your brand on a Lickert scale in terms of, say, originality, sophistication, and so on.
C. Present users with photos of models (famous or not) and ask them to choose. Instead of choosing any that applies/y to or resonate/s with them, another thing to try would be to choose between two. Look for trends in your subscribers’ answers. Provided that different images correspond to different weights, you will be able to extract valuable information to re-design your segments!
– To design a well-rounded brand and corporate identity:
A. What is your target audience? The answer to this question will determine your choice of visuals.
B. Take into account demographic details of your target audience and design different visual paths for those who take part in your survey. Like in the aforementioned visual storytelling examples, you will need to assign weights based on what matters most to you.
C. The implications of this research will inform your content creation and content planning across different platforms. For example, your website and blog call for different content compared to Facebook or Instagram, which are far more visual. Also, the mere frequency at which users check Facebook or Instagram feeds dictates that this content be as refreshing as possible.
Wrapping it up
I hope my visual storytelling examples have served their purpose to help you.
It is extra work, but -trust me- all worth it.
And, if the brand you are managing is still small, now’s the time. Now’s the time to do everything right because it will get harder when the scale is bigger.
As for those of you who are already looking at big company data, worry not. Get started with a smaller segment. See how that goes.
As time goes by and you refine your questionnaire you can then move on to the bigger segments and compare your findings.d
If I can be of help in the process…