Marketers underestimate the content people will create if doing
so involves a ton of action and adventure. Look at mud runs like
Warrior Dash, Spartan Race and Tough Mudder, for example. People
pay as much as $150 to take a brutal run, hop through obstacles,
jump over fires, get shocked by high-voltage electric lines and
endure completely unnecessary suffering. There's an opportunity for
brands to create these types of journeys and structure them such
that participants do make public visual stories.
Cotopaxi is way ahead of the curve on this. The Utah-based
outdoor company puts on a 24-hour adventure race called Questival
all around the country. Participants are given a Cotopaxi backpack
and swag, then they attempt to complete over 300 tasks (which are
"brand-aligned") and document them all by taking photos and videos
of the action. The Questival app requires that a lot of the images
be posted on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to count, so the volume
of social impressions over 24 hours is remarkable. Indeed, the
first Questival, which had only 1,500 participants (versus the
20,000+ numbers a mud run can pull in), still reached 1 million
people on social media.
Choose your own
Being a "consumer" of content is a lot more fun when you're not
passive about it. Consider the immense popularity of video games;
most of them make awful movies, but the storylines are interesting
when users shape their direction. Great visual storytelling could
allow your audience to become actors in the story.
For example, "choose-your-own adventure" websites could lay out
a visual story according to what the user clicks on or manipulates
in the site. A smart marketer could let the visitors enter their
name, input their role in the business, check the box on one of
five to six potential problems, maybe select some parameters for
the solution (user base, vertical, CRM solution integrations), and
then see a personalized animation or series of images that address
If you're looking for quick visual hits for social media, memes
are your best bet.
Memes are effective for a few reasons. First, they are built on
established images that are widely recognized, highly contextual
and often connected to historical figures, movies, books and other
reservoirs of cultural capital. Thus, they have an implicit story
that requires no explaining. Second, with a little brainstorming,
you can make them funny. You don't need to be a pro comedian to
work a meme. Finally, and most importantly, they make you, the
marketer, seem like a human being.
People trade memes with friends, family and co-workers because
they want to make a point in a captivating way. Good meme selection
(and captioning) helps build social capital. Everyone has that one
friend who emails or posts the worst articles, memes and videos. On
Facebook, usually that "friend" is a brand. Don't be that
Fake it and you won't make it
A lot of visual content has no purpose whatsoever. Some
infographics and videos look snazzy, but that doesn't mean they're
useful, educational, inspiring, entertaining or hopefully some
combination of all four.
Visual stories have power rooted in 35,000 years of human
history, but if your intention is to promote a brand and its
products, you need a perspective, not just great aesthetics.
Without an argument, a mission or some reason people should care,
you can desensitize your audience and reduce your marketing to
People want to feel alive, so don't just jump on the latest
"content consumption" trend. If you try out visual storytelling,
break conventions and do something new.