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August 3, 2014

From Visual Storytelling to Visual Marketing: The Undeniable Bigger Trend

by Tom De Baere

visual marketingOK, a little warning is appropriate here. This is a blog post where I slightly get out of my comfort zone because I am actually going to tell you a story.

Before you go all mellow and zap away, bare with me for a second. Just listen to me for a while, and you’ll begin to see a much bigger trend currently happening in marketing. Using a few brilliant examples I’ll explain the bigger trend behind visual storytelling, and how it should transcend to become part of everything you do in your marketing.

What follows is a true story, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you: I am not the best storyteller.

So here goes nothing…

The Story About Peter, his Wife, and how it changed dramatically

old man at grave - storytelling in B2BPeter was at the cemetery visiting the grave of his wife. She deceased two years ago. He was holding strong, at least, that’s what you could tell from the outside.

Sunday was the day he usually came to her grave. He liked to do that in the afternoon, just after dinner. Just in front of her grave, he would talk to her in a low voice. There were good days. But on bad days he would neel down telling her how much he missed her.

But today was Tuesday, not Sunday. Today Peter was excited. Early in the morning he took his car and drove down to the cemetery. He had something important to tell her which couldn’t wait till Sunday.

That night, that wonderful monday night, at exactly 3 o’clock in the morning, he received an email from his son Jack. Jack brought him the best news he received in years: his first grandson was born. The boy was named Owen, after his great grandfather.

For the first time in 2 years, Peter had something to look forward to. Finally the moment was here where he and his wife had dreamed of. But what made him sad at the same time is that she didn’t make it to life long enough to enjoy this moment together.

But the birth of Owen also signaled a bigger change his life. Somehow that night his wife told him that it was time to let her go…

Peter had the habit of leaving his computer on. He didn’t really care that it consumed electricity. He just liked the little “ping” sound of an incoming new email on his computer.

face-in-broken-mirror-visual marketingThat monday night at 3 o’clock, he woke up by the sound of breaking glass. When he came in the bathroom, glass was shattered across the floor. Suddenly, he heard his computer make the “Ping”-sound he loved so much. That was the sound of his computer sounding the arrival of a new email. Exactly at 3 o’clock the email from his son came in. The mail told him his grandson was born. He became a grandfather.


You have to know that the mirror in the bathroom was the mirror that his deceased wife would use every day. It was one of those tiny round mirrors that women use to… well, to do whatever women do with that kind of small mirror.

What are the chances that sound of breaking glass is waking you up at 3 o’clock at night. And that at exactly that same moment an email comes in from your son telling you have become grandfather for the first time?

It couldn’t be clearer to Peter. This was a signal from his wife telling him to stop morning for her. It was now time to pick up his life again and look forward to being a great grandfather to his newborn grandson.

Examples of beautiful storytelling in B2C Advertising

When I heard this story, I admit, it moved me. And moving people is what storytelling does.

An example of such a story that will move you is a TV commercial from Bell’s South Africa. It demonstrates what it take to be a true mand of character, and reflects the brand of the Bell’s Whisky.

Another, but downright brilliant and funny TV commercial is this one : ‘Follow The Frog’. It was made for The Rainforest Alliance, and is another example of great storytelling. Above all, it’s very funny, so be sure to check it out!

B2B visual storytelling example, and signals towards a bigger marketing trend

visual marketing through storytelling

Engineers installing satellite equipment on an island in Mauritius (I can think of worser places in the world to do your work). This is an authentic image of engineers telling a story and adding value by sharing their expertise.

These are examples of B2C, and are all advertisements. But storytelling is something that perfectly works in B2B, and doesn’t imply advertising at all. Eloqua curated some nice examples of corporate storytelling in B2B together.

Storytelling can be embedded in true stories simply by sharing stories from customers and employees.

It reminds me of a story of a previous company I worked for. It was a simple story of an engineer explaining an installation of technical satellite equipment on Rodrigues Island in the Indian Ocean.

The story combined his personal story, including how beautiful sunsets and sunrise can be in Mauritius. But also it explained how he did that particular installation showing his personal expertise.

While he shared his story and his expertise, he also helped the company in a couple of other ways:

  • what great people worked at the company
  • what expertise these people have
  • that they also are human

Key to storytelling, and a primer to the bigger trend currently happening is that storytelling today is becoming extremely visual:

  • photo’s and video’s, shot with a smartphone and professionally finished
  • technical drawings, which can be simple hand-drawings or interactive content
  • infographics & tagclouds
  • slideshares & prezi’s on blogs
  • time-lapse/stop motion movies and animated GIFs
  • dynamic visual content

The bigger marketing trend – Visual Marketing

A lot has been said about storytelling. And a lot has been said about visual content.

But the visual trend is much bigger. Video is embedded full screen in website today. Text is dynamically embedded in website and changing based on user interaction. Content is becoming interactive.

A brilliant example of what is possible today can be found on the microsite called  The Power of Visual Storytelling along with an accompanying white paper and Slideshare deck that was created in partnership between Newscred and Getty Images.

Some interesting stats for marketers from this Slideshare presentation:

  • articles that contain images get 94% more views than articles without
  • 40% of people will respond better to visual information than plain text
  • 83% of human learning is visual
  • 44% of users are more likely to engage with brands if they post pictures.


There’s a lot more to this visual tsunami as I wrote in an earlier blog post called Consumer trends that will impact B2B marketing strategies: Prepare for the Visual Tsunami.

Visual marketing has  become a reality today. Thanks to the ever increasing technological capabilities (faster internet, faster smartphones, 3G & 4G) of consumers and businesses, we are going back to the natural way of consuming information.


Visual marketing is, much more than anything else today, capable of communicating what is important in modern marketing today:

  • authentic and open – showing the human brand from the inside to the outside
  • sensory – we want to go up to the level where we can feel and sense
  • archetype – images mean different things to different people and are persona driven
  • cultural relevancy – delivering localized content in real-time matching


Do you have any other examples yourself ? Let me know in the comment box!

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere

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