September 29, 2014

Stories without words…

Don’t be seen, be remembered  

What actually makes for a memorable story? It’s a question that comes up on a daily basis in the Unity office.

So, when the opportunity to attend the Stories Without Words… Don’t Be Seen Be Remembered lecture at The National Gallery came up we jumped at the chance.

The lecture was part of this 2014’s Social Media Week London and featured three brilliant people on the panel: Martin Stabe (Head of interactive News at the Financial Times), Dr Susan Foister (Deputy Director from The National Gallery) and Lee Bofkin (CEO of Global Street Art).

So, while engagement on video and images are on the up – the engagement on words is in decline. Why is this? What can we learn for brands? And perhaps more importantly, what does this mean for the future of storytelling?

To do this, the lecture looked at three memorable brand campaigns from the past year.


1. Chipotle: Cultivate A Better World

This campaign works because it makes a complex issue such us sustainability easy to digest. The combination of animation and emotion draw the viewer into the advert and create a response.

Dr Susan Foister said: “The juxtaposition between the old and the new is what draws you into it. Great images are often about contrast.”

This campaign told a great visual story through beautifully crafted animation. Something that takes time, but the investment paid off. This campaign won several awards – it has emotional impact, but also a power. The power is driven from the images, from the music and from the contrast.

The panel agreed the simplicity, the focus and the emotion made this timeless, heartfelt and genuinely impactful brand storytelling.

2. Lego’s 50th Anniversary Campaign

We also learned about the importance of interactivity and personalization. Something everyone from the panel agreed was part of the future of storytelling, particularly online.

Martin Stabe told the audience: “A lot of ideas in the world can only be seen visually – data points that are abstraction of reality…. Understand the patterns in a data set, making the invisible visible. We do tyr and avoid injections of symbolism. NOT showing additional meaning that we didn’t intend”

The panel discussed the simple visual cues conveying a story – but also requiring the viewer to engage with the information in order to understand it.

There’s a real joy in asking questions through storytelling. This involves the audience directly in the campaign – an engagement through both heart and mind. A search for simplicity doesn’t mean there isn’t a joy in jeopardy!

3. Paddy Power Rainbow Laces  

The lecture told us a lot about the importance of visual clues in storytelling – in particular the power of repetition, symbolism and recurring themes.

The panel agreed that the genius of this Paddy Power campaign was not just in the storytelling, but in creating the change. The brand’s rainbow laces campaign draws upon these features using the powerful and iconic rainbow image and use of colour to cut through any ambiguity and convey its message quickly and efficiently.

Of course, all great comms also helps drive consumer action and this campaign draws the consumer into the brand world to make their purchase. (And maybe even place a bet in the meantime!)

Lee Bofkin made an interesting point: “Footballers are all on TV and can be thought of space. What aprt of the footballer can you own? This is a really simple idea, and something footballers want to be part of – it reflects well on them.”


In conclusion

The future of visual storytelling is here already, but it’s NOT evenly distributed. It’s part of our work in the PR industry to make sure we communicate complex ideas in simple, digestible ways. It’s at the heart of accessibility.

Visual storytelling is such an important part of our toolkit – but it’s not an easy skill, it’s a like a muscle that needs to be worked. And it can be made better by sticking to exercising it in certain ways. There are principles behind all great visual storytelling: contrast, repetition, simplicity, and personalization. Much more to learn, but this was a stimulating lecture.

And as Martin Stabe from the Financial Times told the audience: “People are consuming news in ever more intimate ways. This means personalization will become ever more important.”


Paul Drury (@thisisjukebox) attended the lecture on behalf of Unity (@hello_unity). Follow the latest from Social Media Week London on #SMWLondon and #SMW14.