Visual Storytelling: Remedy for a Short Attention Span

Make an Emotional Connection

I watched my 33-month-old granddaughter play with the family collie, hop on her hobbyhorse and ride as though she were headed to Canada and shove nearly a ream of copy paper from her father’s desk before anyone could stop her. All of this was accomplished in under 90 seconds.

While experts attribute such a brief attention span to the period of life dubbed as the “terrible twos,” the inability to remain focused is no longer limited to young children. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information at the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the average attention span of a human being decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013.

The sad news is the human attention span is one second less than that of a goldfish! The good news is that the abbreviated human attention span presents countless opportunities for marketing communications professionals to convey messaging via visual storytelling since the brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text.


Connecting with emotion

Visual storytelling uses powerful visuals to tell our stories quickly with impact and emotion. Often, the brand remains in the background, allowing the story to speak on its behalf to encourage emotion and greater audience engagement.

According to Janine Popick, founder, VerticalResponse, when we tell a story, people want to follow the story line. They relate to and remember narratives— and the brand telling the story.

Popick showcases three highly successful visual storytelling campaigns, one featuring a young girl who finds an old recording (a 45!) of her grandmother singing a love song to her grandfather before he left for the military. She uses Apple to digitize the song and records a “duet” with her own voice alongside her grandmother’s. She leaves the recording with a note for her grandmother and when her “grammy” listens to it, the elderly woman sobs tears of joy.

The story is impactful and appeals to young and old, men and women. It positions Apple very favorably and has garnered more than 3 million views on YouTube!


Simple or extravagant

Visual storytelling does not, however, have to be expansive and expensive. It may be as simple as a slide show or infographic, or as involved as an epic video (such as the Dodge brothers video featured in Janine Popick’s message) or premium images.

Jason Cormier, co-founder, Room 214, summed it up well when he said, “No state-of-the-art technology can substitute for state-of-the-art storytelling. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the story behind it may be worth a million more…”

Whatever your objectives, visual storytelling will likely reap higher levels of viewership, engagement and sharing. (By the way, Jason’s post is full of great examples of visual storytelling evoking all kinds of emotions, from sadness and empathy to humor.)

Please share your insights about visual storytelling and your successes.


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