These Brands Are Killing It With Visual Storytelling
In an article on the power of brand storytelling, Jim Blasingame, small business expert and entrepreneurship thought leader, wrote, “In a time of rapidly compounding technology generations, the most successful businesses will consistently deliver high touch to customers with one of our oldest traits – the telling of a story.”(Forbes) He describes the Three C's of Business Storytelling:
  • Connect – Use stories to connect with prospects and convert them into customers.
  • Convey – Use stories to convey your expertise, relevance, humanity and values.
  • Create – Use stories to create customer memories that compel them to come back.
What better way to achieve this than visually? Let’s take a look at how four very different companies are telling brilliant brand stories visually to do just that...
These brands are using visual stories to connect with their audiences, convey their expertise, values, and humanity, and create positive experiences for their customers that compel them to keep coming back.
General Electric
The LEGO Group set the standard for brand storytelling with its debut into motion pictures just last year. The Lego Movie, an instant hit, is a 3D animated film about an ordinary LEGO figurine named Emmet, who is mistakenly identified as an extraordinary being and the key to saving the world. He finds himself drafted into a fellowship of strangers who are on a mission to stop the evil tyrant, Lord Business, from conquering the world (Google). It is perhaps the biggest product placement film ever seen, with a total of 3,863,484 unique Lego bricks and 183 different Lego minifigures featured in the movie (Business Insider). Nevertheless, it is a hilarious, heartwarming, and incredibly well-written story that successfully checks off all three C’s on Blasingame’s list. The brand effectively connects with men, women, and children of all ages through a consistent brand message that promotes imagination and letting your ideas run free. It isn’t the product that compels people to buy; it’s what the product allows people to do that excites them. The Lego Movie demonstrates just that, as does its work on a variety of social platforms. The company’s move into motion pictures did wonders for the brand, which almost went under less than 10 years ago. The film brought in a huge $69.1 million in its opening weekend and has since brought in more than $468 million worldwide (BOX OFFICE). The movie marked a key moment for the brand, which became the world's largest toy company — surpassing Mattel, the maker of Barbie — after seeing an 11 percent increase in sales following the film (Time).
Airbnb is a peer-to-peer online marketplace that connects individuals looking to rent their homes with those looking for accommodations. Once a hidden secret for early adopters, the brand has made serious strides in content marketing and brand storytelling in an effort to go mainstream. In 2014, the company unveiled a major rebrand that would better convey its core principle of belonging anywhere (click the link for the full story + video). The rebrand included the introduction of a new logo it named Bélo and an interactive tool that invites users to customize their own Bélo, something no company has ever done before. This move signified Airbnb’s recognition that its identity cannot be separated from its users. “This is a shared brand identity,” says its CEO Brian Chesky.
Airbnb strongly believes in the power of good storytelling and has evolved its strategy to focus more on its community. The company’s Stories page does just that. One of the stories featured on the site is that of a New York City woman who listed her space for free when the city was hit by one of the worst hurricanes in history, and as a result sparked a movement within the Airbnb community for other hosts to do the same. Independent of the Stories page, the company released an award-winning short film called Wall and Chain. The video recounts the story of an Airbnb guest who traveled to Berlin for the first time since working as a guard during the Cold War (see video below).
The video has racked up more than 5.7 million YouTube views in its first month online. It further established Airbnb as a channel for life-changing travel experiences, and heightened the brand’s relevance (Contently). According to CNN Money, Airbnb is now valued at over $25 billion — up there with hotel chains Hyatt and Marriott. It is just seven years old.
General Electric is one of the most diverse organizations in the world, with a hefty portfolio of complex, high-tech products and businesses. Though it is 125 years old, the company often leads the way when it comes to digital media. This early adoption of emerging platforms and the company’s willingness to experiment with channels like Snapchat and Periscope has positioned it as a dominant voice in branded content. Visual brand storytelling has helped position the brand in a new light using stunning multimedia elements that showcase the company’s innovative technologies with insight into the role they play in powering, moving and curing our world. GE’s Head of Global Digital Programming, Katrina Craigwell, states that an important rule for its visual storytelling is "to always show big, beautiful machines that capture the imagination of technology lovers worldwide" (freshtrax).
Photos from Instagram (@generalelectric)
The brand aims to educate and inspire through brand stories that connect with the next generation through new communication tools. The company stays relevant with campaigns like #EmojiScience, an ongoing campaign that aims to make the STEM subjects more accessible and interesting to younger students, and #SpringBreakIt, a viral video campaign to celebrate its advancements in materials science (see video below).
For this campaign, GE invited followers to send requests through social media for things to crush with its machines. They then ran everyday items through destructive test labs, releasing 78 visual content assets over two days. The campaign resulted in 2.2K+ hashtag mentions, 1.4M video views, and 120M earned media impressions. It is a fantastic example of brand storytelling.
Photos from Instagram (@Nike)
Nike is arguably one of the best brand storytellers in modern advertising, having fine-tuned its promotion strategy dating back to its very first commercial in 1982. The company’s focus on storytelling began in the 70’s, when Nike designated its executives "Corporate Storytellers" as part of its company culture (Entrepreneur). In 1999, Nelson Farris, Nike’s then-chief storyteller told Fast Company, "Our stories are not about extraordinary business plans or financial manipulations. They're about people getting things done.” This aspect holds true for its advertising, in which the brand forgoes the standard ‘features and benefits’ method and instead embraces the power of a good story. Over the years, Nike has shared numerous stories about individuals getting things done. Walt Stack (appearing in the first “Just Do It” commercial in 1988), Michael Jordan, Bo Jackson, Andre Agassi, Ronaldinho are just a few. More recently, Nike told the inspiring story of Rory McIlroy (see below).
Right away, the ad pulls us in, and we can’t help but root for the boy, who we later learn is Rory McIlroy, professional golfer and four-time major champion. The spot recounts how he was influenced by some of the great moments in Tiger Woods’ career and how the torch is being passed. What makes Nike’s approach to advertising so genius is that they don’t ask us to buy anything. The brand isn’t even mentioned in the McIlroy spot, neither in dialogue nor visually on the screen. Instead, we are reminded that anything is possible with hard work, determination — and, of course, Nike products. Nike is the leading sports footwear and apparel company, topping Forbes list of the world’s most valued sports brand of 2014, with an estimated brand value of $19 billion.
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