A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words: Digital Storytelling

Harry Potter, The Odyssey, Titanic, The New York Times, Humans of New York, even The Bible all have something significantly in common. They are stories. Stories that could teach a lesson, make you smile, laugh, cry, or understand another persons perspective. As humans, we are programmed to love and to want to be loved, to laugh at things that we find funny, to read and be inspired by a great magazine article, and find comfort through our friends and family. We all come from our own neck of the woods, have our own religious codes, speak a certain language(or many), abide by specific political beliefs but somehow still collectively find motivation and drive through inspiration.

By sharing our success, loss, happiness, anger we have the ability to inspire and bond with a multitude of people on such a deeper level.

Loving stories is a basic facet of human nature, which is why digital marketing companies are beginning to utilize this technique to connect with their consumers. They are telling good stories. Good stories that humanize their companies, and force people to remember what they saw because of the personal connection they were able to make. One perfect example is Extra Gum’s marketing campaign called “The Story of Sarah & Juan”. This 2 minute ad documents the tear jerking love story between two high school sweethearts Sarah and Juan. This powerful story documents changes we all experience as we grow up, fall in love, move to a different city, experience heartache, yet shows how Extra Gum hasn’t changed and has been there through it all. This is the type of digital storytelling that I love.

Digital storytelling is the intermix of the humanistic nature of storytelling with a variety of multimedia, including photography, video, audio techniques, and typography. As you can see from above, a great photograph or thirty second video clip can tell such a more powerful story than a five paragraph synopsis of a series of events. Photography is authentic documentation that instantaneously transports us to unseen cities or moments in time. And luckily, with the growth of technology and digital new media, the content we are using is more visually compelling than ever before.

Digital storytelling is thriving because our smartphones, social media accounts, email listservs, blogs, and websites have become extensions of ourselves. With the millions of users and the variety of multimedia channels, the amount of posts and information we recieve daily is unfathomable. Instantaneous scrolling, liking, favoriting, and sharing has become a second nature. Resulting in the shortest attention span any generation has seen yet.

This is why the perfect digital story, on the perfect digital platform, is more important than it has ever been.

People connect with people, not with a brand name or a product type. Speaking through human experiences produces great stories that resonate with people, which then makes your content relevant. This powerful communication tool cuts out the long clutter of information that bores people, and speaks a message without a complicated explanation.

Great visual content doesn’t interrupt people from the subjects they are interested in, it becomes what they are interested in.

So what makes great visual content in digital storytelling?

Simple Elements

When telling a story through video or photo, we must remember that if tons of stuff is going on in the photo, it will confuse its viewers. Simple elements can speak multitudes.

The “Find Your Greatness” campaign launched by Nike wasn’t looking to just inspire record breaking athletes, because honestly, how many of those do we know out there? But they wanted to reach the everyday person, the people like you and me that enjoy wearing Nikes. They wanted to personally inspire their customers and give them that that little daily motivational reminder that yes we can all achieve our own personal moments of greatness, and that Nike is just there to help.

The photo tells the message it is trying to convey so easily. This dedicated young boy, who is not particularly in record athlete breaking shape, is shot running(and struggling)in the early hours of the morning. “Find Your Greatness” is simple and clean, paralleling the crisp and sharp famous Nike swoosh. Nothing is complicated about this picture, and it tells a great story.

Remembering Your Audience

Producing content that you know your audience would like is very important, that makes it appealing and relevant in their lives.

Coke’s Olympics marketing campaign, “Anywhere In The World”, targeted teenage consumers. They used music as the critical element of storytelling, because music is something that brings people together all around the world, just like the olympics does.

The video footage and music compilation was authentic and catchy.

Suitable Format

The format in which the multimedia is portrayed gives the story so much more depth.

National Geographic did a spread called “The Visual Village”, in which they photographed the ordinary lives of people throughout villages in Africa. They put Instagram filters on their photos. This photo format made the photos appear as if these people were personally telling you their stories just like any other person would through social media.

Correct format also has the ability to capture a particular mood, which is very important in digital storytelling. Photographers want their viewers to see a photo like this, and be moved to the scene.

Angles are a subtle format tool, with such a dramatic effect.

“This is the image that causes the heart to skip. It is a small change, and perhaps a momentarily dirty, uncomfortable one, but one that will have a much greater visual voice.” -Karine Aigner

Karine Aigner, from National Geographic, talks about how the angle where you capture a scene defines the commentary of the artist. The change in angle alters the intimacy; and that we force our audience into a face to face with our subject.

“It’s incredible, [when] you’re shooting surfers in these big waves, they’re having the best moments of their life, but when you capture them in those best moments, it’s almost like you’re riding the wave with them,” -Mike Coots (National Geographic Photographer)
Correct Composition

Good composition is what separates the amateurs from the pros.

Rule of thirds, cropping, background blur, correct lighting are all so important in capturing a great image. People will scroll past a crappy photo.

Be Candid

Some say the best photographs are the ones that we didn’t even know were being taken.

Candid photos freeze a moment in time and reflect real human experiences, which is one of the most authentic ways to tell a story.

The “One for One” marketing campaign by Toms, has such great visual content that helps tell the stories of those one or two people in need that we are helping through our purchases.

The candidacy in the photos captures their joy and innocence. It makes us fall in love with the children, and want to help.


I also love this candid photo that Tide uses, because it is relatable. Most parents have that one photo of their child splattering food all over themselves in their high chairs. Yes, it is absolutely adorable, but it is messy and has happened to them.

Demonstrate Value

Stories that demonstrate meaning and have a sense of giving back stick with people. People love being associated with a brand that wants to help the community and better our world. Not only do companies better brand themselves through this strategy, but they tell inspirational stories that resonate with people because they believe it is bettering their moral fiber.

Whole Foods targets the healthy customer. Through their “Values Matter” campaign, they are telling a story about their company through everyday people. They show children and families, and stress the importance that eating healthy is not just a health fad but a lifestyle to better your relationships and your life.



















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