As as photographer I’ve always loved adding a storytelling element in my series of images. A recent study by Kantar Millward Brown yet again confirms the value of storytelling in marketing and provides five tips for developing strong creative.
I’ve written about this subject before, for instance referencing Under Armour’s amazing spot with Michael Phelps and arguing for the power of visual stories about athletes in marketing. I wholeheartedly believe in telling genuine stories through photography and video that will appeal to viewers while simultaneously conveying a brand’s core values and products. The Under Armour spot is a perfect example of this: watching the top athlete Michael Phelps train hard in this tribute is a feast for the eye and mind. Phelps is wearing the Under Armour products exclusively though, and by paying their sponsored athlete respect the brand associates itself with hard training and dedication.
The recent study analysed an insane amount of ads to see what message they conveyed, and how they did it. There’s one quote I particularly liked in this report: “Marketers should move beyond the message and focus on the impression they want the ad – and brand – to leave behind as a whole. This includes the creative idea, what is said in the ad, the way the story is told, and the emotional tone. It’s time to stop selling product features – it rarely works. Show; don’t tell.”
Additionally, the study highlights five key areas for developing strong creative marketing pieces. For the full five tips for marketers I encourage you to read the full article on how to make a lasting impression as a brand, here’s my two favourites though:
- Make a meaningful impression: it helps for brands to dramatise their purpose, core values and philosophy. This content should be engaging and at the same time leave behind impressions that support the brand long-term.
- Good storytelling can leave this impression: stories are an incredibly useful tool for engaging consumers and fans. It enables them to see the real-life power of a brand.
In my own work, I find myself gravitating more and more towards storytelling and have also found my clients to be far more open to it. Recently I’ve done two major projects with the American brand Klean Kanteen. The brand commissioned me to shoot a story about an individual who was very environmentally conscious, which was a perfect fit with the brand’s core value. The Klean Kanteen brand was visible in only about one in five photos, with the individual taking center stage. I love it when brands give me the space to actually shoot interesting content and the brand doesn’t have to be forced into every single frame in an awkward fashion. In the end, by adopting this genuine storytelling strategy, I feel that both viewers and the brand win.
The images for Klean Kanteen are still being processed by the brand and therefore can’t be shown here yet. Instead, I’ve opted for including some personal work with Neeltje, a friend who’s an avid runner. Even in small series like these, I try to tell a tiny story and aim for a portrait to tell a mini story by itself.