Visual Storytelling May 7, 2012

Written by: Larry Weintraub
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(image credit: artist Koen Demuynck)

We love stories. When we were kids we insisted that our parents read us one more story every night before we went to bed. Or better yet, make one up! Look at the television shows we watch now. Shows like Game of Thrones and Mad Men are essentially mini movies that we get to watch every week. The quality. The stories. What about reality shows? American Idol, Deadliest Catch, Restaurant Impossible, The Bachelor. These are weekly stories that have villains, plots, resolutions. We’re so hungry for these fantastic stories and we are lucky that they just keep coming.

And we’re starting to watch these stories in new ways. Look at the KONY video.  Nearly 90 Million people have watched a 30 minute movie on YouTube. I repeat, a 30 minute movie! Not an 80 second video about a cat or talking babies, an important documentary.

Meanwhile our phones are quickly becoming both a primary tool for viewing movies, television, and Internet-based videos as well as a significant source of creation. That iOS or Android piece of technology you carry around in your pocket has the ability to take photos with the same high resolution quality that were previously only attributed to devices made by the likes of Nikon or Canon.  Remember when you carried a phone, a camera, and a video camera to your kid’s birthday party? Like most other parents, I only carry one now, my iPhone.

As we take these lusciously vivid new photos at a mammoth pace, inventions like Pinterest and Instagram are helping us share them with the world.  Each photo tells a story of where we are, where we’ve been, or where we hope to go.  And each time a friend comments on or re-pins our photos, the story takes on new meaning for that person.  Then there is the complete personification of visual storytelling, the new Facebook timeline.  Photos are now so rich and large and the timeline enables us to tell the chronological story of our brand or our lives.

Many brands are taking advantage of the new Facebook timeline, but one brand stands out head and shoulders above the rest.  That brand is Red Bull.  The company whose energy drink sold over four and half billion cans last year and boasts 60% market share over a thousand competitors doesn’t do a ton of traditional advertising.  Sure, you’ve seen the ads about Red Bull giving you wings, but for the most part, we don’t see a ton of commercials or billboards. What we do see is that colorful logo plastered on every crazy extreme athlete with a death wish.   Red Bull epitomizes a brand entrenched in visual storytelling.

When Facebook timeline went live, Red Bull jumped in head first.  From the lead graphic to the individual photos on their profile, every image tells a compelling story.  Some subtle, some overt.

To get you to discover all the fascinating images and the history of Red Bull, they even put together a scavenger hunt that asked you to navigate through all the rich content on their Facebook page.

And Red Bull does so much more than just great photos.  They are also highly focused on video and film.  Each of their events and all of their sponsored athletes are documented by some of the best action filmmakers on the planet.  Check out their YouTube channel and you’ll find nearly 2,000 videos with hundreds of thousands of subscribers and a quarter of a billion views.

And finally, look at Red Bull’s website.

The site is dedicated to sports, culture, events, music, film, games, and if you look really hard, you might find a link to their product.

Red Bull breaks the rules.  It is lifestyle, story, visuals, and culture first… product last.  And it works.

Red Bull has taken a serious stance on visual storytelling.  And yes, it can work for everyone.  We’re visual people.  We love great images and great stories, and we’re more apt to buy from those who can show us what they are about.  Visual Storytelling is a trend and it will only get bigger and better as technology makes it easier and easier to tell our stories.