Facebook Harnesses the Power of Visual Storytelling
Facebook has demonstrated time and again an uncanny ability to tap into popular interests. Most recently, the social behemoth, which continues to strengthen itself by launching new features and by making acquisitions, demonstrates why visual storytelling can be a powerful ally to brands and an important tool in their marketing toolbox. Read on to learn more:
Acquisition of GIPHY
Facebook’s interest in visual storytelling compelled it to buy Instagram back in 2012, and the company has never looked back. Its recent agreement to buy GIPHY, the popular platform of sharable animated images, or GIFs, and integrate it with Instagram, continues the trend. In an announcement made May 15, 2020, Instagram’s Vice President of Product Vishal Shah spoke to the reported $400 million GIPHY acquisition by saying the move will give users the opportunity to “find just the right way to express themselves.” A GIF, or Graphics Interchange Format, is a form of visual storytelling, of course. Like popular multimedia platform Snapchat, which has challenged users to be as entertaining as possible in 10 seconds or less, GIFs allow people to express themselves in a punchy, visual format.
Think about the applications here: Shah’s comment about personal expression applies to businesses, too. In fact, as Adweek points out, companies are already creating GIFs as “snackable” videos that consumers will feel inspired to share.
Look no further than PepsiCo, which in February rolled out thousands of GIFs (created using GIPHY) to promote Bubly, their new sparkling water brand. The GIFs, hundreds of which feature actor Neil Patrick Harris, were devised so that consumers looking to express that they’re “annoyed,” say, or that they feel like “dancing,” may happen upon one of the Bubly GIF ads and share it (whether they are aware it’s an ad or not). Bubly also partnered with Michael Bublé to create a series of clever GIFs.
The secret to GIFs is that they concisely express a mood that’s relatable, authentic, and shareable, as opposed to demonstrating a full narrative arc, as is done in the familiar ad format.
Getting Personal with Avatars
In the vein of encouraging people to express themselves, Facebook has also recently rolled out its Avatar feature for U.S. users (the feature was launched in other countries last year). As CNN reports, Facebook users can now personalize their responses with a cartoon avatar that looks like them, rather than relying solely on the now-familiar stable of emojis like the thumbs up or sad face. “With so many emotions and expressions to choose from, avatars let you react and engage more authentically with family and friends across the app,” Fidji Simo, the head of Facebook’s app, said in a post.
Again, the relevance doesn’t just apply to individuals. A January 2020 Digiday article discusses how companies are using avatars to engage with consumers. Brands like Cheetos, for example, have empowered users to interact with avatars created using the Genies app, allowing consumers to choose from design “wheels” of options to dress their avatars in Cheetos-inspired garb. Gucci, New Balance, and the NBA have also used Genies avatars in their marketing strategies.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Genies maintains their own avatar talent agency, and celebrities including Jennifer Lopez have their own official Genies, which companies can “hire” for their campaigns. Notably, it’s not just the high-powered brands that are working with avatars. As Digiday points out, avatars are also being tapped by smaller companies seeking cost-effective brand awareness campaigns with a custom feel.
Why Visual Storytelling Matters
The wisdom of Facebook’s embrace of visual storytelling is backed by statistics. According to Brain Rules, relevant images help us remember 65 percent of content, even days later. Most people are visual learners, as Digital Arts online points out. And Generation Z, also called the “visual-driven generation” because of their fondness for digital tools, is the largest population cohort in the United States. Born in the 2000s, this group is aging into a powerful demographic: surveys indicate that Gen Z is likely to make up 40 percent of all consumers in 2020.
In short, brands interested in meeting consumers where they are at are wise to appreciate the significance of visual storytelling.
Embracing Visual Storytelling
We urge all brands to embrace visual storytelling, and we’ve blogged often about how to do so:
- Google offers ad formats that visually showcase inventory, as we blogged here.
- Instagram is an essential platform to tell your brand’s story, as we note here.
- Facebook livestreaming is gaining popularity in lieu of companies holding live events, as we discuss here.
Contact True Interactive
Bottom line: visual storytelling is hot! Take advantage of it now. And remember: we can help.