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SMU 105 - Session 8: Intro to Producing Video Content

Breathing life into your brand through visual storytelling

Mankind has been using visuals to tell stories since the days of neolithic humans. From hand prints to animals to abstract designs, ancient humans were inventive and engaged storytellers. Modern humans are no different.

Brands that use visual content have found that it encourages greater engagement with their customers. This is very understandable. Visuals help us tell our stories quickly with impact and emotion. But they have to be the right visuals. And when the visual is a powerful one, be it an image or video, the effect is magnified. It's a pretty simple equation: Powerful & relevant visuals + evoke emotions = Deeper engagement.

Powerful and relevant visuals evoke emotions, driving a deeper audience engagement and more profound change in an audience's behaviour. 

Use the Art of Visual Storytelling to shine through the clutter. Visuals are 55%more memorable than text.

Purpose/Aim of this session

In this session you will deepen your understanding of how to use visuals in your content marketing - and what makes an image relevant, powerful and effective. You will explore and assess how four factors determine the power of a visual: authenticity, cultural relevancy, sensory currency and classic storytelling archetypes. 

Learning Aims for this session:

  • You will learn to choose the best visual for telling stories on the web and on social media platforms
  • You will understand story form and how to develop creative visual stories
  • You will learn to storyboard and develop the narrative of the visual story
  • Learn to create interactive data visualizations, charts, graphs and maps to add to your visual storytelling tool box

Learning Outcomes for this session:

At the end of this session, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate a professional understanding of incorporating visuals into the process of content marketing strategy
  • Demonstrate how to establish deeper audience connections through a strategic approach to using visual content
  • Demonstrate how to use new tools for creating and posting quick videos, gifs, and images for audience engagement
  • Outline and define how to identify and define  managing your content and evaluate its performance.

How this Session Works:

  1. Read through the Overview that accompanies this session. This provides an overall context for the session
  2. Work your way through the items on the Preparatory section that accompanies this session
  3. Listen to the Lecture materials that accompanies this session
  4. Work your way through the branding scenarios in the "Scenario" tab. Scenarios are practical activities to develop your critical thinking and apply your knowledge to a specific component of content marketing
  5. Work your way through the information provided in the "Video Production best Practice" tab. The video production infokits provided will step you through how to produce quality video.
  6. Work your way through the information provided in the "Visual Content Toolkit" tab. You will find a list of online tools you can use to create and publish visual storytelling content.
  7. You can browse through some carefully selected material in the "Reading Room" tab. These materials will build upon your knowledge of content marketing

SMU 105 Session 8 Study Activities

  • Overview
  • Preparatory Activities
  • Lecture
  • Scenarios
  • Video Production Best Practice
  • Visual Content Toolkit
  • Reading Room

So let's take a look at the four factors that make a powerful visual:

1. Authenticity

An authentic image tells your 
 complex story in a simple way.

Your audience wants to believe that the people they are seeing in your visual content are 'real'- and that what they're doing and how they're acting is also 'real'.  A good example of this are stock photography libraries. Too many of their images feel staged or 'fake'. This is something to avoid at all costs. Brands today need real images that their customers will connect with, such as those shared daily on social networks.

Show your human side through real-world photos

Remember, we use visual content not to convey the perfect moment. We use visuals to convey real moments. 

The visual language changes quickly. This is thanks to Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.  We can no longer think in decades – i.e. The 50’s housewife, the 80’s business man. You have to keep up or you - and your visuals - will seem dated.

The Dollar Shave Club is an example of a brand that has nailed authenticity and benefited from it. It doesn't featured chiselled, hard-jawed, six-packed men in its visuals. Instead, it uses variations of 'the guy next door'. Guys you could actually believe chat about the exorbitant cost of shaving down at the pub.  H&M is another example, with the use of  the plus-size models to demonstrate the range of sizes in its beachwear campaign. Kopparberg is another brand that has nailed authenticity - eschewing models in favour of unconventional looking real people to hammer home it's point that its cider products are anything but mainstream.

2. Cultural Relevancy

Relevance is key. Content with relevant images get more views than content without94%

Diversity and inclusiveness are issues that are very culturally relevant today. Of course, not everybody is on board with these or any social shifts. However, if you’re a content marketer it's usually good business not to be a traditionalist stuck in the past. 

Mainstream advertisers like Cheerios are  willing to accept any negative reactions to achieve a deeper emotional connection. One of the more high-profile reactions to the commercial and the backlash was a customer-created Tumblr to highlight a more positive, authentic view of mixed-race families. That risk is clearly worth it when you create this kind of relationship with the consumer. It’s also not surprising that cultural relevancy and authenticity go hand in hand.

3. Sensory Currency

Let the viewer experience the photos

This is a very strong trend right now. As technology takes over more and more of our lives, we've seen a desire for things that are 'real' like human contact and traditional, hands-on activities and professions. This trend combines nostalgia and a new appreciation for traditional skills, and seeing handmade products re-establishes the connection between maker and consumer. This trend is especially strong amongst an audience with a millennial-mindset, with a passion for sustainability, ethically sourced and produced products and manufacturing processes, the environment and social justice issues. 

4. Classic Storytelling Archetypes

Stories are everything in the new social media age.

We covered archetypes in great detail in the Branding Unit. As a reminder, archetypes are classic characters that have been used to tell stories for thousands of years. Classic archetypes are still just as powerful of a storytelling tool today. Think of them as storytelling short-cuts. 'Wicked Witch' - does this kind of archetype really need an in-depth backstory? No. And not having to tell this backstory frees us up to having some fun with the archetype in our visuals. Another example of a timeless archetype is 'the lovers', especially 'star-crossed lovers'. 


The 3 ingredients of Visual Storytelling: Capture authentic moments Appeal to the senses Post universally relevant content...

Powerful visuals evoke deeper emotions and result in a deeper engagement with your content. That's why, as a content marketer, knowing how to identify emotionally powerful images is so important. Content marketing is about telling a story and creating a closer connection to the consumer, and powerful visuals, whether they’re still images or video, make that easier and more effective.

Connecting to these senses brings: Memories, Nostalgia, & Relatability

Thinking Point

Think about the customer journey and micro moments. Now think about the visual content you could produce to connect with your audience at each stage of their journey and for each micro moment. 

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We've  taken an initial look at the four factors that make a powerful visual. You've now spent a little time applying what you've learned so far about these four factors to producing visual content  that maps to key points in your customers' journey and their micro moments(hopefully you remembered to do this for each of your audience profiles! Each profile will have its own customer journey and micro moments, which will differ from the other personas that you have created).

Now we're going to delve more deeply into these visual content factors.

    1. Let's quickly revisit the concept of content marketing channels. The article below has considerations you need to assess in building an effective content marketing channel mix:

      Please read: Brogan, C. 2012. 97 Ideas for Building a Valuable Platform,

    2. Now that we've quickly revisited the idea of a content marketing mix, lets quickly revisit the idea of brand storytelling through a content lens:

      Please read: Clark, B. 2010. How to Craft a Marketing Story that People Embrace and Share, copyblogger.

    3. The article below discusses how to effectively communicate with imagery, offered successful examples, and provides some awesome tools to tell your story visually:

      Please read: Verjano, D. The Power of Visual Storytelling on Social Media, Verjano Communications

    4. The short article below specifically looks at video as a powerful storytelling content vehicle:

      Please read: McCrea, A. 2013. Tips for integrating video as part of content marketing, Smart Insights.

    5. The article below builds on the key points made in McCrea's article:

      Please read: Trimble, C. 2015. Why online video is the future of content marketing, The Guardian.

    6. Now let's take a look at some best practice tips to consider when producing visuals as part of your content marketing:

      Please read: Fleiss, W. 2014. Video Content Marketing – The Dos and Don’ts to Help You PlanOutbrain

    7. Now let's look at visual storytelling through a B2B lens:

      Please read: Marshall, C. 2014. 76% of B2B Marketers Use Video Content Marketing, YouTube Top Choicereelseo.

    8. The infographic we're linking to below provides an excellent (and fun!) way to assess whether or not your visual content is funny,informative, engaging or intriguing. Each 'Yes' and 'No' has a link to more information and guidance. We highly recommend that you read all of the supplemental information provided.

You're now ready to go to the Lecture section for this session.

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Quick Prep

The three lecture videos below touch on aspects of visual storytelling that we haven't investigated yet. The two articles below are provided to introduce these additional aspects of visual storytelling, particularly when it comes to content marketing on mobile phones and tablets. 

    1. Please read: Overmyer, K. 2014. Mobile Growth Means New Challenges for Video Content Marketing, Content Standard

    2. Please read: McMichael, C. 2015. 5 Hypnotic Mobile Native Video Content Marketing Methods, Search Engine Journal.

You're now ready to go to the Lectures for this session.

Part 1

Attention is the new commodity. Visual Storytelling is the new currency. Did you know that the human brain processes visuals 60,000X faster than text? Or that web posts with visuals drive up to 180% more engagement than those without? Or that viewers spend 100% more time on web pages with videos? People relate to visuals! In this session, Ekaterina Walter, author of the WSJ bestseller Think Like Zuck and her latest book The Power of Visual Storytelling, shows you how to use visuals to spark engagement and inspire brand advocacy and word of mouth.

You’ll discover practical tips and thought-provoking examples from a variety of companies and industries. The result: you’ll be empowered to grow your business and strengthen your brand by leveraging photos, videos, infographics, presentations and more!

Part 2

David Bell, the Xinmei Zhang and Yongge Dai Professor at the Wharton School, speaks about managing brand and customer assets through digital marketing.

Part 3

The last video covers how multiplying platforms, wireless broadband, social networks and real-time streaming- and the medium formerly known as television - combine to form a new normal in the marketing landscape. For viewers, it's an age of amazing abundance, from millions of short-form videos to the latest Hollywood epic on demand. For content owners and distributors, it's an endless battle to keep up--with old rivals and disruptive new competitors alike.

Is a new business landscape for visual media finally coming into focus? Will digital-native kids, dedicated mobile apps and binge-viewers increasingly drive not just what we watch, but the ways we watch it? Is technology redrawing the lines between movies and TV--and between paid and "free"? And what does this mean for your visual content?

With Stefan Schulz (Watchever), Jamal Edwards (, Jimmy Maymann (The Huffington Post), Shahrzad Rafati (BroadbandTV) and moderated by Henry Blodget (Business Insider).


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Scenario Preparation

Before you begin working on the scenario that accompanies this session, please watch the video and read the case study provided below. Each will prepare you for tackling the scenario we've provided. 

Please watch the video below, which provides an excellent scenario for GE's practices around visual storytelling. Director of Global Content and Programming Katrina Craigwell explains why a global B2B organization cares so much about creating a visually compelling brand experience not just for the decision makers who purchase their products but the networks that surround them.

 While the chances are you won't have the budget like GE. Instead, think about GE's approach, practice and management of the visual storytelling process. G.E. 

Please read the case study below. The video efforts of manufacturer BlendTec gave the company a huge return-on-investment in terms of its worldwide brand recognition and sales. There are a number of things that can be learned from this case about ways to run and maintain a successful video campaign.

Briggs, C. 2009. BlendTec Will It Blend? Viral Video Case Study, Social Lens.


You will find a link to a visual storytelling guide below. Please read the guide, answering the questions contained throughout the guide. The guide also provides ideas you can use to plan every aspect of your visual content production process. You should replicate the templates and use them for your own visual content production process. As part of the process of planning your visual content, we strongly urge you to include additional information such as:

  1. Identifying the persona(s) your content has been produced for;
  2. The keywords you will use for each piece of visual content;
  3. Identifying where in the customer journey the content will be used - including the question/problem/issue/aspiration that piece of content answers; and
  4. Identifying the relevant mico moment that piece of content has been produced to answer.

Please read: Visual Storytelling: A Guide to the Production Process, Children's Bureau, 2014.

Please be thorough in your answers when completing this activity. This scenario activity also doubles as your template activity for this session.

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Video Production

This JISC infokit is intended as a comprehensive guide to the production of videos.  While it is aimed at researchers and teaching staff, it is an excellent guide to anyone who is a novice video producer.  It looks at equipment, the production process and delivery, and attempts to highlight common problems and pitfalls that a video maker may encounter.  Theory is only discussed insofar as it illustrates good practice in making videos. 

Video Production Infokit, Jisc Digital Media


Digital 3D Content

For the more adventurous, digital 3D content is essentially a set of instructions, interpreted by a computer and displayed as an object which appears to have length, breadth and depth. Using sophisticated computing technologies, models can look 'photorealistic' – i.e. visually identical to real world objects. The technology is widespread and is used in video games, architectural visualisations, movies and by industrial designers.

Digital 3D Content Infokit, Jisc Digital Media

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Free Visual Storytelling Tools

  1. Bubblr
    Bubblr is a tool to create comic strips using photos from Begin searching images and add bubble to them.
  2. Capzles
    Create rich multimedia experiences with videos, photos, music, blogs and documents.
  3. Cartoonist
    Cartoonists is an online tool to create cartoons or visual stories, consisting of professional backgrounds, characters, props, images and text. With Cartoonist, you can create multimedia stories. You can use the tool to create comic strips or more personal digital narratives.
  4. Comic Master
    Take your eBook to the next level by creating a branded short graphic novel style eBook. With Comic Master you can decide how you want the page or your graphic novel to look, add backgrounds, choose characters and props to appear in your scenes, add dialogue and captions, and much more
  5. Generator
    Generator is a creative studio space, a space where you can explore the moving image, be inspired, create your own moving image works. Try the Storyboard Generator and either choose a script or build your own storyboard.
  6. MakeBeliefsComix
    At MakeBeliefsComix you can create your own comic strip with an easy and fun way. You have to choose a character and emotion. Then you have to add talk or thought balloons and start your character talking. You can add other characters and more conversation. You can also add backgrounds, objects and panel prompts to keep your viewers interested. You can continue to edit and make more changes, and when you are done you can print or email your comic.
  7. MapSkip
    The purpose of is to create a weave of stories about the places in our lives. Users are invited to create a free account and to mark up places in Google Maps with their own stories and photos. Users can browse each other's stories and can rate and discuss them. This works equally well for user-generated content.
  8. PicLits is a creative writing site that matches beautiful images with carefully selected keywords in order to inspire you. The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture.
  9. Pixton
    Communicate graphically with comics. Pixton uses Click-n-Drag Comics™, a new technology that gives anyone the power to create amazing comics on the web. From fully posable characters to dynamic panels, props, and speech bubbles, every aspect of a comic can be controlled in an intuitive click-n-drag motion. 
  10. Powtoon
    This do-it-yourself tool lets you create animated videos that can serve as product demos or explain your product or service. The site is popular for its intuitive interface, which guides you through each step of creating your video. The free version comes with a watermark, but watermark-free versions start at $18 per export when a minimum of five exports are purchased. Free plans allow for videos of up to five minutes in non-HD quality with no download allowed.
  11. Screenr
    For businesses that can demonstrate a product or service on a computer, Screenr is a great option. The free software records your screen and provides a link that can be shared on social media or websites. For ongoing content marketing, a business could record quick tips and share them on a regular basis on social media, giving customers a reason to keep clicking over. This solution is ideal for software and app development companies or businesses that are trying to promote an app for its products or services.
  12. Slidestory
    Combine sharing pictures and narration and what do you get? Slidestory! Slidestory is a new way to make presentations and share them on the Internet.
  13. Smilebox
    Smilebox lets you quickly and easily create slideshows, invitations, greetings, collages, scrapbooks and photo albums right on your computer. To get started, download and install the Smilebox application. Then simply, select the photos you want to use, choose a template add comments and music and voila, you've made a Smilebox! 
  14. Storybird
    Storybird lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. Storyboard curates artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspire writers to turn those images into fresh stories.
  15. ZooBurst
    ZooBurst is a digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D pop-up books. Using ZooBurst, storytellers can create their own rich worlds in which their stories can come to life. ZooBurst books “live” online and can be experienced on a desktop or laptop computer, or on an iPad via the free ZooBurst mobile app. Authors can arrange characters and props within a 3D world that can be customized using uploaded artwork or items found in a built-in database of over 10,000 free images and materials. 

Free apps for digital storytelling

  1. Puppet Pals
    Create your own unique shows with animation and audio in real time. Simply pick out your actors and backdrops, drag them on to the stage, and tap record. Your movements and audio will be recorded in real time for playback later.This app is as fun as your own creativity. 
  2. ShowMe Interactive Whiteboard
    Turn your iPad into your personal interactive whiteboard. ShowMe allows you to record voice-over whiteboard tutorials and share them online. It’s an amazingly simple app.
  3. Sock Puppets
    Sock Puppets lets you create your own lip-synched videos and share them on Facebook and YouTube. Add Puppets, props, scenery, and backgrounds and start creating. Hit the record button and the puppets automatically lip-synch to your voice.
  4. Stupeflix
    Stupeflix is designed to pull your videos, online content, presentations, and other media into one place, creating a video that tells a story. The free app is more of a slideshow creation tool than a video maker, but videos can be easily exported to YouTube from the app. You can use audio and sound effects that are preloaded into the app or upload your own.
  5. Wideo
    Wideo promises to you’ll not only find its tool easy but fun, as well. The app comes with a selection of templates that can be customized to deliver your message or you can create one from scratch. You can pull your own logos and graphics into the video you’re creating to make it seem as though you paid a professional to put it together. A lite version with limited features allows you to create videos of up to 45 seconds for free.
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The Reading Room for this session provides carefully selected resources for you to further explore content marketing concepts, elements, issues and practice.

Adaval, R. & Wyer, R. S. 1998. The role of narratives in consumer information processing, Journal of Consumer Psychology, 3, 207–245.

Analyzing the ROI of Video Marketing, Aberdeen Group, January 2014.

Escalas, J. E. 2004. Narrative processing: Building consumer connections to brandsJournal of Consumer Psychology, 14, 168–180.

Jung, C. G. 1959. The archetypes and the collective unconscious. In H. Read, M. Fordham, & G. Adler (Eds.), Collected works, Vol. 9, Part 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Originally published 1916.)

Laing, J. H. & Crouch, G. I. 2009. Myth, adventure and fantasy at the frontier: Metaphors and imagery behind an extraordinary travel experience. International Journal of Tourism Research, 11, 127–141.

Lee, K. 2014. A Complete Guide to Creating Awesome Visual Content: The Science, Tools and Strategy of Creating Killer Images Comments Feed, Buffer Social

Mark, M. & Pearson, C. S. 2001. The hero and the outlaw: Building extraordinary brands through the power of archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Padgett, D. & Allen, D. 1997. Communicating experiences: A narrative approach to creating service brand image. Journal of Advertising, 26, 49–62.

Video: The New ROI Star of Marketing - How new data and tools are empowering marketers to drive results with video content, Demand Gen

Woodside, A. G. 2010. Brand–Consumer Storytelling Theory and Research: Introduction to a Psychology & Marketing Special IssuePsychology & Marketing, Vol. 27(6): 531–540 (June 2010).

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