Whether you’re a tried and true Coloradan with a passion for all things outdoors or a recent transplant to Denver who doesn’t even own a pair of hiking boots, chances are you’re familiar with Patagonia as a brand.
You’ve seen their ads, their billboards, or maybe just clicked around on their website because, hey, those fleeces look pretty damn comfy.
They’re one of the world’s strongest outdoor brands, and a lot of that is thanks to their successful use of an important tactic in advertising: visual storytelling.
We’re becoming more and more visually communicative every day as a society, and taking advantage of this from a marketing perspective can make or break the success of a campaign. That’s where visual storytelling comes in – it makes your story more exciting, which makes people more likely to engage. Not to mention, it can reinforce the brand attributes you want to highlight.
So, what exactly are the how-tos?
Show, Don’t Tell
First of all, you want to remember that the whole point of visual storytelling as a tactic is to show your audience who you are, not tell them. Let your visuals speak for themselves. This is one case where the old saying “A picture is worth a thousand words,” is definitely true.
Patagonia is great at this. Every aspect of their brand image is communicated clearly through the visuals that they employ to tell their stories. Each image on their website, in their catalogs and advertisements, and even featured on their social media feeds shows real people enjoying the outdoors, trekking snow-covered mountains, mountain biking through the forest, and showing off their adventurous side.
Additionally, the people in their ads don’t look like models, they look like they might have actually just stepped off the trail. Every piece of their marketing plan highlights the same commitment to quality and a passion for the wilder side of life.
Keep in mind the principles of visual hierarchy and user experience. The pieces of information that are most vital to the story you’re trying to tell should live at the top of your ad or webpage, and they should also take up the most space. Refer to the ad below, for instance. The juxtaposition of the text in the top left, the people in the bottom right and the way that they gaze out over the landscape tells you exactly how Patagonia wanted you to interact with this ad.
Another way to help your users along is to use some simple psychology to your advantage. The color scheme you choose to use can contribute to your story in a ton of different ways. Take a look at the Patagonia logo – it’s simple, but the mountain design perfectly symbolizes the company. The different shades of blue, purple and orange represent a sunset over the horizon, again tying back to the nature-centered elements of the brand.
Even if you’re not “outdoorsy” by nature, you’re aware of the brand. You probably even own one of their products. They’ve managed to gain a place in the mind of even the most urban of consumers, one who might throw on a windbreaker as more of a fashion statement than a functional garment.
From Story to Campaign
Patagonia even managed to take this strategy and transform it into a completely fleshed-out campaign. The Worn Wear campaign featured a branded wagon that drove around the country repairing old garments, hosting DIY workshops, and further proving that Patagonia is accessible, community-oriented, and plugged into what their customers want.
By focusing on values and spreading the word via popular social media sites like Instagram and Tumblr, Patagonia managed to turn an advertising campaign into a public image boost, bolstering their already loyal community of fans.
While you might not have the budget to take a cross-country road trip, if you listen in to what makes your brand unique and what keeps your customers coming back, any advertising agency can easily translate those attributes into a simple visual profile that will allow you to tell your story on your own terms.