Maybe it’s a cliché, but when it comes to communication, a picture really can be worth a thousand words. As a society, we are seeing a resurgence when it comes to visual communication, arguably lead through online content and social media. For evidence of this, just look at Snap Inc.’s recent IPO. With a market valuation of over $25billion, the company smashed past its already high expectations. Users and investors, particularly those from younger generations, are recognising the fast-paced communicative value of imagery, and the way they are communicating is changing to reflect that.

However, none of this is to say that visual communication is something new, just that it appears to be having something of a renaissance today. Arguably, the first forms of communication, and with it, storytelling, were visual. Think of the cave-paintings that mark some of the earliest traces of our ancestors or of the early pictographic qualities of hieroglyphic alphabets. There’s a reason humanity began with more straightforward, visual approaches, and we continue to see the benefits. Take road signs, for example. Your brain recognises them in around a quarter of a second while a single sentence of text requires at least 24x as long.

Studies suggest that our attention span lasts for around eight seconds, or, for reference, one second less than that of a goldfish. In terms of input, 90 percent of information the brain processes is visual while it is also estimated that 65% of the population are visual learners. Meanwhile, modern entertainment has also trained audiences to expect rapid change and a constant stream of new information. For example, compared to even 30 years ago, today’s action films are furiously paced - cutting between shots, telling multiple mini-stories simultaneously from multiple perspectives. Contrast this with films of the 1980s and the older movies appear slow, or worse - boring.

The lesson here for businesses and brands is that when communicating you need to offer visually exciting materials if you want to keep them truly engaged. For those working in sales and marketing, this is especially important, as engagement will drive conversions. As a tool, however, visual storytelling is much more powerful than simply a means of hitting targets. In terms of advertising, using visual storytelling consistently can allow a company to create emotional responses extremely quickly. Building a brand with uniform imagery will allow it to be instantly recognisable due to certain visual cues, which then opens up the opportunity to get more creative and complex in terms of emotional responses from viewers.

Furthermore, visual communication is largely language-agnostic. For global businesses, focusing on a visual approach, therefore, has a number of benefits. Not only will it allow them to communicate with new markets effectively, but it can also cut costs for translation, streamline communications internally and speed up management. The flexibility of a strong method of visual communication makes it an investment well worth making for businesses.

As we see consumer habits reflect a growing recognition of the power of visual communication, businesses should take note. Whether that’s for B2C, B2B or even internal messaging, the benefits are multifaceted. We are living in a time in which people expect rapidly changing imagery to stimulate their interest, yet that does not mean they cannot be engaged. Businesses should take some lessons from the past and apply them to the audience of today - the results may just leave you speechless.


By Csaba Faix, head of EMEA communications at Prezi

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