Show and Demonstrate, Forget the Tell

Sometimes marketing reminds me of rap with brands bragging about themselves and their wares. As we move into the visual age of marketing, there will be little tolerance for those who posture and pontificate, telling people what to experience rather than showing them.

Marketers need to show people what a product or experience does for them. Increasingly customers only pay attention to stories told with visual media and through their actual product experience.

Consider last weekend’s holiday. I can’t tell people to remember deceased veterans on memorial day. I have to show them that the ultimate sacrifice was made by real people, the losses their families have suffered, the great freedom they have provided us, etc.


The above photographs from Memorial Day both received several thousand views via my personal networks. Why? They were dramatic and timely, showing the Korean and Vietname memorials late at night with flowers lining them. The flowers with their patriotic plastic wrap highlighted the very real pain and remembrance of loved ones. Tens of thousands of men and women who died in action in those wars were remembered decades later.

Want to go corporate? Here are a few Instagram examples of brands (I was inspired by Thomas Hawk to search here) that nail it:

Whether it was clothes, food, or industrial wind turbines, each of these Instagram photos captured an experience of the brands’ respective products. You could see what its like to wear these clothes, take that first bite, or feel the wind create energy.

Show me, don’t tell me is a basic storytelling maxim. Good fiction writers (and I am not saying I am one of them) focus on revealing a story. A reader sees how each experience and event evolves the narrative. Emotion is not told, it is felt.

During the initial wave of social media, marketers were able to get away with simply telling their story. While telling was brand centric, but it was new and different, even unfiltered. So it worked for a short while.

With visual storytelling entering the online media mix in force, revealing stories and experiences is essential. Head-to-head, text-based marketing doesn’t stand a chance, particularly when it is focused on pontificating. Usefulness, entertaining, and yes, perhaps simply turning the eyeglass around to present information from the customer’s perspective are necessary methods now.

And what about those who tell people what their company thinks customers should do through text based updates, instead of showing them?

I’m afraid it’s about to get much tougher. The issue isn’t simply a lack of visualization. It is also the storytelling method.

What do you think?