Michael Jackson returned to the stage last month in May to dance to the beats of the song “Slave to the rhythm” from the recently released ‘XSCAPE’ album. A ‘virtual’ Michael Jackson took on the stage and set it on fire. He made it to the headlines across the globe. The general public, the fans, the music lovers, the media itself could just not stop talking about it.

Back in India, in May, another superstar used the same technology to address dozens of rallies in the remote towns all over the country. From Andhra Pradesh to Bihar, from Allahabad to Nainital, he addressed more than 800 such gatherings leaving the voters awe struck and mesmerized. Yes, that was Modi, who too like Michael Jackson used the ‘hologram’ technology to reach out to the maximum number of people and convince them to vote for BJP. Going by the results, it seems to have worked out fantastically well for both Michael and Modi.

1 (1)This technology is not new. Disney has been using it since 1969. Its most popular attractions at the Disneyland Park in New Orleans – Haunted Mansion – has been using this to spook visitors with the help of 999 ‘ghosts’ who make guests feel that they have entered a haunted ballroom.These projected images – be it of Modi or Michael or the ghosts-

2 (1)definitely take your breath away. They are sure-shot ways to awe and amaze your audience. The Dubai airport and many other airports have installed ‘virtual helpers’ which are nothing but holographic projections of staff members who help travellers and provide them information about how to handle security immigration etc. Not just are these avatars eye-catching, they are also the easiest staff to maintain – no lunch breaks, they work 24*7 and never ask for a salary!

3 (1)If you want to attract attention, you need to do something dramatically different from others. It’s an open secret, and yet not many put in the desired efforts to do so. Holographic projection is one such new-kid-on-the-block that can get you guaranteed attention. As marketers, we need to look at this option carefully and use it to the hilt while it’s still new. The world of entertainment seems to have understood the potential of this and those who have the funds are using it to create a buzz around their brand. The business world should also wake up and realize the enormous potential of this. Marketing is all about creating a buzz and standing apart from competition. Nothing works better and faster than a good image. If you are visually dramatic, the chance of getting attention is highest. Marketers today need to find ways to make their brand visually exciting.
All great brands have a great story around them which makes them enchanting and gives consumers a reason to discuss about them. Be it the way Levi’s started making its jeans, or how Google got its name, or how Infosys was started, or how Oprah braved poverty and abuse and made it big – the list goes on. A great story is one of the best ways to build a brand identity. However, as brand builders and marketers, we need to be aware that today the way stories are being told has changed. Years ago, we used to chat with friends around a table over coffee, or around the bonfire or in our living rooms, sharing stories and life experiences. ‘Sharing’ has a whole new meaning today. Thanks to technology, the coffee table, the bonfire, the living room have all been replaced by the smartphone. The camera and various apps now help us in ‘sharing’ our experiences instantly. Whether this is good or bad is worth debating, but the fact is this is the new world and as marketers, we need to change the way we share our brand stories with the consumers. Thanks to technology and sites like Pinterest, Vine, YouTube, the best way to reach the audience is through visual engagement.As marketers, we are not new to ‘visual engagement’. For years advertisements and logos have been the key factors in engaging audiences visually. However, marketing has moved way ahead of these traditional ways of advertising. Today, the new mantra is ‘sharing is marketing’. You need to make visually entertaining content which engages the consumers and encourages sharing on various platforms. Traditional media has been overtaken by digital players like Facebook, Google, YouTube etc and traditional advertising has been replaced with visual storytelling. Logos used to define a brand; today, unique themes and stories around that theme are defining brands. Look at GE! It posted a video on Vine with a heading “Do you know what happens when you combine milk, food coloring and dish soap?” The 6 second video clip ended up becoming GE’s most successful post.
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 Seeing the phenomenal response, GE started a full blown social-media campaign named ‘#6SecondScience’ asking users “How much science can you fit into six seconds?”. Users could upload their science experiments and also win gifts. ‘Cells inside your hand’, ‘Chemical properties of your daily cup of coffee’, and ‘lava lamp’ were some of the popular posts. With the help of the ‘6SecondScience’ series, GE has built a unique identity around itself. The videos are interesting and easily shareable, and just the right tool to help them accomplish their mission of getting young users interested in GE.

Ritz Carlton, on the other hand, used Instagram to tell its story through a giraffe who got lost on a family vacation. The Ritz is normally associated with ultra-luxury and this was a sharp deviation from that image. But the story was memorable and shareable and that’s what the brand wanted.

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And of course, the ‘Selfie’, which is the biggest thing on the digital world today. From Obama to Amitabh Bachchan, everybody is posting a ‘selfie’. A little-known South African retailer, Urban Hilton Weiner, used this trend to get people to walk into its showroom. Every visitor to the store who tweeted a selfie of themselves trying on some clothes of the retailer using the hashtag #urbanselfie got a $10 discount coupon. If their tweet became the most popular, they could win merchandise worth $1000 from the retailer.
The best part about visual storytelling or visual campaigning is that it has no restrictions. All that is required is being able to identify what is the key buzzword, and quickly building a strategy around it. No one could have nailed it better than Oreo. During the Super Bowl last year (2013), there was a power outage and for 34 minutes there was no light. Oreo jumped at the opportunity and tweeted a picture of its cookie which read “Power Out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark”. Today, nobody is just watching one screen. Along with TV, there is almost always another screen (mobile, laptop etc.) While many brands paid almost $4 million to run a spot during the Super Bowl on TV, Oreo got the most publicity without spending a penny.
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 Technology has changed the way we communicate, interact with each other, learn and understand things. Brands too need to realize this that the consumer of today interacts with a brand in a whole new way. The one who will be most successful will be the one who is most interesting, most dramatic and can think visually.
The world is a new place today and new skills are required to survive it. One of them is being visually literate. However, we remain a visually illiterate society. In future, the three Rs (arithmetic, reading and writing) will not be enough to do well in life. That was old school thought. Visual literacy or the ability to read, write, think, and solve problems visually will be one of the most essential requirements. As George Lucas, the very famous filmmaker said, “If students aren’t taught the language of sound and images, shouldn’t they be considered as illiterate as if they left college without being able to read or write?” He is absolutely correct. The world today is more visual than it has ever been. Cavemen used to communicate with drawings and pictures and we are almost doing the same. Most of our communication today is visual. Consider this:
✓Approximately 65 percent of the population are visual learners.
✓The brain processes visual information 60,000 faster than text.
✓90 percent of information that comes to the brain is visual.
✓40 percent of all nerve fibers connected to the brain are linked to the retina.
We are physically built to process visual information.Now consider this:
✓ On Facebook’s brand pages, the top 10 brands get most traffic from photos and videos.
✓ Facebook reached 100 million users in 4 years but Instagram did it faster.
✓ Photos posted on Pinterest are referring more traffic than Twitter, Google+ etc.Visuals are more convincing, more interesting and more effective. No wonder Barack Obama – the most well crafted brand of modern times – too joined Instagram in 2012. One of the best ways to build his brand and appeal.
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Visuals always make more impact than plain words.

In 1935, Dorothea Lange took a photograph of a migrant mother and her starving children in a farm in California during the Great Depression. The impact of the photograph was so enormous that the government was forced to rush food aid to the starving workers immediately. Visuals have power, and more so today. With everybody armed with a phone cum camera, visuals are the easiest way to communicate and share. So if you want your brand to be talked about, think visually, dramatize your brand’s presence, use technology, use great ideas and get people to share your thoughts. The future is definitely for the ones who can think and communicate visually.

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