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The Pursuit of tangible: tools for thinking visually

The Pursuit of tangible: tools for thinking visually By Phil Stone
posted May 15 2018

I’m not a big fiction reader, but our oldest daughter has a voracious appetite. She consumed the “Harry Potter” series in record time and we watched all eight movies in order shortly after. On a road trip blitz from Nashville to Orlando last fall to watch her favorite team in the NWSL championship soccer match, we binge-listened (is that a thing?) to the last book in the series, “The Deathly Hallows,” in its entirety — 21 hours and 36 minutes of it. It was a fantastic trip. Her favorite team won and we had a memorable experience together. We were both struck by how different the film was from the book and how we imagined the characters and the scenes versus what David Yates imagined and captured on screen for us. I’m sure you’ve had a similar experience between a beloved novel and its screenplay. And in this is an important insight for marketers.

J.K. Rowling and other writers use the raw material of our imagination to connect us to the story. This is the writing craft—to invite the reader to fill in deliberate gaps and to craft their own versions of its characters and scenes. It is to make it personal. To translate the tangible (words on a page) to the intangible (visuals in our minds eye) that moves us. For marketers, our job is slightly different. We must create clarity in our buyers mind of the benefit of a product or service or brand that is an actual thing—not a work of fiction. For your buyers, your solution starts as fiction until it becomes real for reaching THEIR customers.

Bridging that gap of tangibility is especially acute for health tech and service companies looking to sell innovative, intangible solutions in the healthcare industry. Especially for offerings that don’t fit in the pre-existing box in your buyer’s mind, you have to create YOUR box and make it tangible. Show what’s in the box, what’s not in the box, and why our product fits the box — perfectly. That’s product marketing.

With our recent publication of Moving Beyond Disruption to Operative Innovation, we took a different approach to helping make our ideas tangible. Our challenge was: “How might we help our readers connect more quickly with their buyer’s reality.”

We created an illustration that helps make intangible elements of the written report more tangible, and you can download the guide today.

To develop impactful illustrated visuals, we offer three principles:

  1. Clarity is your goal, not artistry. In developing a visual, you want to keep it as simple as possible to tell the story without trying to make it perfect. At Revive, we create a lot of full production infographics, advertisements, marketing decks, and other creative assets for our client engagements. With this layout, we used a simpler approach modeled off of sketch notes type of illustration to provide just enough to tell the story. These type of drawings can be deployed more rapidly and be just as effective as full production work in certain situations.
  1. Visual thinking is a language. All drawings start with the basic building blocks of simple shapes that we learn in primary school. These shapes combine to make nouns. Simple people like the ones in our illustration interact with nouns to create verbs. Nouns and verbs together create stories. All language is symbolic and with visual thinking, your language forms the shared image across minds. Visuals combined with labeling and some text appeal to both sides of the brain and make the communication transfer more effective.
  1.  Developing a layout is an iterative process. The process of developing a visual design begins with a definition of the challenge followed by ideation around how to meet the challenge. From there, rapid prototyping is essential. Rapid prototyping for this challenge included some initial rough sketches of the key concepts we were trying to communicate with the report. The benefit of prototypes is that it is a tool to gather feedback from others for refinement. The iteration phase includes several rounds to narrow the best aspects of each iteration toward the final product. By and large your best idea is never your first, or yours alone.

An illustration in B2B marketing can help differentiate your product in the sea of digital content. Our brains are wired to notice contrast and a hand-drawn illustration stands out. An illustration feels more personal and because it is interesting and different, it invites a conversation. Which is exactly what we’re looking for in our product marketing and sales effort isn’t it?