• Transform magazine
  • April 04, 2020


Five Minutes With Mike Sharpe

Mike Sharpe - Founder and Creative Director - Found Studio.jpg

Found Studio creative director and founder Mike Sharpe believes in the power of visual storytelling. Here he talks about the principles of storytelling and the advantages of film for brand development

What is the key to a powerful visual storytelling campaign?

Simplicity. The best visual storytelling conveys an idea and an emotion clearly, with only the bare essentials. This often means using bold imagery as metaphors, but it’s important to find the right level of ambiguity. In a short film you can afford to leave the audience guessing, but in a commercial piece, two plus two has to equal four. The audience should figure that out for themselves, but it’s important to lead them to the correct conclusion.

How can you implement the principles of storytelling in a visual campaign?

Good storytelling is all about empathy. The more your audience can relate to a character or a situation, the more powerful the story will be. The same is true with a visual campaign. If there is some sort of access point for the viewer, the campaign becomes much more relatable and thus more effective.

How can brands benefit from harnessing the power of visual storytelling?

Knowing your audience is key. To make a clear, relatable, and therefore powerful campaign it’s important to understand who your audience is. That way you can tailor things accordingly. Unlike a book or film, you only have the audience’s attention for an extremely limited time, so you have to communicate fast and effectively.

How has the approach to film branding changed in recent years?

Audiences are smart and they are also fickle. They don’t have time for content that interrupts rather than entertains and, on top of that, they can see through marketing spin. If people are going to engage with a piece of media and give anything more that 15 seconds of their time, it should be worth it and it should be honest.

Why do you think the Sainsbury’s and John Lewis Christmas campaigns gain so much traction every year?

The reason those campaigns are so successful is because they do all of the things I’ve mentioned. They relate to people with genuine scenarios but they add just the right amount of metaphor, to generate the right amount of intrigue, without being too ham-fisted about it. Whether it’s a penguin as a best friend, trampolining rodents or a monster under the bed, they use bold metaphors and treat the audience with respect. Not everyone will always like the end result, but they are always a talking point and that’s always a good thing.

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