The Dead Pixels Society podcast

Mastering the Power of Visual Narratives, with Caroline Petersen

October 26, 2023 Gary Pageau Season 4 Episode 138
The Dead Pixels Society podcast
Mastering the Power of Visual Narratives, with Caroline Petersen
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Ever wondered how visual storytelling can capture your audience's attention in an impactful way? Caroline Petersen, the creative force behind Gallery Design Studio and eShelf, joins Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society to demonstrate the intricacies of this form of marketing. She delves into the power of visual storytelling - a captivating sequence of events that can connect with customers both emotionally and informatively. Filled with real-life examples, Petersen's insights help us understand the significance of maintaining consistency across platforms and how case studies can effectively kick-start your storytelling journey.

Moving forward, we explore the exciting world of AI in creative marketing. Uncover how artificial intelligence can streamline your processes, generate innovative ideas, and elevate your digital campaigns. While infographics can be a great tool, they come with their own set of challenges. We'll guide you on how to leverage them effectively and measure the success of your digital campaigns. Petersen also introduces eShelf, a digital asset management solution designed to streamline creative operations. 

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Hosted and produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning

Erin Manning:

Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, gary Peugeot. The Dead Pixel Society podcast is brought to you by MediaClip, advertek Printing and IP Labs.

Gary Pageau:

Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast. I'm your host, gary Peugeot, and today we're joined by Caroline Peterson, the founder and chief design officer of Gallery Design Studio and founder of E-Shell. She's coming to us today from the Metro New York area. Hi, caroline, how are you today?

Caroline Petersen:

Hi Gary, how are you?

Gary Pageau:

I'm doing great. First tell us a little bit about your background as the founder of Graphic Design Studio.

Caroline Petersen:

Yes, so I'm the founder and chief design officer at Gallery Design Studio. It's a creative agency specialized in serving B2B technology companies, so essentially, our job is to simplify complex technology with visually engaging content. So I've been running this business for about eight plus years now, and prior to that I worked at a publishing firm in London, and so, yeah, I've just been building the business from the ground up.

Gary Pageau:

So when you talk about visual storytelling, what do you mean by that? Because we're kind of awash in visuals, now that's sort of that's a culture and in marketing, but there's visuals that are just decorations and there's visuals that tell stories. What do you mean?

Caroline Petersen:

by that? That's a great question, I think, specifically for what we do, it's really before we even start designing and conceptualizing, writing any sort of copy. It's really what matters to our clients, clients and audience that they're trying to target. So it's really what are their needs, what are their pains, what does their better day look like? And so from that base, we kind of reverse engineer the copy, the design and even the format that we choose.

Caroline Petersen:

And for us, really, design and visual storytelling is a sequence of events. It's not like this one post, like social media post you have a video and that's it. No, it's really how can you bring people from awareness to conversion and making them ultimately a client? By slowly sort of planting the seeds with valuable content pieces. And our secret source is because content can take a variety of forms. Our secret source lies heavily on the visual aspect. So instead of having, for example, a long blog post which we do, but really how we stand out is taking that long form copy and designing it into a nice report, for example, or a sequence of social media posts.

Gary Pageau:

Now storytelling itself is sort of the vogue marketing thing, in terms of you want to connect with the customer on an emotional level and informational level in a lot of different ways, more talking about the benefits rather than the features of different things, for example. That can be a challenge for a lot of people, to be honest, because most people don't understand storytelling as a skill. It's not something you just naturally do. You naturally can interpret stories. You can always naturally tell stories. What are some of the things someone needs to do when they need to evaluate their strategy if they want to engage in visual storytelling specifically for their business?

Caroline Petersen:

I mean, look, there is probably there's a lot of answers out there and I'm not pretending here to say that this is the only answer, but I think Well, no, you're the expert, you are the expert.

Caroline Petersen:

I think an easy way to think about this is through examples. So in our case, for example, a lot of our clients are selling software and it's like, like you said, promoting a lot of features. This is like we see this heavily, like, well, we do this and our software is real time and we do that, and blah, blah, blah, whereas if you put it, that's OK in an example, just taking the same idea but just humanizing it and saying, okay, well, paul woke up this morning, signed into our software and he experienced XYZ. And then you know, like um Donald Miller says, you also can incorporate starly storytelling elements.

Caroline Petersen:

So, for example, we have the character which would be Paul in this case, then you can have a villain right, which, in our case, the villain might not necessarily be a person, it could just be a process. A process that is so time consuming and manual that is just hindering your productivity and work, right? So we? We did an example for a client, and it was well. Paul wakes up in the morning, he uses this, and since he's been using a software, he's able to go back home and have dinner with his family, and so that resonates because that's a real life. You can empathize with that. You can relate to that right as opposed to this. Software helps you streamline your operations, like why would I care? Right? What's it for me?

Erin Manning:

Right.

Caroline Petersen:

It's just really the simplest way is just doing an example with a real person. That that's an easy way of doing it.

Gary Pageau:

Because, like in the photographic industry, the output industry which we were talking about before, you know, a lot of the merchandising is not really storytelling. It's, you know we're. It's great how we can put the picture of the intended product on a mug in a preview, but it's not really telling a story. It's not really showing how you're going to feel when you gift that to somebody, for example. Or you know how they're going to feel looking every day at their grandchild on their coffee mug every day, right? So that's the step that needs to be taken. Is what I'm saying.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, 100%, and I think you know, just going back into a tangible deliverable of how you can see storytelling, I think case studies are a great way of a great start to start storytelling, because you're telling the story of your client.

Gary Pageau:

That's a great start, one of the things also that I think marketers struggle with, and especially the small business owners, who are my audience. Right is consistency across platforms. Right, they may do an Instagram post, they may do an in source signage, they may do, you know, videos or reels or whatever, and they don't really. They want to be trendy, but they also, but that can lead to consistency.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, and this is something that, honestly, even with larger firms we see. We see a lot of our clients also be, you know, sometimes inconsistent, and the name of the game is consistency is quality and not going to have a strong brand right, just doing ad hoc pieces.

Caroline Petersen:

So the strategy that we and this is continuously developing in our agency, but you know you have to strike that balance of quality, consistency and speed, because, unfortunately, speed is a factor you do need to be, you know, continuously reminding your audience about your existence and the value you provide and how you can serve them, but at the same time, you don't want to be pumping out mediocrity.

Caroline Petersen:

So, because you have to be very careful with your messaging, if it's resonating with your market, if the imagery you're using is is making sense, right. So I think one strategy that's worked, you know, that served us quite well, is looking at content marketing with what we call signature pieces. So really, you know sitting down and thinking, okay, what would be a piece of content that would really move the needle for my business? So an example you know it depends on the stage of your business, but let's just say, for example, you know, a white paper to really showcase your expertise in the industry, right, that's what we would call a signature piece. Or maybe it's an explainer video, a two minute explainer video about your product or service.

Caroline Petersen:

That's a great starting point. Focus all your energy on that needle moving piece. It could also be your website, if that's bringing traffic right, whatever it is that you think is going to bring you more traffic. And then, once you have that signature content piece, extract my pro content pieces from that. So similar how you know from this podcast, for example, you could extract snippets of you know Quotes and good insights right. Similarly you would do with video and white paper copy and you know content assets. So it's really planning in advance what you're going to extract from that good piece of content, as opposed to scrambling and do because you're going to be wasting your time and it's a lot of wasted energy.

Gary Pageau:

Now can you talk a little bit about repetition here, because one of the things that I think a lot of people struggle with and small business marketing is you know and say they do a A campaign right, or they're coming in, I want to promote holiday cards because it's the holiday season and all that, and they do it and they don't, and they don't really Consider how often it that needs to be seen by the customer before they engage. So is there a rule of thumb on repetition or Putting things in front of people, maybe in a different way, with the same message is there? You know, how does that work? How do you make a decision? How often you run things?

Caroline Petersen:

So I have a saying that you know, create once, distribute 10 times, okay. And so, for example, you know we do most of our designs in Figma, so, which is a design software, and what we will typically do is we have one designer, we will do 10, 20 variations. Very similar, you know, like following our look and feel or clients look and feel, but doing a lot of different variations and then just posting that and that goes back again to those micro content pieces.

Caroline Petersen:

they're also good Variations of that big thing that you did right. It's a different way, which then will link back to that right, but it's just a different way of portraying the same thing you don't want to be starting from scratch. Repurposing Is the name of the game and that's okay, right, I mean it's okay to go back and revisit things, can you?

Gary Pageau:

I mean what? How often can you go back to like older content? Is there a way to refresh that?

Caroline Petersen:

Absolutely, if it's relevant, if it's still relevant, absolutely, and sometimes it just requires a coffee tweak. And you know, you just run with it, update, look and feel you might. You know your brand colors might have changed, so you can, but you don't have to be starting from scratch all the time.

Gary Pageau:

Because I think that is one of the things that a lot of small businesses run with. Right is either they don't do much because they're you know it's. It can be an overwhelming thing unless they have service like yours, or partnership like yours, or an outside agency or an in house agency to constantly be turning this. They'd rather not do it right. It's just like okay, you know this, throw the logo out there, I'll do some blog posts, I'll do some stuff, but you know I'll do some stuff, I'll do some blog posts, I'll do some stuff, but you know I. There's no strategy involved.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, I think honestly, whatever you do, even if you don't have the big budget to hire creative agency or have a freelancer help you out, I think, whatever you do, do it consistently, even if it's not, let's say, the best design, but if you have it's again, that distribution is also a key component. You need to get in front of those eyeballs. The consistency is not just visual, but it's also like how consistently are you going out and distributing your content?

Gary Pageau:

And you've got crazy tools out there now for this stuff. I mean, you mentioned Figma, there's Canva, there's Vis me, there's all kinds of tools out there that are out there to do this stuff and reformat campaigns to different platforms and things like that. So it's really easier than ever to do this.

Caroline Petersen:

I mean, I think that's debatable. I think just because the tool might be easy, like canva. Canva is a great tool for non professionals, but you still have to go in the tool and manipulate the image. That you know. Ai generating a lot there still needs to be some level of human interaction, and every time you log into the application that's, you know it's work, someone has to do it and someone has to do it consistently, right? Yeah, yeah, yeah well.

Gary Pageau:

I was really talking about the AI stuff specifically, but I was just saying that. You know. You know, for most casual people, we are opening a Photoshop and resizing and getting into Adobe Premiere to cut a short video is more than they want to deal with. But you just mentioned AI, which is an interesting topic in and of itself because it's very trendy right now and, especially in terms of marketing. There seems to be a lot of it. You know, whether it's in the text world with chat, gpt, and now with Adobe's announcements. Now with what they're doing, you know they're putting it in their platform. What are your thoughts on AI as a, as a part of the creative marketing tool set?

Caroline Petersen:

I think it's what you say. It's a tool. I don't think it eliminates the human creativity and need. It's a tool. Like Figma is a tool, like Photoshop is a tool.

Gary Pageau:

But on the other hand, it's funny and interesting because I think this is just sort of like you know it's new, it's interesting, and so there's a lot of people perceive it as either a threat or a competition or replacement, which isn't, I agree, isn't gonna happen, because you know photographers. When Photoshop first came into the marketplace, you know it didn't replace photographers, it was just a tool for photographers to learn how to use.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, absolutely, I think it will definitely. I mean, we leverage AI all the time within our agency and it's definitely helped streamline a lot of things. You get a lot of great ideas. Going back to the storytelling, it can. We just drafted a script that was sort of like in that character mode, so it definitely gives you a leg up in speeding things up. But yeah, it does also require heavy human proofing and quality assurance as well.

Gary Pageau:

Yeah, that's for sure. There's some really. I mean, obviously it's funny. You can look at blog posts now or social media posts and you can spot the AI. I mean, it's almost a game, totally, totally. So you didn't have a human look at this before you posted it. It's very, very clear, and I've been guilty of that myself. Anyway, one of the things you talked about was infographics and things like that. That to me, I think it's sort of an untapped marketing tool for a lot of companies. Why do you think that is, and how can people get started, and what would be an example of a useful infographic?

Caroline Petersen:

I think and this is actually quite an interesting question when I first started the agency, a lot I would say 50% of our work was infographics, and then suddenly that took a dip and videos, explainer videos, product demo videos that became the thing and the main sort of focal point. But I think infographics are very powerful for several reasons, because you're really conveying some really key information all in sort of one at once and I think just having that bird's eye view of something is really really helpful. In terms of the challenges of why I think people don't leverage infographics, I think it's one. Maybe people are just not thinking about it. You're getting the data might be tough for some people. So let's say you want to do an industry report or you want to have something legitimate, you might have to outsource an external partner to do that research for you and that can be relatively expensive.

Caroline Petersen:

And then thirdly, from a design standpoint, if you want to have it tip top professional. That's also from all of the asset types that we do. Infographics are by far the most time consuming, I would say.

Gary Pageau:

Interesting because it's an example, because the objective of an infographic is to convey information simply.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, but the simpler it is, the harder it is to do, and that's what the big misunderstanding is.

Gary Pageau:

Yeah, I can imagine.

Caroline Petersen:

The simplicity is hard.

Gary Pageau:

So let's talk a little bit about conversion and getting people to engage with content because in a meaningful way, like in a way that will actually lead to sales. So I think that's one of the things that there can be a disconnect in marketing, where I've done all the stuff, but I've done the infographics, I've done the splinter videos, I've done the reels, I've done the instas and I followed my brand and I don't really have an objective or I don't know how to measure the metrics of what I'm creating, of the campaign. So what comes first? The objectives or the goal or the creative?

Caroline Petersen:

The objective and the goal. Before you get into any sort of creative, you need to sit down and think OK, what are we trying to do? What is going to move my business forward? What are the needle movers? Ok, it's the website. This is bringing us traffic. Let's double down on that and then measure how many visitors we have, how many clicks. Where do people drop off? And it doesn't have to be all this fancy marketing lingo, it can just literally be common sense, like if you're doing something, at the end of the day, it's about revenue, right? So what are the things that lead to that revenue? Your visitors, if your visitors ask for more information, and then that leads into a customer, right? So you don't even need to overcomplicate it.

Gary Pageau:

So what are some of the ways people can measure? Like you said, there's traffic, there's things, but are there other tools that people should be looking at to measure these metrics? Are there, like ROI, benchmarks for things like social media campaigns or website campaigns or email campaigns that are? You know, because that's where I think people struggle is like, you know, if they get a 3% clickthrough on their email campaign there, is that good, I don't know. Well, that's actually pretty good if you get 3%.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, so I think I mean I know you probably won't like this answer it depends. It depends on your industry. It depends.

Caroline Petersen:

For example, we're heavy B to B and so our open rate on our email campaigns is low. But you know, relatively speaking, within our niche, it's okay. So I think it depends A good I mean, it's not up to date, but a good way if you're completely starting from zero, as a small business is going into chat, gpt and saying, hey, for my business, my niche and a company of my size, what is a healthy benchmark? Now, of course, you're capped to 2021, but it's giving you a starting point.

Gary Pageau:

Sure, sure, that's it. I mean, I thought about using chat GPT for some of that. That's actually kind of interesting, because I would have gone to like just to Google. But what would be the advantage of a chat GPT for that?

Caroline Petersen:

just because it would be more of a well, I personally like the sort of natural language.

Gary Pageau:

That's what I mean. It's kind of more conversational, right.

Caroline Petersen:

Exactly, and I think it's a lot faster. As a business owner, you don't have a lot of time, so you need you need answers quickly.

Erin Manning:

And.

Caroline Petersen:

I think what it allows you to do is you can, you know, put in the prompt, ask the question, and if you need some nuanced variations, then you can continue chatting with it and you can get to those numbers at least, for to start with right.

Gary Pageau:

So you've also started this asset management system called e-shelf. How did that come about? I mean, you've been doing your design business and consulting business for about 10 years. Why would you take that on? And what is it and why would you take it on?

Caroline Petersen:

Well, trust me, I did try to find a solution, a pre-existing solution, but I didn't. So I got so frustrated that I thought this ends now.

Gary Pageau:

What were the needs? What were you looking for? Before you talk about what you built, what was the driving need? Because there's a lot of things that out there that proclaim to do what you need this to do.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, absolutely so. My initial need was I was getting very frustrated and it's not the client's fault, but I was getting very frustrated with them asking for creative links. So once we finish a video, once we finish an e-book design or a cheat sheet or all of the creative assets that we do, we would send those via Google Drive link or Dropbox link and it was great in the short run. But some clients we've done over 2,000 assets and they have people, different people in the company, right, you have change of employees and all of that stuff.

Caroline Petersen:

So what was happening was the newer employees didn't know the assets that we had created and to the point that we're claiming another agency did it, and that really bothered me the hot mess between oh, we can't find this asset, can you send me the link? And that was very manual, wasting a lot of hours and the other part, which is you know people at the firms that we work at because they're slightly larger. They just didn't know the assets that we created. So I was thinking well, wouldn't it be cool to have a digital asset manager that's simple, that's not extremely exorbitantly expensive like current solutions, and that, obviously, is beautiful?

Caroline Petersen:

and that you're displaying your assets in the most beautiful way possible, and so that's how eShelf came about. That's our minimum viable product, but you know, with that same idea we want to automate a lot of other manual tasks that creative agencies are facing.

Gary Pageau:

Yeah, because I mean you've got a CRM built into this, which is, I mean, honestly, I think every SaaS product seems to have a CRM built in. But I can see the application for the type you're saying because, like you said, a lot of the companies you work for they're junior people. They get promoted, they leave for another company and they take that knowledge and relationship about products with them.

Caroline Petersen:

That's right.

Gary Pageau:

It's a very fluid career. It's where there's a lot of movement between these companies.

Caroline Petersen:

Exactly, and we just always want to make sure that our agency gets the credit that it you know is very successful and also from a practical standpoint, that if down the line, you know three employees down the line in our clients firm, you know if they need source files. Right, because you know we're talking about back to the point of repurposing. You know if you want to repurpose something that was done before, where are those source files? That's another mess that people often forget. You know all of the things that it took to build the asset we have it very clean on eShelf.

Caroline Petersen:

We pair the end product, say the final video, with the after effect files. You can find that all grouped in one place.

Erin Manning:

It's nice and tidy.

Caroline Petersen:

So if three years down the line someone needs that, it's ready to go and there's no dropboxing or Google link to you know and they can do their version of it right If they need to update it.

Gary Pageau:

for example, like you said, they change the and they don't have to go back and ping the person at your place and say where's that file? Yeah, and it's also service from their standpoint. So so, what's so? How long has that been around? I mean, I mean, is it relatively new, or is this? I mean, was it something you were using internally and then you decided to turn into a product?

Caroline Petersen:

Correct. So we, we Gallery Design Studio was using eShelf since January 2022. As we started using it, we just our team realized that there were a lot of other manual things and a lot of things that our clients should have self service access to, such as reporting and, you know, time management if it's relevant for that client. There's a lot of different things. And also, when you're running a creative agency, similar to any honestly service business, there's a lot of different tools that you need to use.

Caroline Petersen:

So you have maybe project management tools, time tracking tools, you have all these bits and then it just becomes too much. So our ultimate goal is to consolidate a little bit of the tools that creative agencies are using. Honestly, we want to be like the quick books for creative operations, if that makes sense.

Gary Pageau:

Sure. So let's say, for example, I were to become a client of this and then I signed up for this, so does it look like it's coming from my company? So when my clients log in, it's branded that way.

Caroline Petersen:

Yes, we can do custom branding for our clients, our eShelf clients.

Gary Pageau:

Yeah, so it's not. I mean, eShelf is air quotes, but it's looking at yeah.

Caroline Petersen:

Correct, we put our logo at the bottom right. We do have to have some kind of that. The focal point is to support our clients so that they can get the best experience possible to their teams and their clients.

Gary Pageau:

That is our ultimate goal. Well, that sounds pretty cool. I mean, I just think from somebody who's worked with creative agency I know that's a big issue. Right, because when you do have people moving around within a company or turnover issues or things like that, it's always it's locked in. That person can't really take the stuff with them either. Right, because they lose access.

Caroline Petersen:

Correct.

Gary Pageau:

So that's from a, from a from an IP standpoint. That seems like it's pretty desirable.

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah.

Gary Pageau:

So one of the big challenges with marketing is the entire measurement aspect of it. You know figuring out okay, if I spend this much, my return on investment will be that much. How do you measure the effectiveness and the value of content marketing?

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah. So I think you know my approach is a little bit unique in the sense that, yes, you need to be measuring quantitative data. So, for example, what are your website visits? Or, you know, your landing page visits? What is your click through rate? How many impressions are you getting on your social media posts? And really just keeping track of that week over week, month over month, so that you can course correct? I think that's absolutely critical. But there's another aspect that I think a lot of people undermine and it's the qualitative aspect of the value of content. And you know just great marketing and brand visuals, right? So, for example, we had a very good client of ours and we absolutely love working with him.

Caroline Petersen:

And he told us look, thanks to your great creative and content, you gave me the confidence to pitch to bigger and better clients.

Gary Pageau:

Okay.

Caroline Petersen:

And so it's like how do you put a price on that Confidence, right? I mean, that's confidence can get you to a lot of places. So I think it's yes look at the numbers, but also make sure that, as you grow your business, set some investment like some money aside to invest in your marketing and your branding, because this is an asset and this is something that is not only going to build your business, but you as a person.

Gary Pageau:

Yeah, because that's something where I think people, when you look at, like, your balance sheet, right, you know, like you said, that's an asset, right, that you can grow and develop and, as your presence in the marketplace grows, right, that has more value to do different things, even if you're, you know, a retail store who's you know, selling a product, but you've got a long history in the marketplace and you've served your people, your customers, well and that is something that builds up over time 100%, and it's also closely tied to first impressions, right.

Caroline Petersen:

How will the new market that you want to address? How are they perceiving you? And it's very difficult to rectify that first impression. So every single touch point matters. Now, obviously, when you're a small business, you can't boil the ocean, but you know, just keeping it in mind that as you grow, trying to do your best, to show your best in every single touch point.

Gary Pageau:

Cool. So where can someone go for more information about your two companies? You've got two companies. Talk about both of all. How can people get more information?

Caroline Petersen:

Yeah, sure. So if you want to find out more about our creative agency, we have a ton of free resources. So even if you know it's not a relevant service for you, I highly recommend you guys check us out, follow us and that's at gallerydesignsstudiocom. And then for our new software that now it's finally going to be deployed to the wider public, not just us. You can learn more at e-shelfio. So currently we have a wait list, but we will soon be launching, so stay tuned.

Gary Pageau:

Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time and expertise. I've learned a lot and best wishes for continued growth of both companies.

Caroline Petersen:

Thank you so much, Gary.

Erin Manning:

Thank you for listening to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at wwwthedpixelssocietycom.

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