The Power of Storytelling: Using Narrative to Sell Real Estate

In the world of real estate, illustration has an important role in education, marketing and awareness. It guides the architectural process, persuades the audience – and ultimately sells the product. But with such tall orders, how does an image or video stand above the noise? Which renderings leave an indelible mark, and which fade as fast as they are displayed?

As illustrators, we balance the demands of clients and the drive of our own artistry on a routine basis. As visualizers, we seek to paint a more complex picture. We depict stories and immerse the viewer; we portray a future state and draw emotion that energizes. These are lofty goals, but our artists understand that if we tell a story, we can succeed.

Why is storytelling so critical to the creative process, and how does it impact the final product? The answer lies in science. Studies have proven that stories can be used to activate other centers of the brain beyond the data processing that occurs while listening to facts. For example, hearing descriptors about the way something feels or tastes will ignite the sensory cortex. Hearing about movement will trigger the motor cortex.

An emotional response to a story also triggers the release of dopamine, which enables the listener to retain a story longer and with greater accuracy than a list of facts. In fact, stories are up to twenty-two times more memorable than facts. Studies have also demonstrated that stories are more powerful than facts in eliciting empathy, encouraging cooperation, persuading and creating an emotional response. In hearing a story, phenomena such as neural coupling and mirroring drive listeners to experience the same brain state as both the speaker and each other.  This, of course, has a critical impact on a speaker’s ability to persuade and engage. Stories are the clear winner over factual recitation.

How does this impact marketing? Studies have shown that most consumers prefer ads that tell a story. As for content, the brain processes images sixty times faster than words, and four times as many consumers prefer to watch a video about a product, rather than reading about it. When evaluating brands, consumers primarily use emotions rather than information. An emotional response to an ad has a far greater influence on intent to buy than an ad’s content.

Marketers should therefore identify the emotional drivers that buyers experience. By highlighting emotionally-driven, character-based stories, brands are more likely to persuade the target audience. Prioritizing images and video also enhances an ad’s impact.

Storytelling, however, is an art, and not all stories are created equal. Simple stories are more effective than complex ones, and content should inform and educate, not just entertain. When translating this to visualization, simplicity is best, and imagery should showcase features while also eliciting an emotional response.

Character-driven stories are more likely to persuade, and they are more memorable. This, too, has an impact on architectural illustration. The careful placement of people can sometimes create a more impactful, longer-lasting experience for the viewer.

Rather than listing attributes, stories that showcase problem-solving as a means of overcoming challenges have a greater impact. In real estate, this translates to a demonstration of benefits, not just features, and a focus on amenities that solve real-world problems.

While renderings, short films and even virtual reality are commonly used to market properties, the concept of storytelling translated through imagery is one that can elevate the efforts of architects, designers and developers. What are the key takeaways for real estate marketing?

    • Visualization that tells a story is a more effective means of selling real estate. By employing still images and video that depict a story and elicit emotion, agents, brokers and developers can persuade their audience and become memorable.
    • To do this, the client and artist must understand the needs of the intended audience and visually connect with these stakeholders.
    • Adding people to renderings often enhances the narrative. Images and films should focus on benefits, not features, and visualization should showcase amenities that solve real-world problems.

The use of video is a powerful tool in the creation of an emotional connection. To be impactful, artists should keep the message simple and ensure the product both informs and entertains.

As a studio, TILTPIXEL artists challenge themselves to think more broadly about a project’s intent. We strive to not just depict floorplans and aesthetic, but to drive an immersive experience for the client’s audience. Each step of the artistic process must be driven by this larger goal – from selecting the view to creating mood with lighting, to choosing people or perhaps shooting on a green screen, we are driven by an overarching drive to tell the story. With thoughtful storyboarding and a comprehensive consideration for narrative, skilled architectural illustrators can optimize real estate marketing efforts by creating a lasting, impactful impression on stakeholders.