The power of visual imagery is no secret, it’s been known for centuries. In fact, it’s been nearly 200 years since playwright Henrik Ibsen coined the phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Not that I ever doubted him, but as it turns out Ibsen was on to something. A recent study by the University of Minnesota found that visuals are processed by the brain 60 thousand times faster than any other content type.
No surprise then that visuals have played such an important role in advertising and marketing since the dawn of the original ad man. As technology has evolved, so has visual marketing – both in how visual content is created and how it is published.
Businesses used to rely on print to convey their marketing messages in newspapers, magazines, and billboards. Then came TV and the birth of the 30-second TV advertisement. Now, in 2020, visual marketing is all of those things and so much more.
Visual marketing in 2020
So what does visual marketing look like in 2020? This is heavily influenced by how audiences view media. Let’s focus on online media – toward the end of last year, 56% of all website traffic worldwide was generated through mobile phones. A percentage that is growing by the day. Also, a whopping 4 billion people worldwide now watch videos on their phones. And 3.5 billion people use their smartphones to view their social media feeds. In 2020 visual marketing very much tapped into these trends.
Brands are creating visual content that appeals to the smartphone-loving masses. Video is the number one visual marketing medium at the moment. That’s no surprise given that hundreds of millions of hours of video are watched daily online. Not only on YouTube but on the likes of Facebook and Instagram too.
Thanks to the crossover between eCommerce and social media the shoppable post is now a reality. Taking visual marketing to a new high. Shoppable posts allow social media users to click on an image of a product and buy it without ever leaving the social media site. Popular on Pinterest and Instagram, shoppable posts are pushing buyers through the marketing funnel like never before. Speeding up the rate of conversion for brands in fashion, lifestyle, homeware, health, music, and more.
While shoppable posts are helping with sales, the versatility of social media stories is helping brands reach more people in a fun and interactive way. That increases engagement and drives traffic toward brand websites. Easy to use and inexpensive to create, stories are a visual tool that has been embraced by international and Irish brands alike. National Geographic, Airbnb, Irish Country Magazine, and Brennan’s Bread are just a few of the brands to take inspiration from.
The benefits of visual marketing for brands
We live in an age where content of all types is being created and uploaded to the internet every day. An astonishing 1.7MB of data is created every second by every person. How then can a business cut through the noise to grow a brand? One of the keys to cutting through the noise is visual marketing.
Visual Marketing cuts through the noise
This kind of marketing catches the eye and, as we now know, visuals are processed faster. As a result, posts with images have been proven again and again to increase engagement on multiple platforms.
Consumers get light relief from visual marketing. Be it a single image, a short video, an infographic, or a slide show, the consumer requires less focus to absorb the message it portrays than they would an article, or a podcast ( with graphics ), or a long-form text post. Don’t get me wrong though, these content types still definitely have their place.
Proper marketing with visuals sets your brand apart
It does not have to be complicated. The simplest image used wisely as part of your digital marketing strategy can boost awareness for your brand. Setting you apart from the crowd.
UK sports apparel company Gymshark is a great example of this. Since the brand was launched (by a 19-year-old in a garage no less) in 2012, it has made good use of social media channels including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin to help grow Gymshark from an enthusiastic startup to a billion-pound brand.
Gymshark’s visual content is, for the most part, simple. They use a mix of fitness influencers and ordinary people photographed wearing Gymshark clothing. Mixed into this are uncomplicated graphics with motivating and helpful content.
Occasionally, Gymshark uses only a screenshot of one of their own Twitter posts as a visual for their other channels. The results speak for themselves. Aside from its fiscal success, Gymshark boasts millions of followers on each of its channels with consistent engagement on its content.
The takeaways from Gymshark’s visual marketing success are don’t overcomplicate and always use visuals that reflect the quality of your brand. Poor photography and amateurish graphics will do more damage to a brand than using no visuals at all.
Inbound marketing is boosted by visuals
A common error made by businesses and brands online is that they expect that one piece of well-curated content will spark a viral reaction as soon as it’s posted. I’m afraid this is rarely the case.
You could spend hours on a well-thought-out blog post, spend a chunk of your budget on commissioning research or put blood sweat, and tears into an Oscar-worthy video and still get little to no engagement.
But why? Well, if what you have produced is as good as you think it is, then it has most likely failed to live up to your expectations because you have expected it to gain traction all by itself, when in fact you need to help it. Even the best content needs a nudge to gain traction.
Use visual marketing to boost the inbound traffic to your website or to where your newly created masterpiece is published.
Take the Netflix brand as an example. Each time a Netflix original film or series drops, or they add a fan favorite to the viewing options, the streaming giant could sit back and wait for its subscribers to discover the new film.
Yet they don’t. Instead, they use social media to tease their subscriber’s pre-release with snippets of film clips. They remind viewers to tune in by using powerful film stills and photographs of the famous cast members. Never do they assume that a film or series will market itself.
The takeaway from Netflix’s visual marketing. Don’t get complacent, even when your brand has skyrocketed. Use snippets of your masterpiece to drive traffic to the main show.
Visual marketing enhances your brand identity
I can’t say this enough, your brand is more than your logo.
Your brand identity is everything that makes your business unique. It’s your top-notch customer service, your quality products, your witty messaging, your store decor, the font on your business card, and the smell that greets customers when they visit your shop – all of these things and more create your brand. To create a cohesive, recognizable, brand you tie them together with consistency.
One of the ways you can enhance your brand identity and create consistency in your brand marketing is visual marketing. Use stylized templates for creating visual content with pre-planned layouts and specific color palettes. This will help your brand become one that can be easily identified.
A bridge in the gap between your brand and your audience could be visual marketing and building brand trust as a result. Use video to share behind-the-scenes moments that go into creating the brand so that your customers can get to know your brand better. Encourage your customers to create content of their own when they buy or use your product. Then make sure to reshare what they create on your channels for increased brand sentiment.
Done right, visual marketing can boost your brand and business success no end. Keep in mind what resources you have available and work together with your graphic designer, marketing pros, and stakeholders to create a plan for how you can work visual content into your existing plan.
If resources are tight, start small with relevant motivational quotes made into sharp-looking graphics or use stories to talk to your audience about your business. Take inspiration from brands that you love and most importantly, be consistent with quality and quantity.
About the author
This article was written by Martin Janos, project manager and digital marketing specialist from Webie – Web Desing Agency Ireland.