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Which would you understand more easily – a block of text explaining how to tie a Double Windsor knot or a video showing you how to do it?
What about a list of dates and facts about the history of cryptography or an infographic with images representing each key milestone?
If you choose visuals over text, you understand the immense power of visual content marketing – how it efficiently communicates complex information in an accessible, engaging way and helps people retain that information.
In today’s fast-paced digital world, there’s so much information and so many distractions. Capturing your audience’s attention and ensuring they remember you becomes increasingly challenging.
But all isn’t lost if you embrace the power of visual content marketing.
What is visual content marketing?
Visual content marketing uses engaging visuals, such as photos, illustrations, videos, and infographics, to convey your brand’s message, captivate your audience, and promote your products or services.
By now, you’re probably familiar with the idea of gently introducing your ideal customers to your products and services via engaging content that provides value to them. This modern strain of marketing is aptly called content marketing, and the benefits of content marketing are widespread.
It can help increase brand awareness and trust, pre-qualify leads so you can focus your conversion budget for maximum ROI, reduce your advertising costs, and so much more.
As a highly effective branch of content marketing, visual content marketing isn’t just about sticking a few photos into your blog posts, emails, and social posts. When done properly, the visuals form part of the communication with the audience and provide value in and of themselves.
Visuals might explain a concept, provide examples, or attract the audience’s attention. Whatever the purpose, it always aims to contribute to achieving the brand’s goals.
Visual content marketing is an art, a science, and a strategy all rolled into one. It involves choosing the right kind of visual (a stunning photograph, an engaging video, or a clever infographic) and combining it with a compelling narrative.
A story that’s not only told but also shown. And an audience full of people who recognize and trust your brand.
The benefits of visual content marketing
Not convinced visual content marketing is for you, or perhaps uncertain if you could derive significant benefits from it? Here are some of the many benefits to be realized.
Catching and keeping attention
No matter who your audience is, they’re constantly bombarded with overwhelming information. There’s so much noise and way too many resources for your audience, who is unable to consume them all.
Attractive, clever, and informative visuals will help your content stand out and rise above that noise, capturing your audience’s attention. And once you have their attention, you can also strategically use compelling visuals to keep your audience engaged and moving through your content right to the end.
In short, visuals can allow you to catch your audience’s attention in a split second and hold it long enough to deliver your message effectively.
Simplifying complex messages
Sometimes, words alone just don’t cut it, especially when explaining complex ideas or data. But you know what they say – a picture is worth a thousand words. The thing is, visuals aren’t just great for condensing messages. They’re also excellent for simplifying them.
Visual content, like infographics or data visualization, can make it much easier for your audience to understand complicated concepts, helping them understand what you’re saying and making that message more memorable.
Take a table of data that constitutes the results of an industry survey. If you present that to your audience as is, they’ll see a bunch of numbers they have to interpret. They’ll have to identify patterns and elucidate meaning from the information.
If you show them a bar or column graph instead, they’ll instantly see the relationship between whatever’s on the axes and quickly understand the trends you’ve discovered. And later, when they think back on the topic, they will easily picture the graph.
That’s not the only way to simplify complex ideas.
There are way too many methods to list here, but another good example is mind mapping. A mind map is a fantastic method of quickly and easily showing how ideas are connected.
By transforming raw data and information into dynamic graphs or other colorful images, you’ll make your content more digestible and create a more impactful and lasting impression on your audience.
Stirring emotion and inspiring action
Visual content can evoke emotions and inspire action in ways that text alone may not.
Whether it’s a heartwarming video that tugs insistently at the heartstrings or a powerful image that sparks outrage, visuals can move your audience to the extremes of human emotional experience.
Yes, text can do that too — that’s why novels exist — but not as quickly. And when you need to get your message across before your audience loses focus, speed is of the essence.
By encouraging your audience to feel certain emotions, you can motivate them to take action. Humans are hardwired in such a way that emotion leads to action.
When people find something that makes them happy, they’ll share it with their friends to share that experience of joy. You can use that to your advantage by creating content that evokes an emotion in your audience so they share it with everyone they know.
There’s another thing eliciting emotion is great for–creating memories.
People are far more likely to remember things that made them feel something because content that evokes emotion activates the emotion-focussed amygdala and the hard drive that is the hippocampus at the same time. This helps the hippocampus store memories more effectively.
So, when you use engaging visuals that evoke strong emotions within your audience, you’re helping them build stronger memories of your content and your brand. In the future, when they think about topics related to your brand, a relevant memory will be right there, ready to surface and bring you back into focus.
By incorporating visual content into your marketing strategy, you increase the chances of your audience remembering your brand and the message you’re trying to convey.
Boosting SEO performance
Visual content isn’t just about engagement; it also plays a significant role in SEO.
Search engines like Google love fresh and unique content, including visuals. Using relevant images, videos, or infographics, along with optimized alt text, allows search engines to show your content on the image and video tabs within their search results, giving search engines another avenue to send you search traffic.
Visual content also allows you to be found in additional search engines. The best-known example of this is YouTube. Your audience can’t find you on YouTube if you never publish videos.
In short, visuals make your content more discoverable and increase online visibility.
Building brand recognition
Consistent use of on-brand visuals can help you establish your brand identity and give your audience a handy way to recognize your content.
Logos are one way to do this. For example, if you see a device with the Apple logo, you instantly know which brand made it. But logos are not the only way.
Think about the channels you like on YouTube or your favorite social media profiles. When scrolling through your feed, can you immediately tell when a thumbnail or post is from one of those brands? If so, what clues are there? Do they use a unique illustration style with a color palette you recognize?
By using a unique style, color scheme, or type of imagery across your content, you can build a strong and recognizable brand.
This helps maintain consistency across all marketing platforms, making your brand immediately identifiable to your audience no matter where they hang out.
How to craft a potent visual content strategy
A whole community of professionals is out there whose job is solely to create strategies for brands like yours.
So, it’s probably no surprise that a lot goes into developing an efficient, high-impact visual content marketing strategy. However, don’t be daunted.
Several core elements can allow you to leverage captivating visuals to easily hit your business targets.
Understand your audience
To conduct effective visual marketing campaigns, you must first get to know your target audience inside and out.
What are their interests, needs, and pain points? Where do they hang out? How do they communicate? What visual content resonates with them? Do they love data-packed infographics, or do emotive videos strike a chord with them?
Understanding your audience will help you craft visual content that appeals to them and gets them feeling the emotions you want them to feel, captures their attention, and persuades them to take action.
From here, you can plan out what content you’ll create for each platform you operate on.
Develop guidelines for creating high-quality, relevant visuals
Investing in creating high-quality images, infographics, videos, and other visual assets will be vital to your success. But quality isn’t just about aesthetics. It’s also about relevance.
Your visuals must match your brand, resonate with your audience, and support your messages. Regardless of whether you use in-house designers or outsource your design projects, you need a comprehensive, easy-to-use visual style guide that, in conjunction with a design brief, lays out everything a designer needs to know to produce spot-on graphics.
A comprehensive visual style guide should include the following:
- Color palette: Specify the exact colors, including Pantone, RGB, CMYK, and HEX codes, that represent your brand.
- Typography: Detail the specific fonts, sizes, line heights, and spacing that align with your brand identity.
- Logo usage: Include guidelines on how and where to use your logo, including its positioning, size, and what not to do with it.
- Imagery: Define the types of images that should be used, whether illustrations, photographs, or a mix of both, and your stylistic preferences.
- Iconography: If applicable, provide a set of consistent icons that can be used across different platforms.
- Layout principles: Explain the spacing, alignment, and grids that should be used in your brand’s designs.
- Tone of voice: Although this is more about written content, it’s important to establish the tone for any written words that will appear in your designs.
- Do’s and don’ts: Provide clear examples of what’s acceptable and what’s not in terms of design, to avoid any confusion.
Set SMART goals
Another crucial element of every effective visual content strategy is SMART goals.
Suppose you don’t have documented, measurable objectives to guide your efforts. In that case, you’ll drift around just publishing whatever you think looks good and struggle to determine what’s effective and where your efforts are best spent.
A visual content strategy without SMART goals will be directionless, making it much harder to assess progress and make meaningful adjustments.
Source: K. M. Wade
To kick-start your process for developing SMART goals, answer these questions:
- What do you want to achieve with your visual content marketing strategy? Increase brand awareness, drive website traffic, generate leads, or boost conversions?
- What resources can you use to develop visuals, and how much do they cost? Do you have in-house graphic designers, or will you need to outsource this part of your content creation process? How much is that going to add to the cost of your content?
- How will you measure the performance of your visual content? And how will those measures vary across the channels you publish on? You might focus on engagement metrics on social media, but on your website, you might focus on conversion metrics.
Define your process for measuring performance
It’s vital to measure the effectiveness of your visual content strategy.
Once you know how you will measure your progress toward accomplishing your objectives, you can set key performance indicators (KPIs) at the content, campaign, and strategy levels.
You must detail those KPIs in your strategy and the tools you’ll use to measure the metrics. You’ll also get better results if you detail your process for analyzing your results, learning from them, and adjusting your approach as necessary.
An effective visual marketing strategy is flexible and evolves with your audience and business needs, so the last bit is especially important.
It’s notoriously difficult to measure the revenue generated by content marketing assets and campaigns. So, if you’d like more guidance on measuring the success of your visual content marketing campaigns, take a look at this guide to measuring content marketing performance.
Types of visual content and their impact
There’s a dazzling array of visual content types out there, each wielding a unique power to engage and inform.
For example, using infographics in marketing can be an excellent way to quickly communicate complex data. At the same time, videos are one of the best ways to deliver instructions to an audience.
Here are the most common types of visual content used today, along with some insights into the visual marketing strategies they suit.
Infographics: simplifying complex data
Infographics are a potent way to present complex data or information in a simplified, visually appealing way.
A harmonious blend of design, color, and text makes data digestion a breeze for your audience, turning tedious information into an engaging visual journey.
Data visualization: turning numbers into narratives
Data visualization is the art of turning numbers into narratives through charts, graphs, and other visual aids. By representing data visually, you can highlight trends, illustrate comparisons, and clarify complex statistics, making it easier for your audience to understand and remember.
Infographics are a particularly aesthetically pleasing and engaging way to do this, but even a simple graph can work wonders for representing data.
For example, this representation of gender-based pay gaps provides an interactive infographic visually representing a huge amount of data.
Video content: dynamic storytelling
Videos are a dynamic tool for storytelling, offering a unique way to convey emotions, narratives, and information, giving your audience a multi-sensory experience that’s hard to forget.
From product demos to behind-the-scenes tours and customer testimonials to instructional guides, the possibilities with video content are endless.
Still images and photos: an instant connection
Whether professional photographs, candid shots, or creative illustrations, images are an effective way to instantly connect with your audience.
They can convey a mood, illustrate a point, or tell a story, providing a visual break from text and making your content more engaging and easier to understand.
GIFs and memes: light-hearted engagement
GIFs and memes have taken the internet by storm, bringing humor, fun, and reliability to content marketing. When used appropriately, they can make your brand seem more human and relatable, sparking joy, laughter, and light-hearted engagement.
But GIFs don’t just have to be funny. They can also convey serious information and even be used to improve the audience’s experience on a website or in an app. For example, GIFs may be used to demonstrate step-by-step processes of how to use a tool.
The GIF below was used in social posts to represent giving free gifts during a webinar to attract a target audience.
Source: K. M. Wade
Interactive content: active user engagement
Interactive content, such as quizzes, polls, and infographics, invites your audience to participate actively, leading to higher engagement rates. Creating an interactive experience can make your audience feel more involved and invested in your content.
Many people focus on content an audience can interact with online but don’t forget about content they can download and interact with.
Here’s an example of offline interactive content. Members of the target audience can download this printable checklist and take it with them when they go shopping for their new puppy.
Source: K. M. Wade
Keeping up with visual content marketing trends
Visual content marketing is an ever-evolving field, with trends shifting as swiftly as the digital landscape itself.
Here are some of the latest trends that are making waves in the visual content marketing world today.
Immersive video experiences
They provide a more interactive and engaging way for audiences to consume content, creating an unforgettable experience that truly stands out.
For example, the IKEA Place app allows users to plan out a furniture purchase by seeing how products will look in their own homes, thanks to AR technology. IKEA Space (currently in beta) takes that a step further and allows users to make virtual changes to rooms themselves.
User-generated content (UGC), such as customer photos or reviews, is gaining momentum. UGC not only builds trust and authenticity but also forms a deeper connection with your audience. Showcasing real customers and their experiences with your brand can make your content more relatable and impactful.
Fashion brands often employ visual UGC campaigns to boost clothing sales as shoppers can see what items look like in real life, and they can get ideas on how to combine various items. However, UGC is not just limited to fashion.
You may remember Apple phones used to be known for suboptimal image quality. So, the brand developed a UGC campaign to showcase the amazing images that could be captured with an iPhone. That was in 2014, and people are still using that hashtag today.
Type #ShotoniPhone on your Instagram search box and see for yourself!
Micro-content on social media
In our fast-paced digital world, micro-content like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, or TikTok videos are incredibly popular.
This snackable content is short, engaging, and designed for quick consumption, perfect for catching the attention of users scrolling through their social feeds.
This trend is a particularly handy one to jump on board if you’re considering getting started with visual content marketing because short-form video content is generally quicker and easier to produce.
Inclusive and diverse imagery
Inclusion and diversity are becoming increasingly important in visual content marketing. Brands are moving towards using visuals that represent a broad range of people, lifestyles, and experiences, reflecting the diversity of their audience and the world around us.
Examples of successful visual content marketing
Several brands have pioneered innovative visual marketing campaigns, which have effectively engaged audiences and driven exceptional results.
Here are some standout visual content marketing examples that showcase the versatility and power of visual content:
- Fractl’s “most Instagrammed locations”: Fractl’s innovative campaign used a list, a map, and photos to highlight the most Instagrammed locations across the US. The campaign not only tapped into the audience’s love for travel but also successfully leveraged UGC.
The result? A staggering 140,000 social shares and 1.4 million page views on their client’s website.
- Simplilearn’s “Marvel origins”: In an inspired mix of pop culture and infographics, Simplilearn took their client’s audience on a journey through the geographical origins of Marvel superheroes.
This creative approach resulted in a significant 43% increase in website traffic and a 300% boost in social media engagement.
- Coca-Cola’s “heartfelt hug vending machine”: Open Happiness was one of Coca-Cola’s most successful campaigns. They launched a video campaign featuring a vending machine that dispensed free Coke in return for hugs.
This received widespread attention, earning over 2.7 million views on YouTube and coverage on major news outlets.
Harnessing the future of visual content marketing
You’ve just seen how big brands have successfully leveraged visual content marketing to achieve their goals. Of course, many people look at such examples and think they could never pull off something like that because they just don’t have the money.
But nothing could be further from the truth. You don’t need a big budget to create engaging visuals to help you achieve your marketing goals.
Here’s how to craft visually appealing content even with limited resources:
- Use one of the many free, user-friendly visual content creation tools.
- Utilize customizable templates provided by visual content creation tools for a professional look.
- Use websites that offer high-quality stock images for free.
- Encourage your audience to create content; it’s authentic and cost-effective.
- Create simple yet compelling motion graphics using tools that allow you to turn text into engaging videos.
A big part of successfully employing visual storytelling is choosing the right platforms for your brand, your audience, the content you plan on creating, and what you want to achieve. Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Pinterest are excellent for visuals, but LinkedIn and Twitter can provide a more diversified reach.
Many decision makers pick their platforms based on the type of content they want to create and the platforms they prefer using. However, it’s vital to consider your audience’s preferences, and that’s probably the most important piece of the puzzle.
With ever-evolving trends like immersive videos, user-generated content, and inclusive imagery, the future of visual content marketing is bright. Adapting and embracing these trends will set your brand apart and help you maintain an authentic connection with your audience.
Visual content marketing isn’t just a fleeting trend; it’s a powerful strategy, a dynamic story, and a way to build trust. So, why wait?
Need a crash course in content marketing? Read G2’s content marketing 101 to help you reach your audience in many ways.