One of the biggest and most influential components in the marketing industry today is visual content. From Pinterest to Instagram to Snapchat, images have taken over copy in a big way. You may ask what they have over text, and the answer is emotion and speed. Communication doesn't get any more direct than that.
The amount of photos captured and uploaded has exploded in recent years, and no one has the time to read anymore because according to Forrester research, a one-minute video is now worth 1.8 million words. And we'll keep seeing this trend grow as 70% of marketers start gearing their content toward visuals, not only by re-appropriation but by creating new images.
What this means for us marketers is our branding should no longer be limited to words. We have pictures, memes, GIFs, Instagram Stories, and Facebook Live videos to connect with our fan base, and so do our fans. They can show their love for a brand through the same media.
Remember Coca-Cola's #shareacoke campaign? It was an image-based content marketing campaign using user-generated content. Their smart move re-ignited a conversation around the brand, connecting it with a wide audience tapping into their thirst for personalization and identity. In other words, new age marketing gold.
One of the key elements of the campaign is engagement through incitement, revolving around - you guessed it: visuals.
Pin it, repost it, hashtag it: what works best is when these visuals create a web of information and social proof around your brand. Just make sure it's all brand-relevant because more than ever with this new visual content phenomenon, a brand needs a clear voice.
Constant exposure and the rapid speed at which new content appears enforces authenticity, and to stay true to one's identity.
Why Great Visuals Matter
Ever heard someone say they're a visual learner? Well, we all are - we're very much visual beings. Graphics stimulate different parts of the brain, enabling a more profound understanding of the material before us.
When you think about it, our eyes help us see the whole picture. Even when you're having a conversation with someone, words only account for 7% of what's communicated as opposed to body language which takes up a whopping 55%. Put simply, our brains process information remarkably faster through image rather than text.
If that's not enough to convince you, here are some more compelling visual content statistics which prove the value of great visuals:
- People retain over 5x more information pairing a visual with audio information than when we hear the information alone (Source: BrainRules)
- Video content this year represents 74% of all internet traffic (Source: KPCB)
- 4x as many consumers prefer to watch a video about a product than read about it (Source: Animoto)
- When images are relevant, people spend more time looking at the images than they do reading the text on the page (Source: NNGroup)
On top of all that, using visuals means you bypass virtually all potential language barriers, opening you up to a global audience.
The Importance of Using "Real" Photos
We've been living in the digital age for a while now, and everyone has a mountain of information at their fingertips, which makes it easier to compare and contrast the different brands out there.
Let's say you're putting together a new website and are tempted to use stock photos - consider this: If a potential customer sees the same image on your site as on a competitor's, it makes both brands seem sterile, like they're lacking in creativity and individualism.
Failure to effectively differentiate your brand with visual content makes it all the more difficult for your audience to distinguish between your actual product offerings.
Once again, authenticity is key. As a result of the over-automation of virtually everything, brands with a human touch are gaining an edge.
We're seeing companies feature their actual employees, their offices, their work lunches, instead of a parade of stock photos. In fact, stock photos have gained so much notoriety for being fake, they've become memes.
'Hide Your Pain' Harold will tell you all about it. He's the best in the business:
People want to see the inner workings of a business and how you operate. Behind every great product is work, blood, sweat, and tears, and that's what needs to show, otherwise your company, your product and the way you market it is generic - just like every other brand that treats their customers like numbers on a list.
The following (in the easiest way to remember) is a sum up of why "real" photos take the cake:
- They can tell it's fake - They've seen your site, and maybe a dozen others offering a similar product. If they see the same image, they'll know you're just using visuals for the sake of it and not to add value.
- Are you just like everyone else? - Not if your images are new, fresh and original. Try your best to stand out instead of using the same material that's available to everyone else.
- Do you believe in your product? - It needs to feel like you, yourself, would buy what you're selling. Believing in that means you're willing to make the effort to think, brainstorm, and plan instead of simply going online and picking out stock photos.
3 Simple Apps You Need to Try
Take original photos. Feature your actual employees. Instagram your work retreats. Thanks to the great minds behind today's smartphones, you don't need be a professional photographer or own a Canon DSLR camera to get a good shot.
Sure, a working knowledge of Adobe Creative Suite will help juice up your images, but it isn't really necessary. A plethora of apps are now available to create great-looking photos.
Here are some of my personal favorites:
Airbrush yourself to perfection. Specializing in photo retouching, this app is great for portraits, and of course, selfies. Features include face toning, wrinkle-smoothing, and lighting adjustments. Plus, the live photo editor helps you angle your photos better before you capture to ensure you maximize the use of the tools.
Although you could probably use this app on any kind of photo, it really shines when it comes to close-up of real people. Whether you're using FaceTune to touch up your team's photos on your website or just so you have a more attractive Tinder profile, this is your go-to app.
Here's what I did with FaceTune:
- Made my teeth whiter
- Gave myself a healthy tan
- Removed some of the blemishes on my face
- Added some weight to my face because I looked a little malnourished.
- Added a filter called "no filter", which makes the photo look more natural
- Added a vignette to emphasize my face as the focal point
2. Adobe Photoshop Express
Now this one's great for the actual editing of your photos. This nifty app covers you from the basics (cropping, flipping) to fun filters to de-fogging and blemish reduction. Essentially the meat and potatoes of Photoshop on your phone. You can then use the app to directly share photos on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.
There's a wide range of features, so the app takes a little getting used to, but once you get a bit more acclimatized, you'll start becoming familiar with the features you love most and editing a standard photo won't take more than a couple minutes. You can also register to get access to more features and the ability to sync your images with other Adobe apps.
Here's what I did with Adobe Photoshop Express:
- Decreased the exposure to reduce whiteness and glare
- Increased the contrast to add more color to my skin
- Increased the image temperature so it looks "warmer"
- Played with some other lighting and color editing features.
This app is a straight-up sticker tool for adding designer-friendly captions to your branded images. With most other photo editing apps, I tend to get a bit overwhelmed by the number of functions, but this is highly-focused and extremely user-friendly.
It's simple enough: identify what you want to promote, take a photo, and choose from a wide range of templates to jazz it up. Their stickers, in particular, are easy to use and kind of quirky. Make sure to register and take advantage of their content planner, post scheduling, and social statistics to give you an idea of how people are responding to your posts.
Although this app is mainly designed for retail and eCommerce brands, it won't take long to find a relevant sticker to increase your photo's desired effect. It's fairly new to app stores so keep an eye out for new updates. I expect their library of stickers to grow pretty quickly.
Here's what I did with PromoRepublic:
- Added a "photo contest" sticker
- Added a "top of the day" sticker (because I totally deserve it)
That's a Wrap
All this to say, pictures are the new text. There isn't a quicker, easier more effective way of communicating with people. Keep in mind, you should always be adhering to visual content marketing best practices if you want to maximize your content's ability to stand out.
The stats are in, and so is the scientific proof. We absorb and retain more from visual content than any other media. Don't let your business fall behind by not banking on this growing visual phenomenon. It's always worth it to invest some time, thought and energy into creating unique media. Technology has made things relatively simple, so there's really no excuse.
Believe me when I say that every brand has a unique story to tell. Take a look at your business and your product. Tell everyone about what makes it special and the people that helped build it. Or better yet, get them talking about you by starting a conversation. Nothing connects you more than knowing a human, just like you, is behind the product you love.
So, get out there and give these mobile photo editing apps a try. The whole process should take no longer than 5-10 minutes (as long as you don't get distracted by the number of features some of these apps have). I promise it'll be worth your time.
Any other awesome photo editing apps that I need to know about? Let me know in the comments.