With the rise of Instagram, Pinterest and TikTok, visual marketing is the new normal of marketing.
Where audiences would have once had to read a 2000+ word blog on ‘how to make sushi’, they can now watch punchy, 30-second videos showing the entire process in a more engaging, information rich way.
Visual storytelling (that’s using videos, images, and graphics to communicate ideas and messages) is how you can boost brand awareness, build trust and ultimately inspire users to spend with you.
But if you’re wondering ‘what is visual marketing’, you’re not alone. Let’s dive into this emerging marketing trend and explore the three essential elements to how we approach this trend at Sked Social (and how you can use it to impact your bottom line, too).
What is visual marketing?
In its simplest form, visual marketing is about using eye-catching images, graphics and video to communicate messages and sell products or services.
This rapid shift towards all-things-visual has been sparked by the rapid evolution of photo and video tech. For the first time in history, capturing and viewing footage takes seconds and is almost universally accessible..
Along with the prevalence of smartphones, the launch of visual-first social media platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have supercharged the growth of visual marketing in recent years.
And there’s a good reason why marketers are adopting a visual-centric approach, with 65% of consumers visual learners and stats showing that 90% of information that our brains’ absorb is visual, too.
Our attention spans are shorter than ever before, meaning we have less time to capture interest and communicate our message. As visuals are easier for us to comprehend and absorb, it only makes sense that marketers and brands are shifting their focus to visual-first (with video the primary form of media used in content marketing).
In fact, a recent study of content marketer behaviour indicated over a third of their marketing budget was spent on visuals alone.
So, what makes visual marketing such a powerful approach?
- Visual content get your message across faster
- Visual content is easier for consumers to recognise and remember
- Creating visual content (such as videos, photography, and graphic design) is becoming easier than ever before thanks to the rise of DIY content creation software
The visual marketing process
Visual marketing is much more than just using images in your social content. The goal of visual marketing is to keep your brand top-of-mind, to build and maintain relationships, and to turn audiences into paying customers.
Here’s how the visual marketing process works:
Social media richness affects brand equity.
Brand equity affects purchase intent.
Purchase intent is a strong indicator of a successful conversion.
Let’s break down each part:
Social media richness
The foundational idea of ‘Information Richness Theory’ was proposed by Richard L. Daft and Robert H. Lengel way back in 1984. The pair proposed that different types of media have different capacities for transmitting information.
They used four key criteria in their theory:
- Capacity for personal focus: does it draw on personal feelings and emotions? For example, communicating face-to-face enables a stronger emotional connection than sending a quick email.
- Immediacy of feedback: does it allow for two-way conversations or opportunities to share feedback? This ensures that the message is correctly received and leaves less room for misinterpretation.
- Conveyance of multiple cues: does it offer a mix of mediums to communicate its message? For example, how do the copy and imagery work together to share a single idea?
- Variety of language carried: does it use both language and symbols? That means using precise numbers and natural language to communicate hard facts as well as emotions and ideas.
With all this in mind, this theory suggests that media formats can be ranked from most to least ‘rich’. At the top end of the scale we have face-to-face communication (which is said to be the most ‘rich’), followed by video, audio and finally text-based content.
In short, the ‘richer’ the media, the more effective it is at communicating information.
So, why does this all matter? This theory is helpful because it gives us a framework to understand why social media richness helps visual marketing to work so well.
In the context of social media content, the rich content conveys multiple messages (through images, video and captions), allows for instant feedback (such as comments, shares or swipe up links), uses natural language (is conversational and easy-to-understand) and offers a personal focus (feels like it’s spoken by a human).
For businesses creating content for social media, this idea of rich media can help you to achieve cut-through and leave a lasting impression on your audience. By using rich, eye-catching video content that is timely, relevant, and curated for your target market, they’ll be more likely to engage with and remember your brand.
Rich content, when done well, creates a positive relationship with your audience. And as you’d guess, the better experience your audience has, the more likely they are to remember (and ultimately shop with) your brand. But more on that later.
The next piece of the visual marketing puzzle is a thing called brand equity. Another fancy piece of marketing jargon, this term is all about how customers think about and react to your brand.
In essence, brand equity is how your brand influences customer’s purchasing decisions. It’s kind of like their gut reaction or how they feel about your brand when your content pops up in their social media feed or when they see your logo.
But wait, there’s more. Brand equity is made up of four key elements, including:
- Salience: who are you? This is all about brand awareness and how recognisable your brand is to your customers.
- Performance: what are you? This looks at how well your content (such as imagery and video) works to capture the essence of your brand.
- Judgements: what about you? This is how customers feel about your brand.
- Resonance: what about you and me? This is how connected customers feel with your brand.
So, why does brand equity matter? How customers feel about your brand and their ability to remember you has a direct impact on your bottom line.
Our purchasing decisions are driven by how we feel. The deeper our connection to a brand, the more likely we are to buy from them. Therefore, strong brand equity means your customers will remember you, search you out and continue to purchase from you time and time again. See, we told you this one is important.
Now, you’re probably asking yourself: how can I generate brand equity for my business? It all comes down to two things: brand awareness and customer experience.
- Brand awareness: do customers instantly recognise your brand? This requires a consistent visual identity, distinctive tone of voice and strong values that back up what you say and do as a brand.
- Customer experience: what is the customer journey like from discovery to purchase? Is every encounter positive, helpful and seamless? Or, do your customers find your content confusing, your site slow and your check-out process clumsy and difficult?
With both of these factors in mind, the steps to creating brand equity include:
- Clarify your why: having a defined brand purpose gives direction to every product, service and piece of content you create. Plus, it gives your customers a reason to connect, remember and prefer your brand.
- Focus on raising brand awareness: create a content marketing strategy that focuses on sharing value, educating your audience and building trust to build rapport and familiarity with your customers.
- Be consistent: a cohesive brand look-and-feel is key to building instant recognition with your customers. That means creating brand guidelines and using the same colours, fonts and templates across all your content marketing.
Let’s bring this back to visual marketing. As we’ve said, the richer your social media content is, the stronger your brand equity will be. And this has a direct link to ROI.
It makes sense, right? Strong brand equity boosts your brand’s perceived value and increases loyalty (meaning a greater likelihood of return customers). Plus, higher brand equity also allows you to charge a premium for the products or services you create, as your brand stands out from others in your field.
Now, let’s dive into this in more detail.
And the final ingredient in our visual marketing formula is this: purchase intent. As the name would suggest, purchase intent is all about how likely someone is to purchase or buy something from you.
While there are stacks of different ways to measure and assess purchase intent, when it comes to social commerce, there are 4 factors you should be thinking about:.
This is how someone feels about your brand.
For instance, if you’ve been posting a lot of high quality content that solves your audiences’ painpoints, they might feel they trust you, that you are valuable.
Whereas if you’re posting inconsistent shoddy content, they might feel you’re annoying and a waste of time.
Obviously, shoot for the former.
This is the physical and cultural surrounding of your audience.
Physical: Some people scroll to distract themselves on the train. You’ve got Sunday evening scroll shoppers. Where someone is when they see you can have a huge impact on whether or not they’re going to buy from you.
Cultural: You may be slick, you may be cool…but if they’re friends aren’t doing it or it’s not the ‘done thing’, then you’re fighting the cultural side of their environment.
This is their funnel stage – it goes a little something like this:
Awareness stage: this means your customer is just beginning to understand they have a problem that needs fixing. But they’re not sure where to go to find this solution.
To best serve your customers at this stage, consider creating content that helps them to identify the problems they’re facing, educate them about what solutions are out there and start to build trust and rapport through value-first content.
Consideration stage: at this point, your customer is getting closer to find a solution to solve their problem. Now, they’re research options and starting to compare your brand to others.
To serve your customers now, think about how you can create content that allows them to compare their options, weigh up the pros and cons or understand the benefits of each option.
Decision stage: now, your customer is getting ready to act. They’re ready to take action and are looking for a sign that your solution is the right one for them.
At this point, it’s all about inspiring action. Consider sharing content that persuades them to do the thing, using a strong and clear call-to-action that motivates them to visit your website, sign up or hit buy now.
This is what they would choose if they could.
As an example – you might be satisfied with a new Toyota. But if you had the choice, you might prefer a Ferrari.
Calculating purchase intent
There’s been a tonne of research and formulae put together to calculate purchase intent. Some of the diagrams are mind-bendingly confusing.
But if you want to keep it simple, you can score each out of 5 and add them together.
Attitude: Love your brand = 5
Environment: Not known among friends, only looks at your content before sleep = 3
Situation: Consideration stage = 3
Preference: You’re equal first with a competitor = 4
So out of a possible score of 20, you’re hitting 15. Not bad.
Again – this isn’t an exact science. But with a few well-thought out polls, you can get a fairly accurate idea of what’s going on with your audience.
Getting your visual marketing right
It’s all about understanding the mindset your audience is in and how close they are to purchasing from you. But here’s the thing: research indicated up to 70% of potential mobile purchasers could be missed by businesses if they fail to identify purchase intent.
But, by taking the time to understand your customer’s purchase intent, you can curate your content to have the most meaningful impact at each stage of the buyer journey.
So, let’s bring it all together. When done well, visual marketing leverages rich media which generates brand equity, and boosts the chance of your customers purchasing from you. With consumers being bombarded with endless reels of content and information, using visual content to cut-through the noise and build brand preference is key to boost purchase intent and ultimately making an impact on your bottom line.
See? Not so complicated after all.