By Shanna Mallon published May 10, 2013

Visual Content: 5 Ways Auto Brands Help Audiences Get the Picture

ideas for visual contentThe internet is a visual place — and that’s as true for auto companies as it is for fashion brands. Do you know how to use photos, images, and other visual media to boost your brand? Is posting pictures enough? Where can you distribute your images to drive audience interest? What unique options should you be considering to help your visual content stand out?

To help answer those questions, here’s a roundup of some of the ways automotive companies have used visuals to enhance their online content marketing efforts, and some tips on how your brand can follow their lead:

1. Post pretty product images on social media 

German automaker Volkswagen regularly posts attractive pictures of its vehicles — both on showroom floors and out in the world. People like pictures, and attractive images give them something to like and respond to. Here’s a recent post of a car in winter, with the Volkswagen logo imprinted in the snow beside it:

volkswagen-visual content

Facebook.com/Volkswagen

Volkswagen’s lesson for content marketers: On Facebook (and Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and other image-centric social sites, for that matter), the name of the game is visual stimulation. Post images of your products in real-life scenarios; show your products being used by your target audience; create artistic renderings of your products, like sketches or paintings or even 3D installations. Your customers don’t all use your products in the same way, so don’t be afraid to get creative in how you show off those products and their benefits.

2. Create video content that doesn’t overtly mention your brand name 

If you’ve seen the fantastic automotive features discussed in the GoFurther car commercial, you may have noticed something was missing: any overt mention of the brand behind it. Only by going to the GoFurther site, as the commercial suggests, would you be sure the video was created to promote the Ford brand.

This decision was an intentional one, says Matt VanDyke, Director of U.S. Market Communications for Ford. “As soon as people see the badges, they jump to conclusions about the brand,” he said. So Ford made a slick, stylish promotional video about its cars, and left its name out.

gofurther-ford-visual content

Ford GoFurther.com

Ford’s lesson for content marketers: Video is a medium that isn’t limited by reality — only by the extent of your imagination, so don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you are creating video content. Your concept doesn’t have to focus on the usual product shots and stats. Instead, find a way to tell a unique story that counteracts existing stereotypes and preconceptions about your brand. Remember: Seeing is believing, so use your video to let your consumers see the way you want them to perceive your brand.

3. Design custom infographics 

What makes infographics so valuable is the way they communicate large amounts of information clearly and quickly. When well-designed, infographics can be an attractive and memorable way to create engaging content.

For example, check out Nissan’s Cost of a Road Trip infographic, which breaks down the cost of cross-country road travel for eight different vehicles (and shows that the Nissan Altima 38 had the best performance).

Nissan-infographic

Image via Nissan

What you can learn from Nissan: Communicating information to your audience involves more than just words on a screen. Look for ways to highlight key data or key takeaways in your content with a visual representation. A custom infographic will catch more attention than plain text will, and it will be more memorable and easily shareable, as well.

4. Ask your audience to contribute 

From Instagram to Facebook, brands today are engaging their fans by asking them to create user-generated content.

For example, at its First Car Story site, Subaru invites brand fans to share stories about their first cars; on its Facebook page, Zipcar regularly asks fans not only for ideas and feedback, but also for relevant pictures; and on Instagram, Toyota uses the hashtag #letsgoplaces to curate content that promotes its cars. The beauty of involving your audience members in content creation is that it provides them with creative opportunities to participate in your brand while expanding your content’s reach at the same time.

user-generated content-zipcar

Facebook.com/Zipcar

What you can do to draw customer involvement: Offer personalized opportunities for fans to express their love of your brand through social media (or even on your website) in unique, visual ways. Try creating a Facebook challenge that asks fans to post photos of themselves interacting with your brand. Or, consider launching an Instagram campaign with a certain hashtag and invite followers to play along. You might even start a website, like Subaru did, and build it from the submissions that come in.

5. Pin more than your products 

On visually-focused social site Pinterest, Volvo has pinned images of the exciting places its consumers have driven to. Honda devoted an entire Pinterest board to brand fans Monsters Calling Home – the brand helped the indie band get a gig on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” In addition to dedicated Pinterest boards for each of its car models, Chrysler created the Imported from Detroit board to show its love for the Motor City.

honda-monsters calling home

What can you pin?: Of course you should pin your products, but no need to stop there. Take the lead from other auto brands and pin other content, too — think about your brand, what defines it, what it stands for, etc., and look for ways to turn those factors into Pinterest boards or Instagram pages. This not only makes your brand more interesting and relatable, it also enhances your brand persona in the minds of your consumers.

Your thoughts

What do you think? Can you come up with ways to incorporate these visual content marketing ideas into your online strategies? What, if any, of these ideas are you already using — and what results have you seen? What other ideas do you have for incorporating images into online content? We’d like to hear from you.

For more inspiration on visual ways to enhance your brand’s content, read CMI’s Ultimate eBook: 100 Content Marketing Examples. 

Cover image via Bigstock

Author: Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, an Internet marketing agency headquartered in Chicago. She’s been writing professionally since 2004. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, and follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.

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  • AndreaLeyden

    Another way of creating visual content is with Mind Maps. Check out this free mind map creator tool http://www.examtime.com