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Visual Content: Which Brands Are Showing Marketers How It’s Done?

viewing visual contentLooking for help with your biggest content marketing challenges? We’ve invited some of the experts who spoke at this year’s Content Marketing World to share what they’ve learned from their experience in the industry.

Two weeks ago, our panel of sharp content marketing minds talked about what it takes to make content engaging, useful, and easily accessible on mobile devices. But today, we are diving a bit deeper into the engagement pool to explore one of content marketing’s most powerful assets: visual content media, including photos, videos, infographics, and other storytelling devices that connect with consumers by grabbing their “eyeshare.” 

Let’s take a look at our CMW speakers’ responses to the question, “What qualities do you think are most important for brands that want to stand out on the latest visual content marketing platforms? What brands do you think are “killing it” when it comes to creating engaging visual content?

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Starbucks on Instagram

Visual content needs to be “swipestopping.” With so much information available, what you post as a photo needs to stand out enough to stop a user while they’re scrolling through their feeds, or even while they are mid-swipe.

The brands that stand out on visual platforms like Instagram are those that rely heavily on it. Fashion brands do extremely well, as well as those with outstanding photography, like National Geographic. More specifically, Starbucks has consistently done a great job on Instagram by having users hashtag their own photos and also by using the platform to offer reminders on deals and new promotions. It’s also great to see brands with cross-platform promotions (like Starbucks) rely on photography that revolves around their product. Nike also does a great job with this on Instagram by posting exciting, active shots of people wearing Nikes, as well as displaying its products with an artistic flair.

Of course, puppies and babies are always a win, too. Stephanie Leffler, CEO and Co-founder, Crowdsource | @Crowdsource

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Tory Burch on Pinterest

To stand out of the latest visual content platforms, it is important to be creative, beautiful, true to brand, succinct, and engaging. Some companies that are killing it with visual content include Marketo, Tory Burch, GE, and MarketingProfs. Amanda Maksymiw, Content Marketing Manager, Lattice Engines | @amandamaks 

Be human; try to connect with your audience in a meaningful, genuine way. Experiment, and don’t be afraid to take creative risks. If everyone likes it, you’re not being provocative enough 😉 Heather Meza, Head of the Digital Media Solutions Center, of Expertise, Cisco | @HeatherMeza 

watercolor silhouette

Storytelling is at the heart of great content, and this is especially true for visual content. There’s a small company in San Francisco called Creativebug that offers video workshops for crafters. The videos are just wonderful. I’ve spent hours watching their instructor videos just to hear people’s stories. Lauren Moler, Content Strategist and Information Architect, National Instruments | @merrymoler

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Home Depot on Vine

Brands that lend themselves to great photography have the easiest success in content marketing. Red Bull does a great job, for example, because it has great assets that support its integrated marketing strategy. I like Starbucks because, though it doesn’t have a visually appealing product to start with, it captures the culture and vibe of its brand experience, and customers relate to that. I’m a big fan of content that provides utility, and Home Depot nailed it with its Vine series. Paolo Mottola, Digital Engagement Program Manager, REI | @paolojr

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Ace Hotel

Go deep about who you are and what you care about — don’t hold back. People want to do business with people behind a brand. Your brand should always be recognizable, even when (or should I say, especially when) the content is not about you or your services. Make sure your content is sharable! In the B2C space, Huit Denim (@hiutdenim) and Ace Hotel (@acehotel) are doing incredible things that we can learn from and apply to the B2B environment. —Jodi Navta, VP of Marketing and Communications, Coyote | @jodinavta

Be clever, unique and engaging. Imagery should be “self-evident,” requiring few, if any, words to communicate the message. If I need to zoom in to understand what the visual is trying to communicate, it’s probably going to fail.  Phil Paranicas, Director of Digital Media, ThomasNet | @Flip2Market

During the “discovery,” or planning period before the creation of visual content, it is imperative that the content team fully understands how and where the products will be used, and the users’ goals in terms of specific features needed. For example:

In product videos: Messages must be considered as short, three-act plays that:

  • Identify a problem in the first act, describing the customer’s goals, restraints, and desired best practices
  • The second act should provide an overview of the installation and setup process, featuring the various accessories and options that can lead to greater utility.
  • Act three should share ideas for maintenance and options for long life, tips for calibration to compensate for “wear” or fatigue, and tips for accessories to improve performance. Roger C. Parker, Content Coach, Speaker, and Mind Mapping Resource | @RogerCParker

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MintLife blog

I’m always impressed by the way that Mint incorporates imagery into its content on the MintLife blog. And UPS’ Compass site has some really solid video content. Justin Premick, Director of Education Marketing, AWeber | @justinpremick

I think it’s most important to know what your brand stands for and to be true to that mission. Content that veers from the essence of your brand will not only fall flat, it will confuse consumers. Just because a competitor is being humorous doesn’t mean you can or should be. “Killing it” in content marketing is a relative term defined by who you are, not who others are. Jeff Rohrs, Head of the Marketing Research & Education Group, ExactTarget | @jkrohrs

I’m watching the comic book and movie industries owning these new visual platforms. They understand the power of a strong image with a simple call to action. Movie posters and comic book covers have always had to engage, long before we were using the term “engage.”

Remember, these are both industries that need you to buy something and even (gasp) leave the house. They’re not just asking you to click a link, even though that may be one of the initial KPIs.

They need to literally move people and open their wallets, since their primary business does not revolve around giving away free stuff (and hoping to be purchased by a larger company). People are buzzing about comics and movies, in part, because these companies are giving them something visual of value to share. Buddy Scalera, SVP of Content Strategy & Media, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide | @MarketingBuddy

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Four Seasons Hotels on Instagram

Be true to your brand personality. Be relevant to your customers. Be creative and bold. Content adds dimension to your stakeholder relationships in many measurable — and some important yet unmeasurable — ways. Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts does this better than most. Visual networks have their own subnetworks — it’s not about photos on Instagram; it’s about photos on Instagram that are extraordinarily relevant for specific enthusiasts and advocates. It’s cheap enough to reach these segments on their own terms. There is no “Instagram strategy,” there’s a “wedding planners who want a luxury experience” strategy. Craig Waller, Head of Content Operations, Pace | @jcraigwaller

marketo-engaging email marketing

I love what Coca-Cola does. Also, on the B2B side, I continue to like Marketo. I think it is important to be recognizable with your visual content. Think of it as a great logo that doesn’t say the brand name. Be careful though: I’ve seen companies look too much like their creative agency and not like themselves.
Rob Yoegel, Content Marketing Initiatives Lead, Monetate | @RobYoegel


As you can see from our experts’ advice, successful visual content can certainly involve creating and curating image-based messages that users “can’t take their eyes off of.” But for those vibrant photos and memorable videos to provide true brand value, a sound strategy must be in place — one that takes a holistic view of an organization’s marketing goals, is based on a strong understanding of brand perception, and distinguishes your visual imagery from that of your competition.

When your brand is considering creating visual content as part of its content strategy, here are some things to consider:

  • What images would your users expect to see from your brand? And how can you deliver that same brand value in more unexpected ways that will help you stand out?
  • Are there ways to leverage images from your consumers, to help them tell their stories of how they like to engage with your products?
  • How can you weave your photos, videos and other visual media together to tell a cohesive story across multiple platforms?
  • Do you want your visual content efforts to simply provide eye candy in the flavor of your brand, or are there opportunities to leverage the medium to address your audience’s practical or informational needs?
  • Will consumers see your images and immediately be able to associate them with positive aspects of your brand, or will it take some explanation for them to make the connection?

Do you have additional questions about best practices for visual content marketing? Any brands that have caught your eye with their remarkable image strategy? Let us know your thoughts on the issue by sharing a comment.

Is visual content a priority for your content marketing strategy? You’re not alone. Check out Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix to see which tactics content marketers are adding to their mix this year.

Cover image via Bigstock