Humans are visual beings and there are some pretty interesting statistics to back this up. Did you know we use over 50% of our brain to process visual information? Research has shown that we can remember pictures more consistently than words. Theoretically speaking, we automatically consider multiple representations and associations with other knowledge which fosters more robust meanings than words.
Visual Communication Is On The Rise
It’s clear that using visual methods to communicate is on the rise. According to LinkedIn, seventy percent of Americans use.GIFs, memes, and other visuals in their conversations, including at work. While they have integrated the Tenor GIF search engine directly on the platform to add “personality to your conversations,” they caution to make sure that using GIFs, emojis and memes are acceptable for the culture of your workplace, industry and professional relationships.
More Than Just Memes
Visual communication is more than just memes, GIFs and emojis, According to Merriam-Webster, it is any system of signaling in which the signals are received by the eye. More and more, we are consuming our content visually every day and marketers are increasingly communicating through visual channels. Visual communication is the core component used in visual marketing.
Visuals In Marketing
Visual Marketing is the process of using photos, videos and other visual elements that attest to the value of your brand and studying the relationship between the visual and the context it’s used. Many marketers use visuals to “tell their story” in a memorable way. I’ve spoken to various marketers, leaders and industry experts to solicit their perspectives on the role of visuals and consideration of brand aesthetic when creating visual content. Whether you are representing a corporate brand or a personal brand, the consideration of how your visuals will contribute to the overall consumer perception of a brand is an important consideration.
Amy Federman, Vice President of Corporate Communications for Ryder System, Inc. suggests that
“Without images, there is no story. It’s that simple. In today’s fast-paced society where scrolling is the new reading, your content needs to capture their attention to make them read past the headline. Relevant visuals – images and videos – are the most effective way to capture eyes and clicks. Photos and videos make your content as much as five times more likely to be read. The percentages are even higher when it comes to sharing content when there is a visual. At Ryder, we don’t issue any news release or marketing materials without a graphic, even if that includes simply a logo. This creates a more lasting association between the image and the company.”
Building brand recall and ultimately equity begins with awareness and progresses through consistent communication across channels over time. Branding practices are about getting the message to the right audience, at the right time through the right channels. While getting it right is a continual challenge in today’s dynamic environment, telling a relevant story that will engage with your audience isn’t an easy task.
Brand Tipping Point
Brad MacAfee, the former CEO of global purpose communications consultancy, Porter Novelli, focused on culture and social responsibility, offers several examples of tipping-points where the right visuals drive the efficacy and meaning of words.
“Not only is a picture worth a thousand words, but it also moves the viewer emotionally. In an age when people are attracted to brands that are doing good, emotion can stimulate action quickly. There are some great examples of how a single image can set a campaign or moment in motion for a brand.
Fearless Girl was a great example of an entire campaign in a single image of a girl standing defiantly across from the Wall Street Bull. State Street Global Advisors used this image to communicate the importance of gender diversity on boards.
On International Women’s Day in 2017, 100 McDonald’s woman franchise owners flipped the Golden Arches upside down making it a W. This brand had been trying to reach Millennial moms for years and in a single day, tens of thousands of women brought their daughters to McDonald’s to take a selfie with the sign in the background.
Another favorite comes from the All Blacks rugby team from New Zealand. To combat bullying against the LGBT community, the team had its uniforms transform from black into a rainbow when pulled on. Prior to a game, the team all pulled on their shirts showing the rainbow and in a single moment demonstrating support for the LGBT community and strength against bullying.
As brands look to reach and appeal to the Millennial and Gen Z markets, imagery will continue to be important as these groups naturally gravitate to 7-second TikTok videos, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram Stories.”
Personal branding is another rapidly growing area, your “resume” so to speak; how you define yourself. Personal branding can take years to build, just like any corporation experiences, it’s a long road to achieve brand equity. Ultimately, your personal brand results from the impression you leave and that includes how you present yourself online and offline. In a New York Times article from 1979, You Are What You Wear, psychologists and psychiatrists discussed ways in which clothing provided insight into people’s psyche. The article mentioned the impact of clothing on the decision-making process and representative of “free choice within the limitations of cultural patterns and income levels.”
Clothing is just part of the brand story, projecting an image of “character development” in telling your story. Star and co-creator of the hit pop-culture show Schitt’s Creek, Daniel Levy discussed the importance of storytelling in wardrobe development, “the wardrobe on this show is able to tell a story that we don’t have to write … we’re constantly reminded of who these people are and where they came from.”
Using visuals influences how people relate in more ways than we realize. Visuals reach into our emotions, subconscious and unconscious and find a common thread. When it comes to relating to people, your best stories will be those that light that connection with your audience.
Nadia “Adelay” Rami, Actor, Marketer, and Creative Director, discusses the benefits of artistic perspectives for your personal brand,
“As an avid enthusiast in the film and arts industry, I have to attest to the significance of visually aesthetic work. Whether it be a film, an image, a mural, or even a brand logo; the individual on the receiving end of that artistry is able to take home with them a piece of that work. Seldom in the literal sense; but more importantly in a figurative and non-tangible way. That way is the more impactful, most often than not. In a business sense, the same ideology applies.
When a consumer is exposed to the display of a personal brand it is not only just in that moment that they will be encompassed by it. There might be days that pass by, yet, that brand was so impactful and so everlasting that it becomes a part of their norm. If that happens, you’re in a good space; nay, you’re in a great space because you’ve broken the threshold of anonymous branding to inducing brand recall.
When someone can be in a situation that allows them to remember a past encounter with your brand, enabling them to ponder upon that recollection, that’s how you know you’ve made it into the fortresses of their memory. But, it all starts with that first encounter. That film, that image, that mural, that . . . logo can really make a difference when presented to the right people in the right way. When it comes to personal branding; an effective brand technique uses a little thought, a little love, a lot of honesty, and a great pitch!”
An important part of brand building, personal or corporate is consistency. Developing a strong brand creates a foundation for competitive advantage and ultimately brand equity. Brand equity acts as a framework that shapes how people feel about your product or you. Salience is the first level of brand equity, which is how people recognize and identify with you. The best way to create salience is through consistency.
According to Carlos Garrido, Digital Brand Strategist and Adventure Filmmaker,
“Having a consistent level of quality is crucial to the health of your personal brand identity. Defining your brand aesthetic early on is perhaps the most important thing you can do to have a strong influence on your social media channels. Great brand identity will set the tone of your brand/message, and it will help you evoke specific feelings in your audience.”
That emotional connection can also take place through the use of Influencers. Another rapidly growing trend in marketing, in fact, influencer marketing is the fastest growing online customer-acquisition method. Brands are listening and are looking to build relationships with influencers who align with the brand and are aligned with the values of an influencer’s followers. On YouTube, Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and other channels; people are flocking to social channels where influencers have a higher percentage of trust or connections by consumers than brands.
Social media are heavily visual platforms with a majority of the content visual from video, imagery, emojis, memes, GIFs, some statistics showing up to 84% of content on social is visual. Visuals are the single largest content contributor in social media, with 85% of marketers including visuals in content. Naturally, brands must be cognizant of the way influencers make people feel, brand recall is how people feel about your brand and as our mothers always said, “you are the company you keep.”
Dr. William F. Humphrey, Jr., Ph.D., Marketing Faculty, Florida International University underscores the importance of visual cohesiveness, influencers, and branding;
“Brand and visual cohesiveness are more relevant than ever because of influencer marketing. As brand stewards deploy citizen advertisers in the form of influencers, they cede some creative control of the brand. Having safeguards such as a creative approval process built into contracts and influencer briefs help reduce these issues, but by the nature of this execution, the brand loses some control. Watch this space for much more discussion on brand-visual fit.”
There are a lot of channels to support your brand story with visuals. From logos to clothing to social, video, web, digital, print and even data visualizations.
According to eMarketer, Visual search is on the rise, with 62% of US and UK millennial internet users using this technology as part of their digital shopping experience, at 62.2%. Your customers are just looking and communicating through visuals but searching for them as well. What story are you going to tell? How are you going to use visuals to light that connection with your customers and create brand recall? Humans are social creatures and will benefit from an empathetic experience. To keep your story real and authentic, your visuals should reflect real life and your personal or corporate brand. Remember, real life isn’t always peaches and cream! Five aligned perspectives; brand association, brand tipping-point, brand technique, brand identity, and brand-visual fit lead the journey of your brand along the visual horizon.