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One of the roles of marketing is to help consumers visualize the benefits of using a product or service. In the past, marketers used visuals like product photos, product placement in TV shows/movies, data visualization with graphs and charts to get the point across. In the age of digital marketing, the use of visual aids has gone up several notches to create better engagement with potential customers. New technology and marketing material consumption behavior has sparked a robust trend towards “visual-first” approach to marketing, be it in content marketing, ads, or trials. In this article, we examine the top six trends of visual content marketing as of 2021 and highlight likely trends going forward.
We start with the grand-daddy of visual content for marketing- infographics. Think graphs, pie charts, flow charts, process charts, and even maps. Infographics convey information visually, boosting readers’ attention to whatever marketers want them to focus on. In the age of the internet, data shows that engagement among browsing customers on websites went up by 12% if the website had even a single infographic. The reason is simple- the human brain can process a graphic in as little as a quarter of a second. Compare that with the attention and comprehension span to go through a long spreadsheet! Infographics also add information to the visuals, which gets readers to concentrate on the picture more.
No wonder then that prominent marketers and visual marketing experts swear by infographics. Modern business leaders depend on dashboards with infographics. Going forward, the good old infographic will evolve to incorporate the latest in technology- flat, static infographics will give way to interactive infographics, and data visualization will be able to switch between various types of infographics (2D to 3D, for example) in real-time to help readers see fast-moving, huge mounds of data as constantly evolving pictorial representations.
Figure 2: Infographics may be legacy, but they are central to modern workplaces. Real-time, interactive infographics can be presented as “dashboards” to senior executives and customers to create faster decision making and connect with the messaging.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Many a reader of user manuals and assembly instructions would agree! Don’t get us wrong- we love written descriptions, but sketches and illustrations can sometimes convey ideas much more accurately and even more humorously. As products are increasingly marketed across countries, regions, and demographics over the internet, marketing material has to be translated or subtitled (in the case of videos) to get the message across. Illustrations and sketches are an easy, inexpensive way to get around that problem.
Beyond the functional, illustrations are also incredibly versatile. Sketches and illustrations can go from newspaper-strip type line drawings to really fine, breathtaking art, evoking far more emotional reactions from the audience than words do. Where infographics are mathematical and data-driven, illustrations are creative and human. Over the next few years, we expect marketers to use illustrations even more, taking advantage of software tools, stock images, vector art, and computer-generated drawings in addition to original drawings and paintings to add to the visual element in marketing. Even further out, 3D and even 4D visual art- art that changes in response to external forces like touch, temperature, and sound will emerge to become the mainstays of visual-first marketing.
Figure 3: Illustrations can be very effective in reaching customers with humour, satire, fantasy or other themes to evoke powerful emotions. Without language barriers they can also reach customers across geographical and cultural boundaries.
3. Unusual Vantage Photos
Photography is about creating new perspectives. Each new advance in photographic technology and photographing technique brings with it a new way for viewers to connect with the world around them. From super zoom photos to 360-degree photos, marketers are taking advantage of new perspectives to draw user attention. We especially think drone photography will play an enormous role in visual marketing in the future. With affordable drones getting larger, able to fly higher, and with onboard camera resolutions getting more and more powerful, expect to see interactive photos that allow users to zoom in or zoom out as much as they want, photographic representation of reality is about to achieve a new meaning.
Figure 4: New technology and photography techniques allow marketers to create fresh looks from new vantage points like the ones above: a) a super macro shot of bubbles on water b) a high speed photo of colliding water droplets c) aerial shots from drone photography d) 360 degree panoramas e) space photography f) Underwater photos
Other techniques like 360-degree photos are already being used in eCommerce to allow potential buyers to examine products interactively from various angles. “outside-in” and “inside-out” perspectives allow 360-degree photos to be applicable to everything from jewelry to real estate and go a long way in resolving customer queries.
4. Animations & Video
Modern marketing isn’t just “visual-first”, it’s also “video-first”. The fastest growth in all consumer-targeted content is audio-visual, and visual marketing content is leading the way! While still pictures certainly have their place, videos and animations of all types- simple GIF animations, professionally created 2D & 3D animations, live videos, and hybrid (live-action + animation) videos are all incredibly effective in drawing and holding the attention of customers. Videos are great for evoking emotions as well as providing information. Video or animation production has been around for over 100 years. Combined with new software and powerful, affordable hardware, video, and animation are poised to dominate visual marketing like never before. In the future, with most marketing and entertainment consumption migrating from televisions to hand-held devices, especially mobile phones, we expect video content to be rich yet lightweight, short, and direct.
Video and animation styles will continue to evolve too. More and more “simple” animation like GIFs and minor animation will become automated, driven by machine learning, while new, original art will continue to be produced in ever-evolving visual styles, inspired by signature styles of filmmakers and artists from around the world to keep content looking fresh.
5. Mixed Reality
Mixed reality is already here and will continue to influence visual marketing. Platforms like Instagram already offer various filters. Dedicated “virtual try-on” apps let users “try on” clothing and apparel or “place” furniture in their living rooms. Other apps let users simulate customized looks for their cars, motorcycles, boats, and homes across devices. As augmented and virtual reality becomes more accessible across devices like smartphones, and with new mixed reality devices like AR glasses on the horizon, we believe mixed reality will play a very big role in visual marketing in the future.
The incorporation of Mixed Reality into a marketer’s media planning is likely to be a smooth, progressing event rather than a series of watershed moments. Platforms will enable more and more AR/VR capabilities in the background, while individual consumers will access this incredible technology as just one more “feature”, blissfully unaware of what a huge influence it has on their buying behaviors! This particular technology is still in its adolescence, and the future trend here is definitely a positive one, though no one knows at which pace.
Figure 6: Visual Marketing with AR is still in its early days, but already shows huge promise. This is likely to be a very large part of how marketers achieve customer interest in the future.
Ask any social media marketing expert, and they can attest to the importance of creating platform-specific content to optimize engagement with viewers. This has to do with what kind of content the platform’s been optimized for and what segment of users the platform is most popular with. In addition, some platforms just tend to be used more with certain devices than others. For instance, short streaming content like 15-second animations is great for Tik Tok, while interactive animations work great with Instagram. Long-form video content works well on YouTube or IGTV, both mostly accessed from mobile devices, but LinkedIn Learning can have a significant number of users who view the content in office environments on their laptops.
This creates two trends- first, platform-specific content creation. This is excellent for improving user engagement but is pretty resource-heavy. That leads us to a second trend- tech-driven content transformation to optimize content between platforms by making slight changes, but without needing to create custom content per platform. Like everything else, a large reason for this trend is the cost. We expect to see machine learning and AI playing very large roles in content modification for platform alignment in the future.
Marketers will need to keep pace with not just one but all six trends to be successful in the future. Does that mean marketers need to access specialists in each area? Well…they could, and that would just add to their already long supply chains, or they could, as many of the top marketing firms in the world do, work with experienced content production specialists like Pikspire to create a variety of high quality content like 3D animation, bulk illustrations, VR/AR, and much more as part of integrated marketing campaigns. This approach means saving time, simplifying vendor management, and also getting a pretty sweet reduction in cost, because Pikspire and similar companies can transfer the benefits of volume production on to their customers.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know what you think!
“Video Marketing – Creative & Effective”, Pikspire