When we published the new laws of visual content marketing in March 2015, brands were just waking up to the power of visual content.
Unfortunately, far too many good brands were getting it wrong. Yes, they were experimenting and learning through trial and error, but we wanted to remove the guesswork. So, we put together the visual content marketing laws and included examples of brands doing it right.
The post went viral. It amassed over 2500 shares and over 8k retweets on Twitter.
In the past two years, the content marketing landscape has evolved. The way we market our visual content has changed too. It’s why we decided to re-examine the laws we created in 2015 and see how they had progressed.
The evolution of the laws of visual content marketing
Our criterion for re-examining the laws were simple. We wanted to see which laws had become obsolete, which ones remained as important as ever, and whether any new laws had developed.
Turns out, four of our previous laws no longer apply to the same degree in today’s world of visual content marketing. In their place, four new laws have emerged. And while the rest of the laws remain the same, the way they are applied has evolved too.
The laws of caption, social, credibility, and resilience no longer hold the same sway as they did in 2015. It’s why we decided to retire them. Instead, they’ve been replaced by four new laws:
- The law of movement
- The law of ownership
- The law of diversification
- The law of channel
The #1 reason visual content converts so well
According to John Medina, a New York Times bestselling author of Brain Rules, “Vision trumps all other senses.”
Your brain will retain only 10% of the information you heard three days ago. But if the same piece of information is presented as a visual, in three days’ time, your brain will still remember a whopping 65% of it.
Visual content in your marketing has become so important because it’s proven to beat text only content time and time again. That holds true for social media posts, Facebook advertising, websites and presentations. But the rules are changing as consumers become more savvy; that is why we’ve put together these 10 laws.
Break them and you risk making your marketing efforts less effective.
10 Laws of visual content marketing – the 2017 update
If you are looking to maximise your marketing effort, these ten laws will help you get on track and stay there. It’s time to buckle up and get reading!
#1 – The Law of Ownership
The question of who owns your visual content can be a complex one. As CMI’s Joe Pulizzi says “don’t build your content house on rented land”. In other words it is better to create a central place (your website) where you host all your content and share it on social networks or to your database from there.
But the law of ownership is bigger than the issue of where content is housed; it also relates to the rights to use the content especially as it relates to UGC (user generated content).
Just as you own the rights to your branded content, your customers and users own the rights to the content they produce. Just because their images feature your products, it doesn’t mean you can automatically use them.
If you are aggregating content from social channels then there are a strict set of rules and guidelines for re-displaying that content. It includes credit, links, dates and other criteria which you must display.
And if you can’t guarantee to follow that criteria you are going to need to get consent – either explicit or implied consent.
Using the “Law of Ownership” right
Wellington Zoo excels in the ‘owned’ content field. Their website features a ‘zoo content hub’ which displays auto-consented, behind-the-scenes footage snapped by the zookeepers. This footage is then shared on different social networks of their choice.
The image below was snapped by their zookeepers after they raised the platforms for their cheetahs. They included a fun fact, a behind-the-scenes update, and an amazing picture to capture the interest of their audience. The post got them hundreds of reactions and comments on their Facebook page.
#2 – The Law of Diversification
Brands need a variety of content to effectively tell their story. Although UGC is quickly becoming a vital part of any integrated content strategy, it is not the only way to relate to an audience.
Of course it comes to a consistent application of your predetermined strategy, and it’s important to decide your themes in advance.
Once you have done this, the trick is to simply mix up what you do: be adventurous and blend the content you share out to your network. This may involve using a combination of valuable UGC, quality brand content and carefully curated employee content.
There’s no set rule which dictates how to do this – but it is imperative to weave different formats together around a central theme and test what works best for your brand.
Using the “Law of Diversification” right
Travel Operators, Hello World, use an effective mix of branded content and UGC within their Facebook ads. The team noticed that brand content resonated well with prospecting audiences, while UGC significantly increased ad performance when retargeting a ‘warm’ audience. This diversification of content drove a mammoth 136% increase in CTR.
#3 – The Law of Movement
Did you know that 4 times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it? Or that 1 in 4 consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have video? We’re actually hardwired to respond to movement; it’s a biological human response examined in full by the team at Shuttlerock here.
It’s why your business must include video in its visual content strategy.
Thanks to Facebook live, Instagram stories, Snapchat, and Periscope (to name a few), creating videos is easier and cheaper than ever.
You don’t need to create videos that require big production budgets. A mobile phone is all you need. If that feels too amateurish, then you can turn your photos into video slideshows with text overlays, and music, and animation – the options are virtually limitless.
Using the “Law of Movement” right
Britz, the largest campervan rental company in Australasia, uses Facebook ads to showcase the places their campers can take you. Their use of still and moving imagery within these ads brings these travel destinations to life.
Britz isn’t the only company to do this well.
HelloWorld also transforms their still images into dynamic videos. Every time they post these videos on their Facebook page, they capture and hold the attention of potential travelers who are their target market.
These thumb-stopping videos are shared widely bringing them the exposure they wouldn’t have reached without using the law of movement.
#4 – The Law of the Channel
While the law of ownership is about hosting your content, so you retain full rights, the law of channel is about distributing that content for maximum exposure.
Every social network is different. Some have time length restrictions while others have published time limits. It’s why your visual content strategy needs to find the right channel for your content.
Remember, there’s no one size fits all. When deciding which channel to publish your content on, focus on your target audience. Where do they hang out and how do they view their content?
For example, if your target audience are teenagers, publishing your content on Snapchat might convert better than posting on Instagram or Periscope.
Using the “Law of Channel” right
Movember, a charitable initiative aimed as growing awareness for men’s health – ran a photo contest that showcased Mo Bros and Mo Sisters around the world who were growing, moving and getting together for men’s health. The campaign urged customers to share their favourite ‘mo’ pic on Instagram using the tag #Movember. Movember built hype for this campaign by interacting with users on Instagram, thanking them for their support and asking if they could publish their photos to their own social channels.
#5 – The Law of the Recent
When we go online, most of the content we consume is from today, or at best yesterday.
Content from last week is practically unreachable unless you’re looking for something specific. And content from last year has become history so ancient, it might as well be obsolete.
Skeptical? Test it. Go to your favorite social network. Open it up and take a look at your feed. Can you find a post from yesterday? Whilst algorithms are changing often, you’ll find content that is recent is prioritized.
Notice something else? The only way you can tell how recent a post is by the time stamp on them. Posts from today will either have the time they were published visible or tell you how long ago the post was made. E.g. an hour ago, five hours ago, yesterday.
For your content to be relevant, it has to be recent. The best way to do that is by time stamping your content or featuring topical events.
Using the “Law of Recent” right
Luna Park, an iconic Sydney amusement park, has created a social hub on their website where they curate and display new customer content.
They encourage visitors to upload their photos and videos or use the #lunalive hashtag on social media.
The result is a page full of latest, time-stamped content that gets updated by their visitors.
#6 – The Law of Consistency
Apart from engaging customers, the role of visual content is to reinforce your brand story. For that to happen, your content needs to have consistency.
Now when we say consistency, we don’t mean publishing visual content consistently. We mean that the combination of your different visuals equate to a consistent and meaningful story that reinforces your brand.
Two things to consider are firstly the content itself, the photos and videos need to have an aligned theme.
And secondly you can use other techniques. Whether that is in the form of a watermark, brand colors, hashtag, fonts, or even layout – the look and feel of your brand needs to be consistent.
The goal is to make your content memorable. To have it jump out at your audience, so they immediately recognize the content as yours.
With user generated content, having visual content that’s consistent can be tough. The mix-match of images from different customers and locations can result in a confusing content layout that fails to communicate your vision or story. That is where a good curation system will help.
Using the “Law of Consistency” right
Royal Caribbean, one of the world’s largest cruise ship companies, is a brand that uses a hashtag #SeekYourRoyalAdventure to create a consistent thread of user-generated content suitable for their target market.
While the content takes on a broad range of images, it remains a natural extension of their ‘fun-loving’ cruise excursions. And since the content is from their cruise, most of them feature the same backdrop i.e. the ocean, the cruise ship and its destinations.
#7 – The Law of Personality
Because of stock photos, brands often fall into the trap of using bland and boring images. Thankfully, visual content has made it easier than ever to bring a brand to life.
The right visuals, including photos, videos, infographics, and even ads can add depth to your brand story and reinforce your vision.
One of the easiest ways to do so is to give your customers a “behind-the-scenes” look. Show them what goes into making or marketing your brand, post pictures from office events, maybe even how you brainstorm.
The more your customers know about the culture of your company, the more your brand’s personality will shine through.
Using the “Law of Personality” right
Charity: Water does this brilliantly. They have an entire section of their site devoted to how they deliver clean water to people in Rwanda, Uganda, Bangladesh, and more.
Through the use of striking images and ‘behind-the-scenes’ video, followers stay updated, engaged and interested in their work.
#8 – The Law of Relevance
Visual content needs to be presented in context. It has to be relevant, informative and well organized.
So if you’re selling a product online, you need to provide visual content for it and publish relevant content in the right place.
For example, if you are selling a particular line of clothing then not only do you need to put photos of it on the right web pages, you also need to put the correct user-generated photos on the right web page.
Using the “Law of Relevance” right
Urban Outfitters ‘UO Community’ and #UOONYOU hashtag takes care of this law by linking customer photos to their products. This powerful gallery uses a combination of branded and user-generated lifestyle images to show how well admired the brand is.
#9 – The Law of Quality
With cell phone cameras becoming more and more sophisticated, customers have learned to take great photos and shoot videos themselves.
With photo apps and image filters in the mix, brands can source high-quality content from their customers quickly.
Using the “Law of Quality” right
Travellers are notorious for spending hours on capturing the perfect ‘gram-worthy’ snap. Their editing skills are often second to none as they attempt to make our pictures look as incredible to others as reality looks to them. Cathay Pacific, a renowned airline, has capitalized on this trend by encouraging their travelers to share their best travel photos for a chance to win awesome prizes like a 10-day trip to Sri Lanka. The result: A hub of high-quality visuals for them to pull on for their own advertising.
#10 – The Law of Authenticity
Here’s the thing. People are more likely to trust a referral from a friend or relative than a company.
In fact, research has shown Millennials are even more likely to trust a stranger’s review than a company. It’s why user-generated content is considered far more compelling than any content a brand produces.
Photos and videos from your customers tell the real story of your brand and are far more effective.
The law of Authenticity states that your customers must be willing to stand by your brand by publicly aligning themselves with it.
In layman terms, if your customers are posting images and sharing their experiences, they should be linking back to you or tagging you in their social media updates.
Think about it. What would you trust more? An image or video shared by a company showing how happy and satisfied their clients are? Or the same thing shared by one of their customers?
Using the “Law of Authenticity” right
Travel Leaders is an international travel agency that worked to weave user-generated content throughout their communications. They used this imagery within their own Facebook ads to provide prospective travellers with an authentic, behind-the-scenes look at their travel packages on offer. The result… a remarkable 165% increase in link clicks with this UGC-oriented Facebook ad campaign.
Content never sleeps, and neither does your online presence.
Visual content is not a campaign that ends in a few days or weeks. It’s not a one-off thing. It’s an ongoing strategy.
Make creating, publishing, and maintaining visual content an essential part of your marketing strategy.
In 2017, visual content is more relevant than ever. In fact, it may be the only content your customers trust.
The question is, how will you use these laws to earn your customer’s trust, loyalty, and business?
Visual content is a MAJOR element of creating killer Facebook ads. If you’re looking to supercharge your Facebook ad performance (all without spilling your coffee) download our free CheatSheet for success here.
Guest Author: Paul Bingham, COO Shuttlerock