By Matt Pigott - July 23rd, 2015

In part two of our series on the importance of visual content, we look at how to pick the best platform for your goals.

This is the second part in our series on visual content. Part one is available here.

Another major change in content for marketing - is in the area of delivery mechanisms. Global social media platforms–the mechanisms for driving content into the hearts and minds of consumers–are still relatively new, even though the age-old combo of words and pictures isn’t. So the main questions are: which platforms are best to deliver specific content on, and how is it possible to achieve maximum visibility to ensure an all round better ROI?

Rather than thinking deeply about the interplay between content and context, many marketers have reacted to the appearance of new visual routes to market by rehashing old content and plastering it over every image-driven social platform at their disposal (predominantly YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook) to extend their reach and exposure.

And it’s these platforms in the main that have caused the surge in CMOs demanding more visual content, precipitating a huge rise in the deployment of infographics, high definition images and video. This, in turn, has led developers, now sitting on sites populated with user content, to think fast about ways to turn their new wealth of data in cash dollars. So the adage bandied around for a decade or so: scale now, monetize later is finally starting to play out in reality. 


Pin It To Win It

Infographic: The sheer amount of visual content we createConsider that Pinterest, in the last few months, has turned the world’s largest mood board into a giant online supermarket full of shoppable pins while, at precisely the same time, Instagram has started rolling out shoppable ads. The shift from a purely social to a transactional business model has happened far more quickly than it did with Twitter of Facebook and, while it might not sit so well with social media purists, it presents marketers with sudden and exciting opportunities, not only to present their products and services for viewing, but also to sell them directly, click by click, to a global audience through a growing array of outlets–places where visual content takes centre stage.

In the coming few weeks some 30 million pins will become ‘buyable’ with thousands of products reaching new markets for the first time, potentially spawning a shift in consumer behavior while encouraging marketing departments and agencies, especially in the retail sector, to adjust strategies in light of new sales opportunities. But this shouldn’t be seen as a green light to crudely start trying to press people’s emotional ‘buying buttons’ with snazzy pictures in the hope of seeing the dollars role in. Today’s savvy consumers are more sophisticated than that; they’re also extremely resistant to anything they perceive to be ‘loud’, aggressive or manipulative marketing from brands. They, millenials in particular, still want choice and control even if only at the perceptional level. What the growing pool of younger consumers want are quality products and a seamless, almost transparent, brand experience.

Today, it’s the more considered approach that works best for brands, the most successful of which pay real attention to detail, generating content that achieves its goals within the context of specific platforms.

Through Vines and YouTube videos, Snapchat and Infographics, combined with searchable text in Tweets and on Facebook­­–brands are working hard to draw in a new breed of buyers while striving to retain loyal customers.

The challenge is to create the illusion of cohesiveness against an ever-fragmenting marketing backdrop as well as to stay current–not to regurgitate old material but always generate new ideas and fresh content that can be presented it in an understandable, easily digestible, relevant way.


Ads Still Matter

HSBC’s recent YouTube advertisement shows a man in a lift. Playing out like an elaborately shot Vine–though over a minute-and-a-half, not six seconds–we see the aspiring business man at various stages of his life, in the lift that each day takes him to and from his office: shots with colleagues, alone and tearful, with his wife, with his children, clean shaven, ageing well and sporting a beard. There’s no dialogue, only evocative music; it’s the sort of ad/visual content that people are likely to remember because it appeals on an emotional level.

The brand the ad represents and the slogan, It’s never just business, don’t appear until the very end. What’s interesting about this approach is that the creative and marketing teams are so confident that viewers will be watch the short all the way through, that they save the brand revelation until the end. It’s bold and full of its own confidence in the visual story playing out. What this, and many ads like it, reveal is that video in particular is becoming increasingly adept at appealing to more subtle human emotions, not to sell per se, but to generate brand empathy, which engenders loyalty.


Measured In The Billions

When considering that a year’s worth of YouTube videos are watched on Facebook every day, and that YouTube gets around a billion unique visitors each month, and that a further billion mobile views take place each day, it’s not hard to understand why 70 percent of marketers believe that videos will dominate their brand strategies over the next five years. Other statistics further reveal the direction marketing is moving in: According to a Forrester Research, volume content is growing by 200% year on year, while 78% of CMOs think custom content is the future of marketing. In addition, 72% of marketers think branded content is more effective than advertising in a magazine.

For marketers wanting to make a sudden impact therefore, words are important, but images are vital, and this goes some way to explaining why YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google.

This isn’t to suggest that people don’t want to read, it’s just that they’re dredging through so much poor quality material most of the time, and trying to dodge aggravating marketing pop-ups while worrying about unhealthy sites unleashing vicious viruses, that filtering information quickly has become an essential skill in the quest to find meaningful material. Scanning and skimming, far from being a frivolous pastime, is now a modern day necessity. Powerful images are therefore the marketer’s greatest asset, bait to draw in frustrated consumers and funnel them toward genuinely useful content, and a stimulating brand experience.


Hunting For Truffles

So giving the old, cold and stale a slightly different twist, dishing it up and calling it haut cuisine is a no-no. As new platforms gain traction, it’s far better to build a fresh presence with new ingredients and a different twist. This is a gap in the market that a new agency, Truffle Pig, has spotted. Formed by a powerful alliance between three major media players– Snapchat, DailyMail and WPP–it’s exotic fusion of social media, newsroom and global marketing and advertising will arguably set a new industry benchmark.

Founder of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell said:

“In a digital world overflowing with content, consumers crave quality. Truffle Pig combines the best in media, content and user experience to satisfy people’s appetite for great storytelling, and inspire brand engagement, loyalty and sales.”

Sorrell highlights that marketers need to take a more defined approach, generating campaign specific content for their preferred platforms that enriches the user experience.


Vine Time For Quick Fixes

Vine is also being used increasingly by marketers, and those quick to react to trending conversations and videos by creating their own timely shorts can find themselves quickly going viral, such as when Pepsi used this year’s full Northern Hemisphere eclipse in a hypnotic looping video that clocked up tens of thousands of views on the day. Nike’s innovative and varied Vine’s have also amassed around 50million loops since the company began posting them.  


Reaching Out To Generation Y

One of the main things that brands need to do today is to reach people where they’re consuming content, and it may come as little surprise that teens–tomorrows consumers–and Millenials are turning their backs on what author Stephen King termed ‘the glass teat in the corner.’ A research report from Miner & Co. Studio, reveals that for many children, the TV is bowing out to tablets and smart phones. Less than a generation ago, there would have been one or two TV screens in any given household, with specific broadcasts being aired at specific times. Intergenerational spats would have been about which programs to watch.

Today, most homes have half-a-dozen or more screens of varying shapes and sizes delivering what viewers want, when they want it. Kids retreat to corners armed with tablets or phones to play games and watch YouTube videos. And parents are more likely to punish their children by restricting their use of tablets and phones than preventing them from watching TV. It’s no longer just about the screen and moving images, it’s about being connected, knowing you’re connected, and having the ability to interact.

As one of the tweens interviewed succinctly put it: “iPads are cool, TV isn’t that good, because you can’t control it.” From the mouths of babes come great and inexorable truths. What new generations want is swipeable, tappable, pinchable, draggable control.

Which means marketers, in addition to the other outreach challenges they already face, are also being nudged toward implementing strategies that veer away from established advertising norms toward interactivity. Today, they must be thinking cross-platform at all times, both in terms of the devices they target and the context of their online content. 

This concludes the final part of our series on visual content marketing. Part one is available here. If this topic is important in your role, take a look at our forthcoming Content Marketing Conference, taking place in Chicago on November 16-17.

The Content Marketing Conference 2015

November 2015, Chicago

How you can make and distribute better content - to engage customers and beat your competition

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