In a world of short attention spans and social media addiction, visual content has to be effective at telling a story in a matter of seconds. Data shows that 97% of Fortune 500 brands rely on social media to connect with customers. From short-form content like Instagram Stories to skippable ads on YouTube, marketing departments must work hard to grab our attention.

That’s why it’s so important that visual content can tell a story without the need for an explanation alongside it. Compelling visual content grabs you from the moment your eyes find it, so let’s look at the reasons why it plays a huge role in marketing.

How is visual content defined?

Visual marketing is a powerful tool that many brands and companies use to create engaging content and flex their creative muscles. It comes in many forms and requires a content creator, commonly a photographer, cinematographer or graphic designer.

What are the common types of visual content?

Visual content comes in three main forms:  images, videos and infographics. Each has its strength and using them adequately can be the difference between a marketing strategy sticking or failing.

  • Images

Images are key for web-based content such as websites, blogs and social media posts. For social media, images that can stop people scrolling past are essential.

Experts at used camera marketplace, MPB say:

‘Rather than following in the exact footsteps of competitors, find what makes your brand unique and let that be the focal point. Tell people who you are, what your mission is and what makes you different through the lens of your photos. People are naturally drawn to interesting stories, so don’t be scared to tell yours in an authentic way’.

  • Videos

Video is the most popular form of visuals used by marketing departments, thanks largely to social media and how easy it is to engage with an audience through them. This could be through a dynamic advert that grips the viewer from the get-go or a creative tactic in a new digital marketing strategy. It could also be an influencer’s live stream where their audience is engaging throughout the broadcast.

  • Infographics

Infographics present data, sometimes in graphical form, to help deliver information in a digestible format. They can convey a big message in a short time span and allow the data to be the important point. From explaining how a brand’s carbon footprint can be measured per product to the benefits of using a product. Infographics put complex information into lay terms.

Data is powerful. Use it

Data can tell the story all by itself, but it’s important that it is presented in a digestible manner. For example, you don’t tend to see a spreadsheet used in a marketing campaign because it takes far too long for anyone to understand what they are looking at.

Instead, through the use of an infographic, a brand is able to convey its message in a matter of a few short seconds. This may be as part of an advertising poster or as an embedded element to an article that’s making a wider point.

How does visual content tell the best story?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words and it’s certainly the way many brands look at their marketing campaigns. Perhaps one of the finest examples of visual content telling a story is the Nike ‘Just Do It’ campaign that first aired in a 1988 TV ad.

The enduring slogan remains important to Nike’s marketing and its short but sweet message acts as inspiration for those who read it. That inspiration could encourage someone to start exercising, grit their teeth through a tough workout or tackle something larger in their life. By creating a story through visuals, potential customers may feel their values align with those of the brand responsible for it.

Don’t just tell the audience, show them

Brands that try to shout about an important message or issue can get it wrong and appear condescending to their target audiences. Trying to force a reaction can be counterproductive and the most important aspect of visual marketing is to allow your readers or viewers to engage with the content themselves.

This means being brave and believing in the conviction of your images, rather than having to hold your viewers’ hands through what they are looking at. Being too heavy-handed or tone-deaf with the message, or trying to force a call to action can take attention away from the story you are trying to tell.