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The What, Why, And How Of Visual Content Marketing

It was only three weeks after graduation and Perry was itching to gain some real-world experience before settling into the daily grind with the rest of the workforce.
He packed up his tiny Cleveland apartment, left a key for the subletter, and caught the first red-eye flight to Munich, eager to discover the unwritten story that had fueled his passions over the last four years studying journalism.
Ten hours later, Perry found himself wandering around a bustling airport wondering how he would ever find his luggage. He flipped open his pocket dictionary and memorized the word: Gepäck. His tired eyes burned as he tried to interpret the strange signs he hurried past.
Suddenly, like a magical beacon, he saw it — the universal symbol for a suitcase.
With a sigh of relief, Perry realized there was a language in this country he could understand.
He would rely on visual communication in restaurants, hostels, the city transit, and the open market for the rest of the summer. Perry used imagery to ask the local residents from city to city how to verbally communicate his needs and satisfy his urgency to know about everything around him.
From map books to cell phone images to his personal book of doodles, Perry began to retain the native spoken language through visual cues. Even more importantly, he gained valuable insight into the impact and necessity of visual communication, a lesson he would carry into his career through his content.
Visual communication is so entwined with how we do everything day today, we typically do not even notice how it affects our decisions, from which box of waffles to purchase to which tabloid magazine we will slip onto the grocery store belt just before checkout.
Interestingly enough, in spite of how visual stimulation demands our attention, choices, and memory retention, it is often neglected from our content marketing strategy.
So, what is visual communication and how can you use it to effectively enhance your content marketing strategy? Let’s take a look:

What is visual communications?

Most notably, when looking for a public restroom, you likely are searching for that well-known sign with a distinct silhouette of a male and/or female. It doesn’t matter how clever the establishment is with customizing their sign to reflect their culture, you will recognize these figures. The same goes for the bus stop, the hospital, and even the ATM.
Visual communication is equally important when considering how people will come to recognize and perceive your brand. From colors and fonts to your brand logo and watermark, when they are looking for HR tech to fill their organizational needs, your brand should speak to them visually.
One of the easiest ways to rein prospects and candidates in is to use visuals deliberately and effectively in your content.
Why are visuals so important?
Visual communication is one of the three main types of communication — the other two being verbal and nonverbal. It is no surprise that visual communication is relied on the most. It predates all other forms, with evidence of the use of visuals reaching as far back as prehistoric times.
Language initially evolved as symbols, which eventually formed words, leading to associated sounds. Somewhere down the line, however, visual communication was abandoned for stark black and white text and with it, the ability to fully evoke an emotional connection with readers.
The use of visuals is the only form of communication that effectively crosses gender, cultural, and generational gaps. Not only that but also it is the learning style most frequently paired with other learning styles to improve memory retention.
If you want your visual content marketing strategy to succeed and stick with your readers, you must first know a little bit about your audience’s ability to process visuals and their visual preferences.

How does visual learning affect content marketing?

Amazingly, humans are programmed to be visual learners. For nearly three decades, scholars have reviewed and reiterated the recurring evidence that approximately 65 percent of the world’s population are visual learners.
In 2002, Richard M. Felder updated his report Learning and Educational Styles In Engineering, originally published with Linda Silverman in 1988, to reflect findings on how even though recent evolution has changed the way we receive information, subjects are still predominantly visual learners.
Independent studies in various industries have consistently yielded similar results.
Interesting visual facts:
The brain can see images that last for just 13 milliseconds. This fact is frequently attributed to a 1996 publication, “Brain-Compatible Learning,” by academic and entrepreneur Eric Jensen.
Evidence from a study done at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2014 confirms that although detection improves with duration, the human mind can, in fact, retain mere moments of visual content — far exceeding that of written and verbal communication methods.
Ninety percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual. This is a no-brainer, but aside from this, Jensen’s studies have also revealed that our eyes can register as many as 36,000 visual messages per hour.
That may sound remarkable, but just consider how many images you have processed before reading this post. The picture on your favorite coffee mug, the traffic signs on the commute to work, the company logo outside your office building, the Windows login as you started up your computer — and all of the thousands of visual stimulations in between.
We can get a sense of a visual scene in just 1/10 of a second. Our fight or flight response is highly grounded in this widely accepted concept. It’s believed, based on deductions from physiological theories of how fast an animal can be identified in a natural setting, that visuals are processed 60,000x faster in the brain than text.
Given these findings, it’s no wonder that visual content marketing is the means to making your content and brand more memorable. But in a highly stimulating world, how do you stand out in the visual noise? How do you identify your audience’s preferred visual communication style? And how do you marry that to your brand recognition?
All very good questions. A good place to start is by looking at partners, competitors, even brands you use daily. Observe how they are using visual content marketing to speak to you.
Who is using visuals well?

JazzHR

JazzHR, an applicant tracking and recruiting solution, boasts in-your-face images on their cleverly titled blog, Jazz Notes. There is no question of whether or not visual communication is at play. Their custom featured images are banded with the bold colors their brand is recognized for.
Not only that, but their deliberate selection of people-focused and inspiring real-life images immediately make the reader feel in touch with the subjects. Even stock images take on a life of their own when coupled with brand-specific visual elements.
Colors and fonts play a major role in how imagery is perceived and recognized when encountering that specific content, or associated content, later.

OfficeVibe

OfficeVibe takes employee engagement and company culture content to a whole new level.
Their blog invites readers to explore their content through fun and colorful imagery. The unique featured images are filed in a photo catalog format, forcing your eyes to excitedly dance around the page from post to post. The consistency of the image colors and style create an easily identifiable way to recognize the brand through their content.
Within their blog posts, similarly branded visuals are inserted throughout the text to keep readers engaged. Related content appears as images in the sidebars while scrolling through the post. The entire experience is visually-stimulating and memorable.

How do you get started with visual content marketing?

The visuals you use in your content marketing strategy can include anything from signs to graphics to photography, film, and typography. There are countless multi-media sources to pull from. You just have to determine what kind of visual content your particular audience relates to.
The best way to determine this is research, trial, and error. I didn’t say this was going to be easy.
First, visit the social media outlets your target audience frequents. Determine if they are sharing HR tech videos from YouTube, or if they tend to ‘like’ and share images on Instagram and Twitter. Maybe it’s both.
When they share a Facebook or LinkedIn post on their social profiles, what kind of media or imagery do they tend to gravitate to? Do they get excited about infographics, or do they lean toward ebooks over blog posts?
Next, pause and consider why this visual content is being shared most. Make note of who or what is featured in these images, charts, and case studies. How can you make that same connection through your brand? Notice the placement of the subjects, the colors, and the emotions they evoke. You’re only just starting to understand visual communications.
The final stage before you begin to plan how you will create your visual content marketing strategy is to build your audience personas and identify what your brand looks like to these subjects. What is it about your culture that can be easily relayed through visual communication? How do your vision, mission, and values translate visually?
For example, are you people-focused, like JazzHR? Do you want to be perceived as approachable and one-of-a-kind, like OfficeVibe?
Once you have identified what your audience enjoys and what your brand looks like, you can begin to create the imagery that will bridge the gap between the two.
This post originally appeared on the Come Recommended blog.

About Crystal DeTemple McNeel

I'm the editorial and visual director at Ride the Sail Marketing. I've always enjoyed the challenge and thrill associated with the command of words on human emotions. When I'm not editing, designing, or drafting for RSM and our amazing clients, I'm nurturing the love of reading and writing in my personal tribe of tiny humans, or making music. Thanks for visiting our blog!