In my presentation this past week I covered “Social Media and the Visual World,” or “Digital Marketing and Visual Content.” Here I want to take the opportunity to expand upon the topic by offering some strategies and practices from brands that I feel have innovative, consistent, and effective visual strategies (Threadless, Lego, Oreo) as well as other examples of powerful visual content, specifically data visualization.
During the summer of 2012 I stumbled upon Threadless and loved the concept and business model, as both a business student and artist. As we read about earlier in the semester, their machine is well oiled and successful : with no advertising, no professional designers, no sales force and no retail distribution, the company matches supply and demand seamlessly. My Christmas presents to my parents and brothers were all t-shirts that year.
Not only do they have a unique model but their visual content strategy is effective, engaging, and cost-effective. It’s important because the backbone of the business is the community, consisting of designers on one hand and on the other, if not designers, people with appreciation for good design and humor. Keeping front of mind, stimulating creativity and inspiration outside of the site, is paramount. The videos and images they create go beyond product and design images, often showcasing company culture and creative spirit: creating repartee between community and corporate.
According to Inc., three marketing employees and a multimedia specialist each take a platform: Facebook, Tumblr, Vine, and Instagram. They also are on smaller platforms, like Periscope. The marketers primarily rely on iPhone cameras and Adobe Premiere, editing software that sells for less than $1,000. Posts mix in features of new designs, call-to-actions’s to vote on designs, discounts, giveaways, upcoming news, and special member offers. All posts are incorporated with relevant and original visuals, both images and videos. Posts are also catered to current events and cultural phenomenon (there’s a ton of Halloween themes and Back-To-The-Future shirts on sale now).
“It’s about keeping your brand relevant to what’s happening in the wider world,” – Threadless marketing coordinator Kyle Geib.
Lego is actually a powerhouse in brand content marketing across the board, with a depth and breadth of content to support its various products. This includes microsites, social communities, mini-movies, and magazines. They excel at social strategy by leveraging both brand-generated and user-sourced images and videos and featuring them on YouTube and Vine. As you can see from this video on shopping or this one on halloween, these can garner millions of views.
The purpose of the content is to spark the imagination and “animate” legos, both literally and figuratively. The videos are often geared to be amusing and relatable to the parents (who purchase legos) as much as children. Visual content shows the product in action, makes it interactive, can trigger nostalgia, and rewards creativity when Lego features crowdsourced content.
We are all familiar with the famous, opportunistic SuperBowl ad. But Oreo consistently churns out humorous and highly creative ads, and visuals, by looking at their products in new ways and in new contexts. For a brand over 100 years old, Oreo keeps things fresh.
Oreo uses visuals to engage cookie lovers, showcase new or seasonal flavors, as well as introduce recipes and DIYs. Oreo’s social strategy is distinctive (what other cookie has the same amount of brand personality?). Though Oreo has more financial clout behind photographers and staff ensuring the cookies look good than perhaps an average company, the creativity and context of the visual is what differentiates Oreo from its competitors. Through its stream of visuals, Oreo tells a brand story and brings their customer along with them.
Data Visualization & Interactive Infographics
Some other things to check out are data visualizations and interactive infographics, which are rising in popularity and production as marketing trends towards visual storytelling. One of the coolest ones I’ve come across is “How Search Works” by Google (you should really check it out). This list also contains a lot of really interesting ones.
What’s relevant here is that while the brand examples I outlined above achieve community engagement and brand storytelling, infographics and data visualization are highly useful for education, awareness, and persuasion for various causes– political, social, technological, environmental, you name it– and keep people engaged for longer and teach them better. As I said in my presentation, 90% of the information that goes to the brain is visual and 65% of us are visual learners. B2B companies, especially, could take an example from these firms and invest more of their marketing budgets towards visually showcasing what they do, how they do it, or the impact they do, when feasible.