When we talk about using visual content in social media marketing, the conversation often turns to the best formats and tactics for direct response ads.
It’s a shame, because visual social media has another superpower: telling a brand story so well it sticks with you.
Successful brands have harnessed the power of visual language and consistency – the resonance of each element with the identity and voice of the brand.
Consistency increases a brand’s perceived honesty, clarity, and believability with users, strengthening the bond between brand and buyer.
We don’t know about you – but as marketers, that’s what we strive for.
To help get you there, the social media team at Sculpt organized a Facebook Live to discuss four elements of visual content:
Each guest also shared one brand using an element well, and the science, numbers, and methods behind their success. Let’s break it down.
Typography allows you to maximize the space of your visual media. Copy doesn’t have to be restricted to the caption or post field, so brands that use typography to tell a story are letting it spill into their images as well.
Who We Love: Magnolia
Magnolia, the home furnishings and lifestyle brand homesteaded in Waco, Texas (you may recognize its founders from the hit HGTV show Fixer Upper), is a perfect example of a brand using typographic images well.
For example, this image advertising the opening of a pop-up store:
Why It Works
Typographically appealing images work within creative guidelines. A typographic message should convey its message easily and quickly.
- Text should be clear – in a font that is easy to digest, in a color that stands out from the background, and in a size that doesn’t require squinting or zooming in.
- Only the most important information should be included, and information presented in the image should be arranged hierarchically.
Choosing the right font often solves most or all of these rules, and certain fonts are actually more “believable” than others.
Magnolia does this all well to create a clean, on-brand image. They’ve chosen a simple, vintage, sans serif font which reads well and punches out from the bright background. Font size organizes the information into clear headlines and subtext and the copy is short and easily digestible.
Notice they haven’t included the time or location of the event. Here, the image is the ask – viewers can click through for more details.
Because of its strong link to emotion, color speaks to a brand’s tone and style before words ever get a chance.
Brands that are able to maintain a consistent color scheme in their images tell an ongoing story, but brands that intentionally use color to help viewers explore their brand tell an exciting one.
Who We Love: French Paper Co
French Paper Co., a Michigan-based paper mill, uses the natural, everyday beauty of its products to engage its viewers on Instagram.
Don’t let the word natural fool you into thinking there isn’t a strategy to their use of color – each image resonates with the images around it, encouraging seamless scrolling and with punchy images that catch (and hold) the eye.
Why It Works
There are enough color-theory infographics out there to fill this page twice-over, so we won’t bore you with it. Red is exciting and stimulating, black is luxurious and mysterious, etc.
To shape the perception of a brand, it’s important to align the subject and scheme of images with the right color themes.
French Paper Co. does an excellent job of using the color subject of its images to tell a story. Almost every image contrasts the industrial elements of printing machinery with bold, candy-hued rolls of paper. These unconventional splashes of color convey an element of quirk that – right on cue – shows up in their caption copy.
Had the company chosen a more muted color scheme, like monochrome or grayscale, the tone of the brand would flip from engaging industrial quirk to mysterious industrial mood.
Photographs are an intuitive, engaging form of visual media. Including them in a visual storytelling campaign is a no-brainer for a digital marketer – data shows that social posts including images garner consistently higher engagement metrics than text-only posts.
Brands that leverage the storytelling potential of photography understand the complex visual language behind an image, and highlight the elements that make an image “good”.
Who We Love: Fin and Feather
Fin and Feather, an outdoor retail brand based in Iowa City, is a great example of a well-run lifestyle photography strategy. Their Instagram images are consistent and clean, encouraging users to project themselves into the epic landscapes, tidy flatlays and dynamic outdoor gear.
Why It Works
Fin and Feather have harnessed light, balance, movement and styling to create a consistent visual identity that tells an impactful brand story.
Fin and Feather’s photographs use a cool-toned, natural light that shows products as they would appear when used and worn in the great outdoors. Even the flatlay photos are well-lit, authentic in their point-of-view perspective.
If you can’t do anything else, do this. Many free photo-editing apps have preset filters you can customize and save for use across your brand’s posts.
Consistent coloring of light and subject contribute to a cohesive brand aesthetic – especially on a highly-visual platform like Instagram.
Balance and Movement
It’s all about helping the viewer in, around and through your image.
In the kayak image, the eye immediately jumps to the model’s smile, then follows her gaze up to the end of the kayak. The whitespace of water behind her frames the subject and directs the viewer up and around to the top of her hat, balancing the photo’s horizontal and vertical motion.
Make sure your images are well-balanced by following the rule of thirds: divide the image into thirds horizontally and vertically, then align the subject and horizon with the top, bottom, right and left guidelines so that the image’s movement flows from one section to the next.
You’ll never see a Fin and Feather model posed in an inner-city alley or an abandoned car lot.
Fin and Feather styles its subjects so that images have a cohesive “vibe”–its models and subjects appear in environments that resonate with the brand’s voice, like forests, lakes and cabins.
Non-human subjects, like suitcases or climbing gear, are displayed on rugged or rustic surfaces, like a wooden deck or cabin floor.
The final frontier of visual media, video has surpassed all others in terms of projected user growth and popularity on social sites. According to Kleiner Perkins, video will represent nearly three quarters of all internet traffic by the end of 2017, and another study finds that four times as many consumers would rather watch a video about a product than those who would read about it.
Who We Love: Reynolds
Reynolds, of kitchen staple Reynolds Wrap, has one of the most engaging Instagram feeds we’ve ever seen thanks to their creative use of motion and continuity.
Why It Works
Not only does the account include dynamic and colorful stop-motion videos of recipes made easier with their product, but the account is an “endless table” of images cropped to spill into each other, portraying an infinite tablescape. By scrolling, the viewer becomes the motion-maker, turning the entire account into an experience rather than a collection of like images.
You don’t have to commit to such an intensive strategy to make use of motion on social media. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook offer “carousel” post types, where a single post can contain multiple images. Brands who use this well post like images together, building up to a call-to-action in the final image.
There are other ways to run a successful motion-based visual strategy–styles of video, from quick-time “Tasty”-style videos to stop-motion to Yeti’s immersive social miniseries.
At any rate, video isn’t going anywhere, and smart brands will leverage its capabilities to build powerful stories.
There you have it.
Four ways smart marketers across industries are leveraging visual media. We’d love to see you join the ranks.
Stay tuned on Facebook for more live discussions and join the conversation – or reach out to a Sculptron below!