In a world hijacked by selfies, no one needs to be told that visuals are continually trumping the written word in a digital world. And with brands of all hues—from FMCG manufacturers such as Cadbury to luxury brands such as Tiffany—investing in visual, it is the space making the biggest waves in marketing. But how can marketers stand out among all the competition?
Create Meaningful Connections
The ubiquitous feature on our smartphones is the camera, which is becoming better than ever and, in doing so, has driven the social/visual revolution. Next to Google, YouTube is the second-largest search engine, and visually focused platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest continue to rise in popularity. There is nothing like sight, sound, and motion to evoke a powerful human response—critical to creating meaningful connections.
Brands understand this. Cadbury spent half of Crunchie’s digital budget on Snapchat; Tommy Hilfiger created an “InstaPit,” with special seats for social media influencers on Instagram; and luxury jewellery brand Tiffany recently created a sparkly Snapchat “filter.”
The power, influence, and ubiquity of technology have created a huge opportunity for brands to create a unique visual approach to their brand story and for consumers to contribute their own visual brand experiences in the social space. But the fearsome pace of development provokes constant changes in the visual landscape as well as every other, meaning everyone is beginning to look beyond Instagram and Snapchat.
There are three key shifts in the visual branding space that brands and consumers are embracing with equal enthusiasm as the technology trickles into the mainstream, and they may well change visual marketing and UGC as we know it forever.
Enriching The Consumer Journey
AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) offer an enriched experience of the world around us. VR offers a digital recreation of a real-life setting, while AR delivers virtual elements as an overlay to the real world. Both are evolving dramatically, with everyone from Microsoft to Google betting on these technologies as the next big thing and battling to reach all of us in our living rooms via headsets.
The hype and the excitement started with Facebook’s Oculus and Samsung’s Gear VR launch. These technologies are not just expected to disrupt retail or gaming but everything from healthcare to entertainment to education. For marketers, the greatest potential may lie in the technology allowing consumers to “try before they buy,” whether it be cars, houses, or clothing. Tesco did this with an AR home catalogue, which placed the brand’s products within the consumer’s home when viewed through a smartphone or tablet. As a result, the consumer could browse and test what fitted best, all within the comfort of their own home.
AR/VR could prove to be the tipping point for our industry by providing the opportunity to reset digital advertising, which is currently marred by poor and disrupted user experiences. Instead, VR/AR invite the user to enter the brand’s world and offer highly personalised experiences that engender engagement with “pull” rather than “push” tactics.
At the beginning of the year, social video went futuristic with the rise of 360 viewing. Sometimes referred to as VR’s younger brother, the immersive spherical format allows brands to deliver impactful and interactive video on display and mobile without the need for a headset. Brands were quick to realise how this tech represented a new and exciting form of video ads. Faraday Future, the electric automaker and famously a rival to Tesla, launched their new model FFZERO1 in glorious 360 style with a bang that traditional video would struggle to create.
Part of the success of the format is down to the fact that it is interactive. By handing over control to the viewer, brands can allow them to navigate their own journey within the branded world. But, perhaps, more important is that 360 video is accessible and free. The most widely used video sharing platforms, Facebook and YouTube, were quick to support it (Facebook as of September 2015, and YouTube way back in March). It is safe to assume that this considerably sped up its adoption and popularity among brands and consumers alike.
Making The Most Of Earned Content
Within this spectacle of available shiny new technologies lies the tech that brands should continue to invest in if they want to connect to their customer at every single touch point—that much is clear.
And as these technologies become available to consumers, they will be embraced with the same ferocity as visual social platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat.
Some 80 million photos a day are shared on Instagram, because audiences love nothing more than to take control of their own digital story.
Hotel brand Hyatt Hotels launched social.hyatt.com to help people create their own conversations around the brand, which was transformed by its users into a hub of more than 85,000 Instagram photos shared by Hyatt guests to showcase their experiences and inspire fellow travellers.
Food brands similarly have a huge opportunity to create UGC (user-generated content) and then, in turn, use that UGC to effectively engage and drive purchase. Food-related videos were viewed 23 billion times in 2015, a 170% rise from the year before, with nearly all of that viewership on YouTube and Facebook, according to study by Tubular Labs.
Marketers who are already investing in visual marketing will know this statistic: the human brain can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text. It is critical brands not only engage consumers by inspiring them visually, but also investigate how to support new frontiers of UGC. With 360, VR, and AR already landing in the consumers’ hands, visual marketing will become user generated using the latest technology—creating countless immersive, interactive, and authentic experiences on the brand’s behalf.