As with any new year, 2016 began with the usual onslaught of blogs and articles predicting trends. One of the main so-called ‘trends’ is that ‘content is king’. This is one trend that I take issue with. For most digital marketers this is not so much news, as it is a statement of long-held knowledge.
The way in which we consume content has evolved. Coupled with this, most communication professionals will tell you that creating lots of content for SEO benefit alone is unlikely to drive engagement. The trend is less about content being king and more about understanding the type of content that your consumers want to see and engage with.
The decline of engagement in text has been coming for a few years, with the steady rise of platforms such as Instagram and Vine. Even the Oxford English Dictionary has recognised this, announcing ‘face with tears of joy’ emoji as their word of the year for 2015. It is compounded by the way most consumers engage with companies; that is to say through mobile phones, where the focus is very much on images over text (and using emojis rather than words because 🙂 is easier than saying ‘thank you’). So shouldn’t the trend reports really be saying that visual content is king?
How can you use visual content to drive marketing strategies? Well, there are two main things to keep in mind. Firstly, visual storytelling is the best way to approach visual content over text. Where a typical piece of text marketing would seek to take the reader on a journey, visual storytelling uses visual content to spell out a message or story with impact and emotion. As the proliferation of smartphones continues, brands need to adapt and understand that people don’t want to read long pieces of communication on their phone. They want something quick, meaningful and easy to understand. Getting creative with how you tell your brand’s story is the best way to engage with consumers and encourage them to engage with you. Secondly, you need to know and understand your consumer. Different target audiences will appreciate and engage with different types of visual content. They also expect content to be personalised to them. Remember content might be king but it has to be the right type of content.
Here are three great examples of brands that got it right in 2015:
- WWF’s #Lastselfie campaign – the campaign first went live over Snapchat, focusing on the platform’s fleeting nature by showing #lastselfies of endangered animals. This demonstrated the vulnerability of soon-to-be extinct animals. By using Snapchat to first share the story, they helped target the ever-elusive millennial in their native habitat and in turn encourage them to help fight for endangered animals.
- Buzzfeed’s Tasty – the incredibly popular cooking channel was only launched in July 2014 but has already gained nearly 30 million likes on Facebook. Tapping into popular food trends and understanding their followers’ desire for fast, easy-to-consume content (most videos are under a minute) they have become a truly influential channel on social media.
- Domino’s emoji ordering – emphasising the speed in which people interact with brands, Domino’s introduced new functionality allowing US customers (with an existing account) to tweet @Dominos with a pizza emoji to order a delivery of their favourite pizza. Not only did this make ordering pizza much easier, it resulted in free marketing!
Each of these companies demonstrated a clear understanding of their target audience and a move away from traditional content creation and marketing. Moving with the times in this manner isn’t just important – it’s crucial.
So my one line trend report for 2016? Visual content is here to stay and it’s time to get on board.