Robert Goldsmith, Managing Partner at Spinnaker, explains why images and video deliver both engagement and ROI – and why they’re significantly more likely to be shared
There is a scene in the 1988 film Rain Man when Charlie Babbitt, played by Tom Cruise, deals a deck of cards face up in rapid-fire fashion to his autistic elder brother Raymond (Dustin Hoffman). Charlie retains a handful of 10 or so cards and asks his brother to tell him what he is holding in his hand. Raymond proceeds to get every single card right. So follows a hurried dash to the nearest casino to capitalise on the gambling potential this throws up.
Without doubt this is an impressive display of the visual memory technique often associated with those who have autism. However, the power and potential of visual learning is relevant to all of us, and particularly to today’s marketer.
Research shows us that over 65 per cent of the population are more naturally attuned to visual learning. Let’s overlay this with the fact that the 20 per cent of us who are kinesthetic learners – those who enjoy learning through touch and interaction – are also motivated by visual stimulus; 90 per cent of the information that comes to the brain is visual. The brain processes visual stimulus 60,000 times faster than text. In other words visual stimulus is key to learning and, so too it has become the centrepiece of successful online marketing.
A couple of Facebook statistics bear this out. Videos are shared 12 times more than links and text posts combined; photos are ‘Liked’ twice as many times as text updates. And according to ROI Research, 44 per cent of people are more likely to engage with brands when they post pictures.
So it works. And it is here to stay – particularly with the rise and rise of digital engagement through the smartphone and tablet devices, both of which are natural easels for displaying images and video and inherently encouraging social sharing.
But how to make all of this come to life for marketing teams, agencies and the brands they look after? Two questions arise: first, how to make the creation of visual content achievable and cost effective for most marketers? Secondly, what tips and techniques are worth considering when it comes to making visual content that will be noticed, engaged and get shared?
When I was a child I remember being given an Etch A Sketch drawing toy. For someone whose design and drawing skills were limited, this toy was a revelation. It enabled me to create simple little line drawings by twiddling a couple of knobs. Technology gave me an outlet to express creativity with little artistic skills.
In a similar way, we now have ever increasing ease of access to online tools to help us create images and video quickly and easily. Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, Tumblr, You Tube, Google Hangouts and webinars all give us platforms to create and share content. And the traffic numbers demonstrate the potential. Photo and video posts on Pinterest are referring more traffic than StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Google+ and Twitter combined; Vine currently has 40 million users and Instagram over 130 million; 100 million users on YouTube are taking a social action each week.
Alongside the platforms, themselves the digital environment is now awash with tools to help create the perfect presentation, animated video and re-touched images. Some good examples are Prezi for creating giant screen and interconnected presentations, Moovly or Go Animate for creating animated video, Sellamations for creating doodle videos, YouTube Editor for making videos more SEO friendly, Animoto for creating videos from your photos, video clips and music, and Glossi, a tool for online content publishing.
All fine, but of course we have nothing without a strong creative idea and delivery. Slick brand expression in TV-style ad format is clearly a powerful means to deliver engagement, sharing and behaviour change. However, cheaper fast turnaround pieces of content can often deliver a greater sense of credibility and ‘realness’. Ben & Jerry’s does a great job of this on Instagram using simple home-spun video format to reinforce the artisanal qualities of the brand.
Video creation can also benefit from simplicity through the use of animation to tell a story versus over conceived pieces of live footage which can suffer from over complication and potential ‘cheesiness’ come the end piece of production. Animation is also great for simple explanation of complex brand stories. See this example from Dropbox where the use of animation enables a simple brand presentation.
And the Public Transport Authority in Melbourne, Australia made brilliant (and award-winning) success of their animated video to reduce death on the metro railway lines.
When it comes to static imagery, infographics have been all the rage for a while now. But while they still have a strong role to play in communicating complex facts, there is an argument for pulling out key soundbite facts and delivering these as striking simpler forms of visual expression in the form of memes.
Will it be shareable? Not always the objective but certainly an important consideration when investing in visual content. Predicting the positive emotions that will result in content being readily shared is an increasingly debated topic and it is interesting to note that Unruly Media have gone to some lengths to develop a prediction model which was illustrated with some success at this year’s Superbowl. Whether science and modelling can ever wholly predict a video’s sharing potential remains to be seen.
In conclusion the following five point plan summarises the secret of success when it comes to effective visual content.
Be authentic – real life delivers so much more than contrived fiction.
Get the tone right – fun, edgy and unusual content shares best.
Encourage participation – simple engagement in the content is a great way to encourage sharing.
Be distinctive – in terms of style and content of creation.
And, of course, make sure you tell a good story. Yep, it does always come back to good old fashioned storytelling.