Content is king. You’ve probably heard this phrase so many times that it has now been engraved in your memory.
We all know content is important, that it drives loyalty, engagement and trust, and that it is among the most clear indications of a company’s expertise. But content marketing is still rarely associated with design.
Rarely do we see a designer being praised for content, as it is the meaning and message that matter most. Texts and carefully crafted, punchy social media posts are the two most widespread content types online. They are written, edited and published on the web for the public to read and learn from. However, everything we create, regardless of whether it’s a visual or auditory asset, is also an experience. And in creating an experience, design supports content as much as content supports design. From infographics and white papers to gifs, memes and blog post images, design attracts the eyes of the audience and helps get the point across. So if companies want to drive engagement, they need to create a perfect balance between the message and the aesthetics.
Designers as visionaries of brand should drive the content marketing process and ensure it is aligned with the brand vision. Some brands are still struggling with the idea, making their social media feeds look like a collection of unrelated images. Others have perfected the craft to such an extent that we keep coming back for more content, even when there is nothing new to learn.
Here are 25 brands that are currently winning at the visual content marketing game:
Animated GIFs – Netflix
Despite having a myriad of shows on the channel, Netflix maintains its brand colors across all Facebook posts – they are dark, blurry and mysterious. The animated GIFs on their Facebook page deserve special praise, as they express a sense of wonder, tell the story and bring you right into the heart of the Netflix universe.
Color splashes and undertones – Lufthansa
Scroll through the Lufthansa Facebook page and pay attention to the overarching color scheme. You will notice that the brand’s signature gold color can be found in almost every photo, content piece or graphic. Even when the photo is unrelated to the brand’s promotions, Lufthansa still incorporates a bit of gold into the picture.
Big fonts and atmospheric imagery – Equinox
When it comes to content formats we’re often restricted by the social network rules. You can’t post custom size images, you can’t create a new page layout and you can’t change the background. So how do you stand out from the crowd? Equinox created videos that adhere to the usual Facebook square dimensions, only they allowed for lots of white space and decided to fit the message within a tiny, cropped frame. With this approach their content defies all creative boundaries and catches the public’s attention.
The power of sharing and individual tastes combined – Starbucks
Combine the social connotations of coffee, pretty packaging and knowledge of the most important calendar dates and you can get an Instagram feed that rivals Starbucks. The lesson here can be summed up as, “showcase the product but make it a part of the bigger story”.
Creating a sense of abundance – Whole Foods
Creatives at Whole Foods know how to create a feeling of abundance. Their images feature lots of products, their signature green color and create a rustic, farm-like atmosphere. Abundance leads to positive emotions and that’s why the brand is so appealing.
Focus on characters and the story – National Geographic
Another skillful storyteller, National Geographic features close-up shots of people, animals and historic buildings. These are not just stunning photos from professional photographers – the pictures create a feeling of presence, evoke curiosity and compel users to read the captions.
Calmness through color and relatable illustration – Headspace
How to do you convey mindfulness visually? By taking funny characters, a fascinating narrative, neutral pale colors and rounded shapes to create animated videos and graphics that pull you from the hectic pace of life back to the present moment.
Outsource content from the community – GoPro
GoPro is the pioneer of outsourced content. The brand is known for creating a community of adventure lovers first and then convincing them that a GoPro is a staple accessory. The brand follows the same community building principles in its Instagram feed and features content sourced from fans and professional athletes.
Asymmetrical layouts and playful fonts -Reformation
Reformation is killing it in the content creation field. Their models shoulder dance, use expressive gestures, roll their eyes and are captured in all the different poses that are anything but conventional. This playful attitude is also reflected in graphics.
Rounded shapes – Warby Parker
Are you using signature shapes or patterns in your branding? Look for similar shapes in your surrounding context as well. Chances are you will find some inspiration to base your content on. Check out how Warby Parker used the solar eclipse to drive engagement.
Powerful shots and slow motion – Roam
Celebrating the true spirit of adventure, Roam creates mind blowing videos featuring panoramic shots, aspirational characters and life risking experiences. Roam uses a combination of outsourced and internally produced content.
United by the mascot theme – Trello
Instagram is rarely a priority channel for software brands due to its visual nature, but Trello makes it work with all the photos united by two central themes – they either feature the company’s mascot or show the perks of working in an awesome team.
Wider perspective – Opera National De Paris
Panoramic shots broken down into instagrammable pieces are another trick used by brands to make content stand out. Opera National de Paris creates an aspirational story in which theater itself is the hero.
Vintage posters – Shiseido
If you want to emphasize a brand’s historical and cultural background, there is no better way than to use images from the archives. Shiseido frequently posts Japanese posters, vintage graphics and mood boards. Surprisingly, you won’t see many product pictures. Instead of trying to sell the brand excessively, Shiseido chose to converse with its audience and that strategy seems to be paying off so far.
Square cropped videos – Conde Nast Traveler
All content on Conde Nast Traveler’s page follow the same stylistic direction: they are minimal, with lots of white space. The brand also uses a lot of drone shots that add to its inspirational, almost dreamy image.
Lifestyles in comparison – Airbnb
The staff at Airbnb quickly realized that if they don’t tap into the power of social, the platform will quickly become just another room renting service. First, they got us swooning over dreamlike tree houses in the jungle and magnificent igloos under the skies pierced by the Northern lights. Then they created #LoveThisLiveThere campaign, where they compare the lifestyles and sights of two different cities. Wouldn’t you be tempted by these photos, clearly showing that there is someone on the other side of the globe sharing the same passion?
Words in pictures – Story
Not sure whether to tell the story with written text or visual cues? This brand uses both by showing us material things such as mugs, plates, books and walls featuring slogans.
Showing life through the eyes of a character – MailChimp
Among numerous useful blog posts on email automation, once in a while MailChimp throws in a custom image of its iconic monkey pictured in different settings. It shows that the brand doesn’t take itself too seriously. This simple trick also keeps the audience entertained while they familiarize themselves with data driven, educational content.
A peek into a lifestyle – SaturdaysNYC
Fashion brands often fall victim to promotional content – their social media pages look like an ecommerce store. While it’s okay to use social media to drive sales, too much promotion and product driven content can drive people away. Instead, look at your fashion brand from a lifestyle point of view. Clothes, interiors, sport, hobbies can all be an inspiration for content.
Mini comics – Dollar Shave Club
Illustrations are a great way to attract attention, but they are already quite ubiquitous. Dollar Shave Club uses comics instead. Comics are mini illustrated stories that convey the message in a cool, casual way, making them a perfect example of visually driven content marketing.
Minimalism and white space – Tesla Motors
Looking to convey a premium image and show your craftsmanship skills? Then consider making your Instagram page look visually consistent and use lots of white space in your imagery. Tesla’s page is creative, original and is a feast for designer’s eyes.
People centered content – Everlane
Brands with socially charged missions can learn a lot from Everlane. Not only does the fashion brand challenge the traditional process of making designer clothes, but it also puts craftsmen at the center of its content strategy. Launched this July, the #FactoryFriday campaign features factory employees holding the shoes they’re making. The campaign makes the brand more personable and sparks user engagement.
Product in action – Play-Doh
Have a great product that can be used in different creative ways? Teach, inspire and show people how to use the product by displaying the variety of possible creations and results. Play-Doh makes cute, little playdough figures and features them in its social media content.
Geometrical shapes – Défoncé Chocolatier
Nothing informs visually driven content better than the product shape. Défoncé Chocolatier is a brand of triangle shaped chocolate bars with a Californian twist. Look at how the brand uses various geometrical shapes in all their content: from the traditional triangle and rectangle to three dimensional rhombus and pyramid shapes, all of the brand’s content is informed by universal geometrical themes.
Consistent color palette – Tommy Hilfiger
Another brand that sticks to the same color palette. Tommy Hilfiger’s signature white, red and blue colors can be seen throughout its social media presence – in clothes, pictures, model lipstick, backgrounds and video filters.
Content marketing is an intricate playing field that gets more complex and competitive each year. Yet, it is still one of the most effective ways to create connections and attract a loyal following. Brands are constantly being challenged to come up with new, exciting ideas for content in order to stay relevant and break through the clutter of advertising noise. And designers, with their ability and skills to create visually appealing, engaging content, can play a major role in this process.