Bynder Marketing Insights

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words: The Power of Visual Content

Written by Tom Miedema | 3 February 2016

We live in a world where people want to consume content, and consume it quickly. Luckily for those people – and not so lucky for us marketeers – there’s plenty of information available to keep them busy for a long time.

While everyone is shouting at the top of their lungs hoping to be heard, thanks to mobile phones the average attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to 8.

Standing out from the crowd is more important than ever. But how do you grab your readers’ attention in a world with so much noise, where your audience has an attention span shorter than a goldfish?

The answer, is visual content.

Growth of Visual Content

The growth of social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram have made visual content more accessible, and more shareable.

It’s also not surprising that our 2016 Branding Survey showed that visual content is encroaching on written content.

But why do people share, upload and watch so many photos and videos? What makes visual content superior to our beloved plain text?

Not All Visual Stimuli are Created Equal

Almost half of our brain is involved in visual processing while only 8% is used for touch and 3% for hearing. What’s more, around 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual and processed 60,000 times faster than text. 

In other words, it’s much easier to process and understand visual content. Take a look at the following image and see how quickly you can make sense of data.

Even though there’s a huge amount of data in there it’s still clear and easy to understand. Just imagine if you had to explain all that data using only text. Boring, right? Visualize your data!

The Picture Superiority Effect also helps to explain why visual content is superior to text. People remember pictures better than they do words. Whenever someone hears information they’re likely to remember around 10% of that information 3 days later. If this same information is paired with a relevant image however, 65% of information is retained.

By visualizing information, the brain can thus synthesize and retain content more effectively, increasing the impact of this content.

Customer Engagement

Visual content can also help your brand activate certain emotions far better than plain text ever could. Emotions drive people to talk, share and buy. Or, in other words, it drives them to take action and has a direct effect on engagement.

Engagement measures how much and how often others interact with your and your content. If people take the time to click on, like, comment on, or share your posts they actively engage with your brand.

And it seems that people prefer to engage with branded content that contains images. Just look at the following statistics:

  • Visual content is about 40 times more likely to get shared on social media than any other form of content.
  • Articles with a relevant image once every 75-100 words received more than double the amount of shares than those with fewer images (more than one million articles were studied).
  • Consumers are most likely to engage with branded content containing images (44 percent)

Dove Evolution

Another good example would be the Dove Evolution video created by Tim Piper in 2006. For decades the media has shaped an unrealistic perception of beauty that’s still prevalent now. As a result, many women felt, and still feel, as if there’s something wrong with them. Models are tall, skinny, perfect, and Photoshopped.

The video takes us through the process of creating the perfect photo for an ad. With no lack of makeup, styling, and of course, Photoshop, the photo of the woman is transformed into the perfect snapshot. With the end screen fading to black and text appearing that says, “No wonder our perception of beauty is distorted”, Dove brilliantly meets its goal to inspire more women to be confident and comfortable with themselves.

While thought provoking and somewhat shocking, the video gave people a reason to talk and fueled a public discussion about an issue that was being all too ignored. What does it actually mean to be beautiful? Is our perception of beauty realistic?

With a budget of only $135,000 the video generated over 18 million views and $150 million worth of free advertising. Quite impressive given they could have also just written a blog post about the issue, but the chances of success would have been lower than with video. Video has the ability to trigger emotion more quickly than most other forms of content.

Conclusion

There’s a reason visually focused social platforms are thriving. Visual content captures the audience faster than text can. It’s easier to process and therefore requires even less of our attention. It helps our brains to synthesize and retain content more effectively, increasing its impact. And it is simply more engaging.

Don’t worry. I’m not saying that you have to give up text altogether. As Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at Marketing Profs, perfectly put it “The marriage of the two makes for an even stronger product. The power of visual marketing comes through when you can pair it with a short story. Your message can be that much more powerful.”

Find out what part visual content will play in branding strategies in 2016: