This guide on visual marketing was created by Eleonora Schirmer, an exchange student at the University of Montana who comes from the land of Santa Claus and ruisleipä.

What is visual marketing?

An old saying recounts: A picture is worth a thousand words. Let’s start by testing that theory.

Next, you’ll see screenshots from three different Instagram accounts. Each of these profiles is owned by a person, who tries to promote his or her baking services and products via Instagram. I want you to think about from whom you’d most likely purchase a product based only on this imagery?

Option 1:

Instagram profile number 1.

Option 2:

Instagram profile number 2.











Option 3:

Instagram profile number 3.

Now that I got you thinking of cakes and other goods, ask yourself next: which one of these image options best attests to the value of being a professional baker?

Whichever conclusion you reached after looking at these image options, it was shaped through the story they tell. And that is what visual marketing is all about: telling stories with images, rather than just text.

Beth Hendricks, an Advertising Professor, encapsulates: “Visual marketing is about connecting marketing messages to images, whether they are photos, graphics, infographics, videos, logos, signs, and more. Visual marketing is about making an object, rather than exclusively text, the center of your message.”

Visual content consists of things we see, read and interact with. It is a part of almost everything we do, since 90% of information that comes to our brain, is visual. When this visual content is combined with marketing, its goal is to sell you something. Visual marketing can be seen online, in print and within on-site solutions. It can be anything between billboards and PowerPoint presentations. Krista Neher says in her book, that visual social marketing is applied in three ways: in social networks, in visual social networks, and to generate more traffic to a website.

In general visual marketing is an integral part of marketing and its importance is growing fast. In the last few years visual platforms like Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr have gained hundreds of millions of daily users. Facebook is still the largest social media platform with 2.45 billion monthly active users, but Instagram is one of the fastest-growing. Snapchat and Instagram are most popular among 18- to 24-year-olds and Instagram is the third-largest social media platform with more than 1 billion users. It profits from being connected to Facebook. Users upload over 95 million pictures to Instagram every day, clearly showing the importance of visuals in our daily life.


Why you should use visual marketing?

Now that you know what visual marketing is, I want to tell you why you should implement it in whatever industry you’re working for.

We all want our businesses to succeed and in order to do that, we need to know what kind of marketing tactics work. So let’s take a look at one of the most recent statistics, which is Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends Report. Meeker is a venture capitalist and ex-Wall Street analyst who makes one of the most highly anticipated annual tech reports, in which she uses her over 20 years of experience in the field. This year she lists images to be one of the top eleven trends on the internet: She sees growth in creating and sharing stories via images. Meeker says that this also includes more investment in smartphone cameras and storages, cellular data use and WiFi reach.

There are other stats, which have confirmed the importance of images various times before too. In 2016 marketers said that visuals are the most commonly used type of content marketing (74%), followed by blog-posts (68%). Images are also considered to be the most important form of content for businesses, say 32% of marketers. Also, 67% of the people working in marketings consider Facebook to be their most important social media platform.

Forbes has also concluded that posts and articles, which include images, generate 94 percent more views than posts without images. One study found out that including a video on a landing page increased conversions by over 30%. In 2017 Mobile Commerce Daily found out that millennial women outweigh visuals to reviews and descriptions. All in all 67% of product users say that images are very important when making a purchasing decision.

Since infographics are the most effective type of content (ClearVoice), let me show you the facts too:

Infographics about information design, adapted from

For your business this is good because..

Visual marketing makes memorable impressions faster and it directly influences E-commerce. If you think about it – when was the last time you made a purchasing decision without seeing what you were going to buy? Or if a pricy restaurant promises to have the most beautiful dining room in the whole country, would you go there without seeing a picture of the room first?

Beth Hendricks summarises the importance of pictures combined with business: “Just like on social media, where visuals create more interesting and engaging posts, visual marketing can generate more engagement or communication between a brand and its consumers. In marketing, you don’t want someone simply to notice your ad, but rather to engage with it in some way, whether it’s by clicking on a post, downloading an offer, or making a purchase.”

Joan Mancuso and Karen Stuth argue in their article Seeing is believing – A researcher’s guide to thinking visually (Marketing Insights July/August 2015) how it is a well-documented fact that effective stories and narratives create an emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. Eric Lazar, the president of SpeedPro Chicago Loop says: “Ninety percent of all purchases are made subconsciously, meaning they are driven by emotional processes, not intellectual ones.” We want people to take action and it seems to happen through the information, which images show us. Krista Neher continues: “Visual elements allow customers to truly see how a product looks, works, or functions, which makes advertising and marketing claim more believable.” For example, MDG Advertising found out that 60% of consumers are more likely to consider or contact a business that has an image show up in local search results.

So what does this trend towards visual marketing mean? It looks like the growing and expected use of visuals needs to be taken into consideration. This can happen re-defining what we perceive as good content. The infographics clearly show that working with visuals is the way to go.

The good news is that you don’t have to do all this yourself. Obviously, creating compelling stories and visuals means practice, practice and practice. This doesn’t happen overnight and we want results fast. Luckily the next big thing seems to be UGC – user-generated content. Olapic, a content company, concluded that 63 percent of U.S. consumers and 66 percent of U.K. consumers trust customer photos more than brand or retailer photos. It has been said that user-generated and submitted visual content helps to increase engagement by creating opportunities for consumers to interact with products, and share stories and experiences. When you think about today’s environment, it sounds valid. Our brains are constantly overwhelmed by the information, which is offered to us, so we need to find ways to stand out from the crowd. What would be a better way to arouse your niche’s interest than having them help you create the content that they want to see? Using visuals makes it also faster to flip through information, which is often valued because time is money.

Let’s figure out together what needs to be done.


Where to start?

Now we have addressed what and why, so let’s move on to how. Here’s a 5-step guide to get you started.

1. Have a plan and determine your goals

First, you should have some kind of marketing plan, so you can include the visuals in there too. It helps you to set up goals and think about the bigger picture. You can start with this guide which Entrepreneur has created.

If you have a special product, your visuals should align with it. Dare to be different and find out what you want to achieve with your marketing.  These questions help you with the first step:

  • What is the objective of your visual content strategy? Maybe it could be one of these: better brand awareness, consumer loyalty or content that educates/inspires/amuses/engages.
  • What do you want your customers to do after they’ve seen the visual?
  • Do you have a budget?
  • Set a schedule
  • Get everyone onboard
Photo by Estée Janssens.
Photo by Campaing Creators.

2. Decide what kind of content

This is the fun part because there’s so much to choose from. You can have infographics, memes, videos, presentations… The list goes on and on. You can check what Neil Patel, co-founder of NP Digital, thinks about the types of content you should use. This also means testing for what kind of content creates these kinds of reactions you desire from your audience. The type of content needs to fit your brand’s ideals. David Langton and Anita Campbell remind us of one important thing when it comes to this step: Make sure, your photography is top-notch if you’re planning to use it to create the perception of a premium product. Clear images, evocative subject matter, and stunning compositions are key.

  • What kind of content reflects your business?
  • What is the theme or category of the content?
  • Do you have a consistent style?
  • What kind of visuals will you have?
  • What kind of colors should you use?
  • How many fonts will you use?
Photo by Jon Flobrant.
Photo by Will Francis.

3. Who makes the content

There’s plenty of options in this sector, which is a helpful thing. You can start by mastering this on your own, empowering your workers and customers or hiring someone to do it.

In the previous chapter, I concluded that UGC is getting bigger every day, but that doesn’t work everywhere. Especially, if you’re just starting and you are yet to reach out to your target audience. Still, Joan Mancuso and Karen Stuth have a good point to take into consideration: “Visual content featuring customers is a great way to engage potential buyers and draw them towards the brand, creating excitement and marketing momentum. Numerous studies demonstrate that the visual depiction of a product or brand facilitates more mental stimulation, resulting in heightened purchase intentions. Seeing is believing: No brand highlights the confluence of engagement, customer centricity and visual storytelling better than GoPro digital cameras.” Many businesses start by having a friend or family member test the product or service.

Think about these points, when deciding who is the best fit for the task of creating the content:

  • What is the most convenient way to create content? Do-it-yourself, hire someone and/or use UGC? It can be divided into divisions.
  • Ask for recommendations – since people love data, maybe an information agency could help you to get started.
  • When the content will be created? Remember that it takes some time to brief somebody about your company’s ideals too.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao.

4. Distribution Channels

The importance of your distribution platform is all about where and how you will use your visuals. Think about the best channel you want to use to share your content and then look at the visuals you have created so they can stick to the platform. This is not one size fits all. Marketers agree that visual content is critical for success, especially, in social media marketing.

  • Where is your audience?
  • Is it useful to use multiple platforms?
  • Do you need all the possible platforms that are out there?
  • If somebody else does the marketing, which approvals are required before creating and sharing content?
Photo by Sara Kurfeß.

5. Experiment and measure

Finally, like other parts of your marketing, this one needs to be measured too. I recently had a lecture, where the marketing person from one company told us that they tested two kinds of landing pages. Meaning that half of the people visiting their website were directed to landing page number 1 and the other half to the landing page number 2. By doing this the company learned which one of those pages was more successful and with which they should continue. In your case this means, it is useful to test which kind of visuals provoke the response you want. The final questions are as follows:

  • Which posts do well and why?
  • What posts do poorly and why?
  • Are there any aspects you haven’t considered?
Photo by William Iven.

All in all, this is a learning process and practice makes perfect. Most importantly this should be a fun dry run, so make the most out of it! And if you…

Want more inspiration? Check out these 25 brands for examples  ↓

Or read Visual marketing by Langton David & Anita Campbell. They showcase 99 marketing cases with a detailed explanation of why they worked and what you can take out of those examples.



  • What is Visual Marketing?
  • Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images and Design by David Langton. 2011, Wiley.
  • 5 Visual Marketing Facts You Need to Know:
  • The Beginner’s Guide to Creating Visual Content Marketing Strategy:
  • How Visual Marketing Works:
  • 6 Types of Visual Content You Need to Use in Your Marketing Campaigns:
  • Picturing Success: 5 Things to Know About Visual Marketing:
  • 10 Visual Marketing Tips to Master Social Media Engagement:
  • How To Create A Visual Marketing Strategy – A Consultant’s Guide:
  • 10 Effective Visual Marketing Tips That Will Work in 2019:
  • Social media usage:
  • The rise of social media:
  • 45 Visual Content Marketing Statistics You Should Know in 2019:
  • 50+ Social Media Sites You Need to Know in 2019:
  • 65 Social Media Statistics to Bookmark in 2019:
  • Visual Social Marketing for DUMMIES by Krista Neher. 2014, For Dummies.

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