Pictures are one of the most powerful tools available to content marketers. Images are more than a pretty picture -- they can also convey emotions and messages that can get lost in translation in text. Studies show that our brains not only process visuals faster but they also retain the information when a message is delivered visually rather than via text. It supports the fact that marketers need to show, not tell, when communicating with their intended audience.

Figuring out how to incorporate images begins with a brand's story. "Images are the most immediate way of getting an emotion or message across," says Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images. "It's crucial that marketers have a cohesive and engaging plan when it comes to utilizing images in the stories they're telling." Pictures can also explain a story more clearly to an audience, so it's crucial to keep your messaging consistent throughout.

Marketers are increasingly realizing the value of incorporating visuals in their marketing campaigns -- 89 percent of marketers plan on using visual content in their upcoming marketing plans. Surveys reveal that tweets with images received 18 percent more clicks than tweets without and images were the most important tactic in optimizing social media posts for this past year. And visual marketing isn't just for creative individuals who know how to work a camera. Photo banks and easy-to-use graphic design sites are available for marketers to create their own images that fit their specifications.

Part of visual marketing is also understanding what consumers want to see in photos and images. Getty Images releases a visual trend guide for the upcoming year based on both qualitative and quantitative research from analyzing over 2.35 billion annual image searches on its site, buying trends, social media, and advertising. "For 2016, we'll be seeing a shift away from the 'hyper authentic' look," explains Grossman, "and begin to see brands moving away from this very snap-shotty, Instagram-y style of photography that's ubiquitous right now. Instead, brands will be using images that are a little bit more audacious or bold."

One such trend predicted for 2016 known as "Outsider In" is already being used in visual content today. The Pirelli calendar, typically known for being an eye-popping advertisement for high-quality products, deviated from tradition and showcased women chosen for their achievements rather than their physical looks. For the first time, the Pirelli calendar celebrated female rebels and iconoclasts like Serena Williams and Patti Smith rather than picking supermodels with slim measurements. "Outsider in" celebrates rebellion and nonconformity, used by brands that are a bit more audacious and pushing the envelope when it comes to mainstream popularity.

Another macro trend marketers should expect to see is the theme of "Divine Living," which plays on the double meaning of the word "divine." Consumers use "divine" to represent both holy and luxurious meanings, and brands use "divine" to give consumers a sense of purpose or a feeling of connecting to something greater than themselves. Brands that use images to instill a sense of purpose plays to a consumer's emotional side and can actually influence his or her purchasing decisions. Marketers are finding that in an increasingly overwhelming visual world, brands need to place a sense of purpose at the core of their storytelling in order to appeal to consumers' emotions.

In addition to overall themes, Getty Images announced several trends that explain the aesthetics we should expect to see rise in popularity next year. "Messthetics" celebrates visuals that are messy and a little sloppy and highlights imperfections and mistakes. As part of their rebranding, Reebok embraced the messthetics in their "Be More Human" campaign, showcasing athletes exerting themselves and covered in sweat. It's a cathartic video that encourages humans to reach their full potential, showing the work that's needed to be the best athlete one can be without the use of makeup and visual effects. Similarly, Bjork utilized messthetics in her recent video "Mouth Mantra," taking fans into an unusual trip into the singer's mouth. The counterpoint to messthetics, then, says Grossman, would be "silence vs. noise," which offers breathing space and a sense of relief to the viewer.

2016 is trending toward extreme and contrasting visuals, with overarching themes based on Getty Images' in-depth in analysis of customer buying behavior, upcoming rebrands, and pop culture. Any brand or individual can take advantage of the upcoming visual trends to improve their marketing and to stay relevant in the fast-paced environment of visual marketing. Pairing visuals with text content can help your brand to stand out from the competition, especially with the knowledge of upcoming trends.

Published on: Dec 21, 2015
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