Visual content -- from interactive experiences to motion graphics to conference collateral -- is the primary driver of the most effective marketing campaigns launched by today's brands.

At least 85 percent of marketers use visual content, according to marketing publication Social Media Examiner. Yet not all organizations are providing enough support for the kind of high-quality design that engages audiences and inspires them to interact with your brand. 

Marketers are beginning to look ahead to 2020, and what they see is an environment dominated by visual content. Even so, many still struggle to create internal buy-in for their visual content marketing efforts. 

If you're having trouble convincing your team that quality visual communication design is essential for the success of your company, I'm here to offer proof. A fascinating 2018 report from McKinsey & Company shed light on just how important it is that company leaders buy into and support the goal of quality design -- and how this can impact your bottom line. The findings of this study may just help persuade your team to put visual content design first. 

Measuring Design Performance 

In order to determine the impact of design on organizations' revenue numbers, McKinsey studied the design-related practices of 300 publicly listed companies around the world over a period of five years. These companies hailed from three different industries: retail banking, medical technology, and consumer goods. 

After collecting millions of data points, McKinsey developed the McKinsey Design Index (MDI), which was used to measure the quality and strength of each company's product and service design. This index weighed company design performance based on four metrics:  analytical leadership, user experience, cross-functional talent, and continuous iteration.

It then compared the revenues of those companies with the highest design performance with industry benchmarks. In this article, I'm going to focus on just one of these metrics -- analytical leadership -- because one easy change in this area can make a huge difference for your bottom line. But first, a comment on quality. 

Quality Over Quantity

It's important to note that McKinsey did not choose to rank organizations based on how much visual content they managed to produce. Too often, marketers focus on producing as many videos, infographics, and data visualizations as possible -- and fail to ensure that what they're producing lives up to design best practices. 

This approach has proven ineffective. With so much great content to choose from, today's audiences can afford to be picky about what they choose to engage with. Only quality content will capture and retain their attention. McKinsey's focus on the quality of content produced reflects this fact. 

Design as a Top Priority for Leadership

Through this comprehensive study, McKinsey reached a stunning conclusion: the best-performing companies put design first. What's more, design is a priority for their top-level executives and leaders.

The organizations that were most successful in putting design first saw huge returns. In fact, companies that were ranked in the top quartile for design performance saw 10 percent annual revenue growth -- compared to 3-6 percent average growth within their industries. 

Top-ranking organizations for design also increased their total annual returns to shareholders by 21 percent, compared to a 12-16 percent industry benchmark. 

Companies that adopt the Visual-First Method don't just produce more engaging designs. They see big results. And making your leadership team a part of your organization's most fundamental design decisions is essential. 

How is your company speaking visually? 

Published on: Oct 14, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.